[November Breaks] THEN | 05 | Brett

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I ran two laps of my long circuit this evening, lungs burning numb from the cold, but it didn’t hurt enough and I still have energy to waste and a brutal need for distraction.

Two more shots of vodka and that makes five since I got back. The first was before I got in the shower and the second was afterwards, standing in the steam-filled bathroom with my skin melting off my bones. The third was halfway through getting dressed, lying on the bed while waves of dizziness washed over me. From the run. From the heat of the water. From the lack of sleep. Who even knows anymore? Now, two more and five means completion, comfort. Now I can breathe again.

And I’m here, but also I’m not. I’m watching myself again, thinking too much. Sitting at my desk, legs folded under me. Screens in front of me, filled with things I’m not supposed to have access to. If the system’s fucked, fuck the system. I don’t know where I first heard that, but I’ve never met a system I couldn’t fuck. That might be the wrong word. Maybe it’s more like a seduction or some other bullshit romantic euphemism. Sure, it’s science and technology and sweet, pliable electricity, but it’s also poetry and people don’t get it. They don’t see the beauty of it.

I don’t mean it’s beautiful like a sunrise. It’s beautiful like a clock that still keeps time after two hundred years, like a knife spun in the air and caught by the blade. Beautiful like precision, like meeting eyes with a stranger crossing the street and seeing your whole future laid out in front of you for a split second until a car runs a red light and you remember where you are and why you need to keep walking.

On the other side of the room, the TV flickers silently with a film about a couple losing their shit after their kid dies. The writer has an obsession with children falling out of windows and I appreciate his projections of madness. I’ve always had a weakness for other people’s madness, and an equal and opposite intolerance for its demands

 I’m not paying attention to the film, though. I just need motion around me. I swivel my chair to face the window, lift my camera, and my attention immediately belongs to something more interesting than anything on any screen in the room.

The guy I’ve been watching in the building across from mine is sitting at his computer, too. I didn’t mean to watch him specifically, not at first anyway, but it’s difficult not to. He’s difficult not to look at. It started with this camera, the latest impulse buy I got bored with as soon as I owned it because apparently that’s what I do. I’ve never taken a photograph with it, but the longest of the three lenses I bought for no good reason sparked a casual hobby of staring into the lives of other people who are still awake at fuck off o’clock at night.

In the beginning, it created a false sense of community, a pale impersonation of connection, of having something in common with the other insomniacs, our fragmented shards of manic activity masquerading as meaningful existence. Now it’s only him.

I like how his shirt pulls across his shoulders. He seems solid, strong, someone who could throw a heavy punch. The thought of that sparks something brighter than simple curiosity. He stretches and I imagine the snake of his spine cracking. That sound, even in my head, soothes me like a drug.

Does he leave the blinds open because he doesn’t think anyone is watching? Or is it because he hopes someone is? Or because he knows? He’s the best therapy I’ve ever had. To be fair, he’s the only therapy I’ve ever had apart from that one highly unsuccessful session a long time ago. But he’s good.

And I’m watching. Because I can. Because he’s there. So I raise a toast to my temporary distraction. This is not the good stuff. I have a freezer filled with over-priced vodka for the under-valued soul because I’ve never been able to resist an interesting bottle, but this is the cheap shit. It still goes down easy, though. Maybe even easier. Not because I like it. I don’t. But sometimes I need to feel disgusted by something and this is as good a thing as any.