Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Curtain closing? Not quite.

This space looks strange. Unfamiliar. Almost foreign. I suppose that's what happens when you stray from blogging for a while. I logged on to finally put thoughts into something cohesive and put it out in cyberspace for the world to see, and when I did so, this big, blank, white space stared back at me. I sat here twenty minutes at least before figuring out what I wanted to say. Or maybe I knew what I wanted to say but didn't know how to say it. First, a little business...

For those of you who haven't been keeping up, I parted ways with the cutthroat world of banking at the end of May. Even though it's been a struggle since, I stand by what I said at the time about it being the best thing I ever did. Let me tell you about a day at the bank as a commercial lender.

You wake up at the ass crack of dawn. Shower, shave (sometimes), put on a suit and tie, which feels more and more like a noose every day. Stop at Starbuck's and purchase over-priced coffee because it's what all the other corporate lemmings do. Spend half your paycheck commuting to work. Manage a less than enthusiastic "hello" to co-workers you don't give a damn about. Kiss your boss's ass even though he's a prick, most likely because he hasn't gotten laid in years. Hell, with that stomach, he probably hasn't seen his penis in just as long without the help of a mirror. Pretend to care about what is said at meetings. Pretend to do work when you're actually surfing the net all day. Kiss the collective asses of clients and potential clients, who are usually at least twice your age and try to earn their respect and business for the bank, even though you could care less. You're too busy thinking about actually having a life that doesn't involve sitting behind that standard issue desk in that standard issue rolling chair from the discount office supply store gripping that standard issue Bic and pushing papers all day (Hey, anything to save money and pad the CEO's pocket when it's bonus time at the end of the year). You want to be depressed? Spend the majority of your day underneath the glow of God-knows-how-many florescent light bulbs. It's enough to make you want to pack an Uzi in your briefcase and shoot all of them out one morning, right before you pump the chest of the fat man in the office next to you full of lead. You can dream, right? No worries though, his fat ass will probably keel over in the lobby floor from a heart attack on his way to get his 15th Diet Coke of the day. Surf the net some more. Curse the content filters some lemming in IT installed to keep you from looking at anything good. Check the clock. It's 5. Finally. Thank you, Jesus. Stick around another 30 minutes to look like you actually care about your job, then make a bee line for your car. Commute home. Rip off your suit and throw it in the floor. Go do something you actually care about - read, write, meet interesting people, drink a cold beer or a bourbon and water - without the personality-lacking son-of-a-bitches you work with. That is if you have the energy. Go home. Sleep. Wake up. Shit, it's only Tuesday.

Makes you want to sign right up, doesn't it? Trust me when I say a multi-million dollar salary couldn't tempt me into going back to that lifestyle.

So what have I been doing since then? I spent most of June hanging out at local coffee shops downtown, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on, as well as continuing to work on my novel (more on that, shortly), and applying for jobs here and there. I waited a whole month to break the news to my parents that I was unemployed; I just didn't want them to worry. They were a little upset at first, but understood and told me they just wanted me to be happy, regardless of what that involves me doing (as long as it's not too illegal, of course). The upside of unemployment is that you are free to do whatever you want. I think I hit every bar in a 5 mile radius of downtown at least twice during June, which got me to thinking.

As you all know, I had a tendency, in the past, to be shy. I convinced myself that in my next job I'd do something that downright forced me to talk to people. So after all the time I spend in bars, I decided to be a bartender. The money was good from what everyone I talked to had told me. That was merely a bonus. I just wanted to LIKE what I did. I went to the bar school and got training, learned everything there was to know, then found a job at a small bar. Things were fine until I found out how coked up management was. So, three weeks ago, I split. I was unemployed again. I began to panic. Almost fell back into depression. No one knew I wasn't working again. I didn't want to let anyone down. I applied at tons of bars, and got not even a single response in return.

I haven't told anyone this, and I'm not sure why I'm sharing it with all of you, but regardless, I'm sharing. One night last week I was lonely and wanted to go out for a drink. Of my small handful of friends, all were either working, with girlfriends/wives, etc. So I did what I've been doing a lot lately - I went out alone. I went to one of my regular spots downtown, and sat at the end of the bar. I ordered an Old Fashioned, one of my favorite cocktails, and savored it. I thought about life. Where I'd been. Where I was. Where I thought I'd be by now, and how big the chasm in between the two is. Life's funny like that. You can plan all you want but nothing is guaranteed, and few things work out the way we expect or hope for them to. If you asked me early in my college years where I'd be at 26 (almost 27), my response would have included some variation of the following: married or at least engaged to a beautiful young woman, settled, comfortable with a career, maybe even considering buying a house, living in a moderate-sized city. The only one of those things that I accurately predicted was the locale in which I live my life. The rest? Not even close. I think love got me here, love's elusiveness that is. Mistreatment by multiple females (whose names will not me mentioned here) sent me further down a path of depression that my job had already kick started. I've had no success in that arena since.

As I sat there on that bar stool considering everything, full of uncertainty, I began to cry. I threw down a $100 bill for a $6 drink and walked out of the bar. If that was the last tip I was ever going to leave, I was going to make sure it was a good one. I passed people on the street on the way to my car. Beautiful people. Girls with expensive silk dresses, handbags and shoes of Italian leather, and their boyfriends in Vineyard Vines or Polo. Girls and guys who go not by their first names, but by their first and middle combined. John Parker something anothers and Mary Catherine whoevers. They turned to watch me walk by, crying, but said not a word, choosing to concern themselves only with themselves. I didn't care; I was leaving that world behind. I'd always been invisible to those kinds of girls anyway, so I doubt my tears were even noticed. I cranked the car and drove through the downtown streets. Ran a couple of red lights just for fun hoping someone would hit me, but if not at the least I'd have another adrenaline rush. Unsuccessful, I parked next to the new RBC Plaza on Fayetteville Street. With the top down, I could stare all the way up to the top, almost 40 floors. Construction was still going on, the building was empty. I figured that maybe there was a way I could get in the building. Maybe I could get to the roof and leave it all behind. Leave my life on the ledge and my body on the sidewalk below. No more pain. No more loneliness. No more worry. No more me. And if the roof wasn't accessible, well then maybe I could get into one of those multi-million dollar condos on the top floors and leap from the balcony. That's the last thing I remember from Friday night, August 29th. I woke up at 5:30 AM, car still parked in the same spot, top still down, dew covering the outside of the car, the interior, and even me. I have no idea how I passed out, as I'd only had a single drink. Maybe it was God's way of sending me a message. As with most things, I guess only time will tell. I looked up at the towering building again before driving off to begin my Saturday with a cup of coffee at Cafe Helios. It cast a long shadow to the west down Hargett Street. I drove in it for a hundred yards or so before the warm sun, which was just coming up, hit me and I thought to myself, maybe I'll take just a little more time to figure things out, the RBC Plaza isn't going anywhere.

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