Originally posted on 7-12-11.
I searched the desert sands
just to later realize that I was in the
and the pool of water that I sought so
desperately was just within reach,
only I was too parched to
and by that point, too weak to
I lay there on my back,
atop a mossy patch of green, tangled
insects trekked over me as if I were
an abandoned log-
they went about their way,
in search of their own sparkling oases.
The leaves around me rustled with
and the brush was alive with movement.
I lay motionless, staring at the soaring
deep and blue and rich
with a tint of yellow orange sun,
absorbing the sounds of my temporary
I heard feet brush past me-
I’d closed my eyes to rest, you see, and
I followed the hurried sound with my ears
and opened them slowly to see myself
walking toward the pool,
which was only a few paces away,
right in front of me…
the entire time.
I wearily watched this version
stride to the pool and take a drink;
how effortless it truly was, and
then I questioned how difficult I’d made it
out to be, sipping from that pool.
I turned back to the sky
and cursed this alternate me,
enraged at the thought of what could
but I was only cursing myself…
I realized then that I wandered the desert
because I never thought that I was
worthy of a drink*
So here’s the deal; how many times have you been at your desk, pretending to work of course, daydreaming of another life? How many of us sit in the gardens of our own little secret worlds, scheming of creative ways to shake things up? Dreaming of ways to just flip the script and start over? We don our masks every day and face the world with our pretend selves…most of us tend to fake our smiles, fake our enthusiasm, and fake our brains into believing that we’re all on the same team. We all do it; the customary nods, smiles, and hello’s, the traditional talk about the weather and the local sports teams and what not, and the quintessential remarks about how we all can’t wait until 5 o’clock. It’s all the same; it’s the universal language of things. It’s as if we are all actors, and to be honest, the great bulk of us could truly win Oscars and Golden Globes for our performances. We’re all actors, and we’re scarily good at it. We are all performing on a daily, acting until five o’clock, acting through meetings, acting through the bullshit until we can reach our little safe zones, wherever that may be. Yeah, I get it. It’s like we’re following a script; we’re all different pages of the same book, and not one of us has any idea as to how the story will end. It’s a very thin veneer. Part of me would rather take on that horde of stumbling, slobbering, reanimated flesh that I was dreaming about than spend one more day…one more second, even…typing meaningless entries into that meaningless database.
Birds darted and soared outside in slow, steady spirals and graceful zig zags. My cubicle faced the window, which was heaven and hell all rolled into one. Staring out into the blue skies was a revelation that reminded me of the unfathomable depth of the world, and that the world still breathed…and, through it all, that I was still alive despite the paralytic effects of my surroundings. It reminded me that beauty was a real thing, a very honest concept, not just a figment of imagination and magazine ads, or movies, commercials and television shows. It was a reminder that I was most certainly not meant for the off-white box that I was in. On the flip side though, having a window seat was pure, uncut hell, because it was also a sickeningly painful reminder that I was very well shackled to a cube wall like some dungeon prisoner in the old cartoons or comic books, all hairy and ragged and barefoot and threadbare. I felt as if I were that comic book detainee, tethered to some imaginary world where numbers ruled, office politics reigned supreme, and management was as crooked as a bad case of scoliosis. Either way, it was awesome to see the clouds float by and the birds soar outside every day.
A sharp shudder awoke me from those old thoughts, and the quintessential office cacophony of keyboard clicks, ringing phones, and light chatter swirled around my ears like bad porn music. I’d only dozed off for a scant few minutes, and traded a (quite pleasant) humorous dream for a very real corporate prison cell. Not a good swap; those dreams and daydreams were the fuel that propelled me through the persistent tedium of the day. My screen stared back at me with rows upon rows of untouched work, a dull mishmash of numbers and letters, reports and spreadsheets that I’d scarcely mastered after all the years being there. Those rows and worksheets stared at me with dead, drab, critical eyes, and I stared back at it with equal scorn. It was abnormally cold in the cubicle that morning, and the fluorescent lights above shone down as coldly as a winter star. In the office, it was always either too hot or too cold…as if working in a state of discomfort was somehow great for productivity. I was dreaming of zombies again that day, and those raggedy bastards managed to grab hold of me and tear the hell out of my jugular. Again. I deftly flicked a bit of morning crust from the corner of my eyes and squinted hard in an attempt to refocus them on the computer screen that I’d been staring at for hours; a gang of work needed to be done, and it was only 9 a.m.
