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OCD meet your worst enemy.
I was inspired to write this short piece because of the difficulties and disorders I face and have faced, and the struggle I know other people go through.
I neatly tuck away my color-coded folders and line my ballpoint pens up from my favorite to least favorite, making sure the colors vary in a pattern throughout the straight row of writing utensils. I take a deep breath and pull my little handkerchief out of it’s sterile case on the corner of my desk and spend a few minutes cleaning invisible dust from each key and crevice of my laptop.
“Hey, OCD?” A voice calls from the cubicle directly in front of me. I fold up my small dusting cloth, end to end perfectly lined up, crisp folds that make my heart flutter with satisfaction. I find magnificent relief in being able to get things exactly how I want them, perfect as perfect can be.
“What’s up, Mumbles?” I call back, not looking up from my daily paper clip sorting. Unlike the other disorganized residents in my office building, I do not have a small dish of jumbled paper clips, but more of a strand of them that I hooked together myself, wrapped tightly around a chopstick and secured at the end. This way, whenever I need a paper clip, I can unravel my string from the chopstick and unlatch one from the rest. Once again, this is something that makes me feel a tense sort of happiness, I got it as perfect as I wanted it.
I sigh as I recount my brilliance on that idea and realize I have completely missed what Mumbles has been grumbling about to me. My eyes dart up to see him lounging over the edge of my cubicle wall. I hiss through my teeth and knot my hands together to prevent the constant shaking. He is distracting me from my daily routine. Mumbles has a strange sort of attitude, he doesn’t make or maintain eye contact of any kind. He quite likes to study the ground or his shuffling feet and he mumbles and grumbles his words in a strange sounding continuous thing.
As he continues to run his words together in quiet strands of nearly incoherent muttering, I scurry around him straightening and re-straightening everything on my desk. I quickly check my wrist watch, re-centering it perfectly on my arm and gasp at the time. I’m running a minute behind my usual schedule, which means I’m going to have to take the stairs not the elevator to regain my time. Mumbles knows how I get about my time management, he seems to try to interrupt it every single day as much as he can.
I ignore Mumbles some more as I pick up my smooth, brown leather briefcase. Blotting my brow and trying not to focus on the stressed sound of my own breathing, I rush down the stairs of the tall building, in my race with time to regain my footing in my jam-packed-down-to-the-second calendar.
I check my watch again as I reach the bottom floor of my building, avoiding eye contact with the lady at the front desk whose papers are always a little bit too topsy-turvy and who’s lipstick runs too far out of the lines for me to handle. It is 3:32 p.m. I should be unlocking the door to my apartment in exactly seven minutes. I keep my eyes on my watch steadily as I walk with purpose for the doors, leaving the obnoxious desk lady to stare at me with concern like she always seems to do.
I let out a strangled, relieved sigh and mentally pat myself on the back for catching up with my down-to-the-minute schedule.
I am out of the tall office building and onto the sidewalk in seconds, strolling at the exact pace that I do every day on my way home and counting my steps as always, to make sure they remain the same as yesterday’s count.
As I make sure to maintain my count and my pace, I think of how Mumbles calls me by the nickname, OCD. I hardly find myself obsessive compulsive, I think I’m just strictly organized.
I don’t break my pace as I speed walk into my building, the doorman gives me a wary look that I ignore. This is my routine every day. I reach the door of my apartment exactly when I'm suppose to and wiggle my key in the old door, forcing it open.
I set my briefcase down on the same chair as always and turn on the television against the wall, twitching it to channel seventeen and turning the volume up to twenty-six bars. I sigh in satisfaction at the perfection of the moment, I'm keeping exactly to my schedule.
After I drink 3 ounces of water and have a snack of ten chips, I head down to the lobby of my building to sit in the same stool of the same bar as always. I like this bar, it’s nice and quiet, easy for me to get to work on my next day’s plan and finish all my work in the hour and thirty-six minutes I give myself there.
I sit on the swiveling bar stool, bent over my planner, going through my day plan for tomorrow. I feel satisfied with how my day went, smooth and fulfilling. Suddenly, my planner is snatched from in front of me by a big hand. I gasp and cringe, snapping my body around to see a tall, tan man holding my planner up, examining it closely.
"Oy, this is what you do all day?" He asks me, a slight lilt to his voice. I don't answer, only stare as I feel all the blood draining from my face. He gives me a strange look. "Come have a drink." He does not pose it as a question, but a demand. I shake my head but he's already walked away with my planner and sat in the booth furthest in the corner.
Anger building inside of me, I storm over to where he nonchalantly sits, sipping a mahogany colored drink and flipping through the pages of my planner. I make a move to say something forceful, but he holds up a finger, not even looking at me. His gesture is so smooth I forget what I was thinking. "Sit." I frown at his use of demanding what he wants but oblige quickly.
The blonde waitress comes over and sets a beer bottle down in front of me. "Drink." The man instructs.
"This isn't what I drink," I retort quietly. He looks up slowly and gives me a slow smirk.
"Do it anyways," he insists without hesitation. My heart beats hard, painfully against my ribs and I shake my head automatically. He raises an eyebrow, as if challenging me. I reach with shaking fingers for the cold bottle and raise it to my lips.
I am shocked with the taste and recoil slightly before peering down the nose of the bottle. The guy leans across the table, chuckling and shakes my hand. I cringe with the contact and open my mouth to introduce myself. He holds his hand up again to stop me. "No names. I'll call you OCD." I feel my gut clench at my constant nickname.
