June 26, 2011
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The office became infested with noise, the violent rustle of paper and the distant murmur of people. I was dazed by the blinding glare of the plastered walls upon breaking from my mindless reverie. I stumbled to my feet, in time to see the last coattail leave towards the exit. I realized my head was spinning from the glare, and I staggered as my eyes flashed and blurred. As I silently packed my bags in the once busy office building, I submitted myself to tonight’s usual prospect: a cold night alone in the dump of an apartment I call home. I suspect even, that upon coming home I would be bothered by an unrelenting landlord or any of several intrusive residents. It was a life without wonder, but it was mine.

The night passed slowly, and I found myself absent of thought, devoid of emotion. Everything was mechanical. Everything planned and orderly: cleaning up the leftovers, organizing my work for tomorrow, and drifting off in the early dusk without much else.

The day broke in through the curtains, flooding the room with an ungodly brightness. As I left the apartment, an equally horrid sight cornered me. The landlord hobbled towards me while spewing insults and threats at me. I assured him that I would have his money, hopefully dismissing him long enough to catch the bus to work. I couldn’t help but overhear him call me a nasty hypocrite. I shrugged it aside, as I knew he was nothing more than a materialistic pig. The bus ride was as monotonous as ever. I sat silently by myself while overjoyed families, amorous couples, and strangers indulged themselves in worthless small talk. I departed hastily when my stop had come, as I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. As I entered, there were no greetings, exchanges, or acknowledgements. I looked past the blank faces, and they in turn saw nothing. I was an invisible man, existent only for occasional favors or to bear burdens upon.

I began the day by being the scum of the earth and universally hated. I pester the masses with relentless phone calls inquiring about finance and taxes. I was no different than the landlord that I so despised. I was hypocrisy incarnate, and I only wondered how long before I ended up calling myself on my deficiency of finances.

Thus my work commenced, as uninteresting as ever. I stared down the long list of numbers, searching for meaning. I found nothing but an anonymous population to torture about personal inquiries. I found as little interest or appreciation in my job as the people I pestered. They despised me as much as I despised the landlord. They despised me as much as I despised myself.

However, sympathy and compassion weren’t part of my job. I did my job thoroughly and fully without any recognition besides hatred from everyone around me. I deserved it, and I was just as guilty. I knew that my finances were getting slim, and a recent attachment to alcohol had only broken a new hole I would pour money into. My work exhausted me, and I left feeling shaken. I glanced at the clock and my head began to hang, eyes rhythmically follow the arms. The next few hours passed by hypnotically. I meandered through my daunting list and dreamed to escape and leave everything behind. However, none of my ambitions really quite mattered. I was tied down by work and finance. There was not much else I even involved myself in. As my mind wandered I thought back to the lively bus I had taken that morning. I was not in it myself, instead my vision swung through the air as if propelled by a spiraling mechanical camera. The sounds of laughter and joy blared through my mind. How I longed to be that lovely couple sharing their moments happily together. They might’ve been plagued by the same troubles as I, but they shared it together and that made it all that much easier. The sounds inside the bus amplified until it was all a single high-pitched drone that continued to escalate in magnitude. I was jolted back to reality and instantly greeted by a heavy heart. These reveries weighed me down and enforced a cruel reality upon me. I struggled to remain composed. However, it is blindingly apparent to me that these feelings are worthless. There is no love without loss or hatred, and I am protecting myself from the burdens of emotion. I shrugged my ridiculous notions aside and that was that. I decided to take a taxi home as to avoid the usual commotion of the public. The ride home was slow, and through the static on the radio I heard a faint recitation:

People see when I’m glad

But I’m probably sad

I can never tell

When I’m truly well

I have a stomachache

When I feel my heart break

A battle inside is being fought

Every time I’m lost in thought

Sometimes I almost show

Feelings no one know

Then I’ll give it a disguise

And tell people lies

If I just lay low

No one will know

The truth that is hidden

And in their eyes forbidden

People can’t ask

If all I show is a mask.

I returned home silently. The cluttered room was as empty as ever. The scene in the bus quickly flashed in my eyes and vanished. Exhausted and hurt I wearily strode to the small balcony. The streets were empty and the night was gray. I slumped down and helped myself to a drink from my barren collection. It was not long before the dark blue sky swirled and mixed with the gray dullness of the city. My worries lifted, I drunkenly hobbled to bed. Within minutes, the day’s troublesome ordeals had vanished entirely.