The highlight of our childish creativity was The Bunker, a hollowed out cluster of unused shelving, walled with a carefully crafted facade of boxes that concealed an inner homemade bar. To the untrained eye, it wouldn’t even garner a second look; it was identical to any other normal, mundane, ordinary wall of boxes. However, this particular Great Wall of Cardboard masterfully concealed a super-secret hideout within that rivaled something that a James Bond villain would have constructed, or perhaps it resembled the lair of some comic book bad guy. In it was our headquarters, our command tent, our private lounge that served as our secret war cabinet. Our Round Table, with each of us looking to fill our Holy Grails with whatever was on tap that day. The effort that went into crafting bubble wrap and cardboard La-Z-Boy recliners and cotton stuffed sleeping mats was labor intensive. Not to mention surreptitiously loading our liquid stash in and out through the drop down hatch that we cut through the wood slats of the pallets that served as the roof. Our cooler was always stocked to the gills with a variety of suds. This was the real deal for us. That was our debaucherous shrine, and we’d retreat to The Bunker to devour a few bottles or cups of the drink of the day, every day. And when we weren’t in our venerated safe zone, we’d just down our spirits from the red plastic Solo cups in broad daylight like it was a house party. Like we owned the joint.
We developed into exceptional drinkers; a functional alcoholism that allowed us to perform at our best with just the right amount of whiskey flowing through our veins. We’d field instructions, calmly attend meetings, and cheerfully converse with the front office staff while being lit to the core on liters of Rum and Diet Dr. Pepper. And no one was the wiser. It was the only way we were able to make it through the monotony of the day, a monotony which by now I hope you sincerely feel. It was an alcohol fueled, fun steeped binge that lasted for years, and invariably suffused our livers and our minds with loads of lasting good memories. But all good things must end at some point, right? The question ticked in my brain every single day, like a turgid time bomb just waiting to explode; what the hell was my purpose? There had to be something that I was good at in life. Thoughts like this lingered in my head on a regular basis as I walked the aisles up and down filling orders. Whatever that ‘something’ was, wasting away under layers of box dust was not it. What was I good at? I was in my twenties, but felt as if I was past my prime, or as if I’d missed the ferry to Success Town. I felt utterly left behind by life, and my fun, yet counterproductive daily dealings only resigned me to that early grave and kept me pinned tightly. There just had to be more to life than this.
We bought ninja stars and throwing knives online and hurled them like major league pitchers at anything that we could puncture. Nothing was safe from our alcohol infused ninja wrath, as boxes, bags, and everything in between fell victim to our onslaught. We fancied as ourselves blue collar sportsmen as well, and developed our own Olympic caliber games, such as the legendary sports of Warehouse Tennis, Wall Ball, and the venerated Quarterback Challenge. We shoved hunks of raw meat and random bits of leftover lunch under a broken crevice in the concrete floor one entire summer just to see how many maggots and critters that we could attract to it. Needless to say, we succeeded in attracting a city’s worth of bugs to that hole like animals to the Ark. You name it, we did it; nothing was off limits, no dare was too great, no joke was unworthy. Great cardboard tubes that once held monstrous fabric rolls became fabled swords and wicked spears, and hole-riddled boxes stood as a testament to the epic battles and wars that we waged against each other to pass the hours. I was an Obi Wan with a cardboard tube. And the time did fly, let me tell you. It passed in a drunken haze; we spent untold fortunes of cash nearly every day on bottles of booze, bottles that we’d skillfully guzzle throughout the day by the cupful, right before the eyes of management and the front office. We toted our red Solo cups around with pride in fact, and downed our spirits in front of all who dared enter our sanctuary. We practically dared them to approach us about it. And we only got busted once. Our livers suffered greatly while playing the role of a Brita filter that summer, yet we became remarkably adept at getting the job done while being loaded to the gills on whiskey, rum, and whatever other distilled goodness we could muster. The very definition of functioning alcoholics. We were a well-oiled machine, though our gears were greased with Jack and Coke.