"And what do I call you?" I ask quietly, trying to ignore the way he shuffles his feet and fidgets his hands.
"ADHD," he murmurs, grinning smoothly. He flexes and relaxes his fingers a couple times before downing the rest of his drink in a sip and looking to me to do the same. I cringe and do as I'm instructed, gagging at the sheer action of what I'm doing.
"I have to go home," I tell the odd man curtly. I take several deep breathes to center myself before standing to go.
He chuckles softly and I frown, something about him feels off. "Oh no you're staying with me." Panic rises in my body and I stutter for breath.
"No! You don't understand! I have a schedule--" a single look from ADHD cuts me short. He raises his hand to the waitress and she brings me more to drink.
I stay with ADHD until the bar closes, trying to suppress my anxiety and constantly checking my watch until he takes it from me, claiming I shouldn't be ruled by time. I am proud of myself for only trying to escape seven times.
The man, who is still unnamed, tells me about his life, how he was expelled over and over as a young boy for being reckless. How he loved to put himself in risky situations just to get his heart going.
I sit, wide eyed and clenching my muscles through his story, examining my own life as he talks. I seem to have missed the part of life when you start not being afraid of life and yourself, I'm stuck in the obsessive cycle of my schedule.
ADHD manages to fill me with drinks I've never tried and get me into a cab while I try to fight him off. Claiming he's going to regret this more than I am, we drive off into the dead of night in a city that never sleeps.
He takes me all over town, places I've never even heard of, ignoring my panic and constant attempts at escape. I lose track of time for the first time in my known life, not thinking about my planner or what time I need to be getting into the lobby of my office building.
When ADHD realizes he’s regained a sort of power over me, he forces me to change out of the clothes I’ve been wearing, the clothes I planned to wear. He has me eat food I’ve never tried and talk to women like I never would have thought I even could.
“Why me?” I ask him off-handedly as we lean against the window of a sandwich shop to avoid the rain. His dark hair glistens with water droplets and his eyes sparkle.
“Don’t you find it thrilling, Lad? The pure essence of what our universe consists of resting in the palm of your hand, ready for you to touch it. As if it’s a drug, making your body feel different than it ever has… Why? I’ll tell you why, because I don’t believe in the practice of having schedules and having to sit in a box in a stuffy office building and organize stuff for a living. Because why.. what could that possibly accomplish for you? I see how you are, nervous and shaky, organizing and re-organizing..OCD. I tell you, friend, sad life that is, sad life indeed.” I nod in silence at his speech as he continues rambling on about how this life is the only one we’ve got, why waste it.
Everything he says is making a lot of sense to me, everything he’s had me do tonight is suddenly gaining purpose. I know what he wanted me to do. He’s not some strange man, who is lonely and in need of a better life. He’s a man who has learned the ropes of life and enjoyed his time doing so.
As I watch him rush to pick a rosy cheeked lady in rainboots a dandelion from the crack of the sidewalk, I realize he simply wants to do everything possible and believes I’d be happier this way. The woman smiles widely and wipes a drenched strand of hair from her face before he tucks the little yellow flower behind her ear and gives her cheek a small peck.
She leans up and kisses his lips softly, before sauntering off down the gray road as if everything is exactly how it should be. And everything is, I feel in my place, heartbeat drowned out by the rain, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt which is well out of the ordinary. I should be cold, but my skin feels alive with my new experiences. I have the taste of cherry lipstick that isn’t mine and drinks I’ve never had lingering on my tongue.
“I feel like a child again!” I shout to my companion who grins from ear to ear and swings around on a lamp post.
“A child dancing and drinking like I’ve never seen a man do?” He laughs and catches rain in his mouth. I make a show of stepping on every crack and line in the pavement as we run for the coverage of the nearest store, something I’ve always been terrified to do.
I stand in the small payphone box, ADHD prompting me from right outside. I dial my boss’s number and wait steadily for the phone to be picked up. When he answers I let him know smoothly that I’m quitting my job then slam the phone down as ADHD pummels on the glass of the small box in excitement. I’m overcoming my fears.
We stumble down the street and ADHD hoots and shouts, throwing his arms into the air. "This is the first project I've ever completed!" He screams into the echoing dark. "I made you do it. I made you take that stiff mind of yours and bend it around the true beauty and passion of this universe." My head feels fuzzy and an overwhelming sense of relief hits me as the weight of the world is lifted off my shoulders, I take a deep breath in and let it out slow. I don’t feel the usual vice on my lungs squeezing as tightly as it used to.
Without a word I hail a cab and climb into it, leaving the drunken man on the sidewalk to wallow in his own achievement of getting me wasted and lost in the world of life and wonder that I never truly saw before tonight. I know I’ll probably never see my friend again, but we both knew from the beginning this was not to last.
I tumble out of the cab, wondering vaguely where my left shoe has run off too and where I placed my planner. As I saunter into my building I freeze, dead in my tracks. Something slaps me in the face: I haven't been counting my paces.
The small bubble of panic that expands and pops a few times in my throat is refreshing, no mind blowing anxiety like usual. I pray silently to the heavens for bringing the insane, hyper active man I left on the street to me. He has broken some of the habits that were going to be the death of me.
As I pass the trash can, I stop. And the doorman watches in wonder as I pull the yellow perscription bottle of pills out of my pocket, reading the label about my obsessive compulsive medication once before twisting it open and pouring them into the trash.