I awoke slowly to an assortment of empty cans and bottles and a throbbing headache. A harsh resounding knock on the apartment door snapped me out of my daze completely. I hastily tidied up and tried to make myself look half decent. It was the landlord. My spirit crushed, I silently forfeited my salary and sank back into my room. It was a national holiday, and I began to awake to the sounds of the day. Outside there were children playing in the street and friends meeting each other for lunch. I looked for anyone. As if it was aware of my presence, the street seemed to empty. Crowds headed down the street, out of view. Children were herded into their homes by loving mothers. I felt a growing pain in my chest, and sat back down inside. It was as if my anonymity had been destroyed and everyone now knew me as the despicable agent, who heartlessly harassed the masses for his own enjoyment. I glanced at the refrigerator, but I knew it was empty. Besides, my head was still panging, and the number of bottles cluttering the apartment astounded me. I silently left for work, hoping to get my mind off these troublesome pains. I came in hours late, and even I was surprised that I had done so unnoticed. Was it better to be scolded for my misconduct, or be unknown enough to be ignored entirely? I shrugged the topic aside and let myself slide into the quiet monotony I knew so well.

Once again, I was awoken by the commotion in the office as joyous workers filed out of the exit. I blinked out of my comatose state and meandered my way out. I overheard conversations of other workers outlining their plans for the night and the weekend ahead. It came to my attention that I didn’t have plans, any family to visit, a woman to be with, or some friends to relax with. I suddenly felt a strong pain in my heart again and stumbled out on the street. The passersby didn’t give as much as a glance towards me or the thought of aid itself. I waved for a taxi, and decided to head for the bar. My mind was clogged with worries, and I wished to wash it away with the one way I knew how. Upon arriving, I stumbled into the bar and had a seat. I began to drift off again. I was awoken by a customer who had hit me across the shoulder. He asked if I was O.K. and I shrugged. As I regained consciousness, the situation began much clearer. He asked me if I enjoyed my job, and called me a variety of foul names. Apparently, I had forgotten to take off my nametag from work. He continued on his rampage while I froze. Seeing as his yelling wasn’t taking much of an effect, the man, obviously drunk, began to push me around. His repertoire of insults seemed as though they were rehearsed, as he spewed them flawlessly.

I began to get impatient with this man. Who was he to be confronting someone he knew nothing about? I had spent my life meandering along with hardly enough money to pay for myself. My family deserting me, I live silently and out of everyone’s way. I’ve no interest in bothering anyone, and I’ve given up the hope of any joy in my life. And yet here this man was, accusing me of finding pleasure in my job of torturing perfectly decent people when I myself cannot stand it either! I was so infuriated with his indifference and insensitivity. With a fury I myself did not believe to possess, I struck him across the face with my glass. Instantly, everything was illuminated, and the bar turned to see me strike an innocent man. The pain inside of me burst to a peak and I fell to the floor in agony. The dark brown of the wood blurred and dissolved. My eyes clouded and everything went black.

I awoke in a police station. The rest was fairly hazy. I recall talking to authorities, a cold night alone in a cell, a jury trial. I was given a short sentence. The court hardly knew who I was, and no one defended me. My anonymity had kept me safe all these years, and I now was being saved by it. They gave me a short sentence in jail. I had nothing much to say, for it didn’t matter. I suppose everything they said was true, and I had no intention of saying otherwise. After all, I was used to keeping my head down and avoiding most contact anyway.

The next few weeks passed as uninterestingly as life had been on the outside. I got used to prison life quickly, as it was hardly different than my life at home. The nights were cold and quiet and lonely. However, without work I had much more time to think about my life as it had progressed. The reality of my life crashed down upon me with a disheartening certainty. I had separated myself entirely from the people that kept me alive. Working as a telemarketer for the IRS only exposed myself to a public that has every right to despise me, and from that I learned only to hate them as well. I cut myself off from my family, I have no notion of any past friends, and I’ve been alone for as long as I can remember. I have lost that which makes me something.

And it was in those long dark nights I realized what had happened. Without other people there is no joy, no pleasure, no emotion. Without other people there is no life. If I expect myself to be so subjective, then I have lost what makes me who I am. If all we have is each other, then each person I speak with on the phone, if that is someone I can talk with; say a few words of comfort, then the comfort to them sends comfort to me. What little I give to others, I will end up giving to myself. My life becomes as important as the actions and emotions I fill it with, whether it is through helping other people in order to help myself or for the general recovery of the people.

I awoke the next day refreshed, having been released from my former self-imprisonment. I headed to work armed with my ideology and the hope of helping everyone. My work took a positive turn. My calls were becoming more personal; I explained my similar situation to the people I audited, and offered positive suggestions. I earned top remarks, and my coworkers and bosses even noticed a dramatic change in me. I earned myself a raise. But it wasn’t about the money any more. I profited from the brighter outlook on life brought on by my revelation. And suddenly, everything seemed that much brighter.

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