It was Wednesday. It was 11:30. That’s close enough to noon, right? That’s close enough to a somewhat reasonable hour to smoke a bowl. Yeah. She had already been to the gym. Shit, she got there by 8:30 this morning. She even went with a friend. That’s double points. There was a song that came ringing through her ears every few days lately. “Nobody likes you when your 23… what the hell is wrong with me, my friends say I should act my age, what’s my age again? What’s my age again?” There’s a little ping of nostalgia that comes with old pop songs. She vividly remembered being on the bus when she was 10, coming home from school, kids playing that song on their Walkmans at top volume so everyone could hear it. She knew she couldn’t seem too interested. She was too much of a nerd to be acceptably into Blink-182 and if the other kids saw she liked it, they would call her out and laugh at her. That was a rough time, but she maintained that 23 is by far the hardest of all the years. Now it was a different story. No longer was she pretending that she wasn’t into Jay-Z or even pop punk (which in 2014 was a faux paux). In fact, she was unable to hide anything. Unable to look people in the eye when they asked her “how are you” and just say “fine, thanks”. She was unable even to maintain regular conversation or small talk with anyone, but especially strangers.
Just last night, she’d gone in to have a cup of coffee and do some writing (which was code for desperately searching the internet for different careers. Her google history looked something like “Literature teacher salary. How to become a journalist. What is marketing? Personal Relations. Personal Assistant. Shark Vac and Steam Instructions. Preschool Teacher”). It was 6pm. The cafe was nearly empty except for a few business dads, “doing work” on their laptops, avoiding the chaos that surely awaited them at home. The barista asked her how her day has been. “Uhhh… yeah… pretty good.” She tried. “I stayed in bed until noon today. And then I went to the gym. Just really, the life of the unemployed…”
“Aw shit, did you lose your job recently?”
“Uh. Well. Yeah sort of. I started a bakery earlier this summer. I got into a bad car accident and wasn’t really able to keep baking.” She oversimplified/exaggerated.
“It’s been a rough summer.” “Yeah, that happens, huh? I’m coming out of a bad year. I had my jaw wired shut and it was about a week before this huge comedy competition. I did the set. With my jaw wired shut.” “How’d it go?” “Not well.”
“How are things looking since then?” “Pretty good. But every year seems to get harder and I’m waiting for it to all fall apart again.” “Yeah, I hear you. I keep telling everybody 18 to 23 must be the hardest time ever. If it gets worse than what these last five years have been like… I don’t see how our suicide rate wouldn’t be astronomical. What’s been your worst year so far?”
“Well. 17 was pretty bad. 18 was pretty bad. 19 was rough. I’m 21. It just keeps getting harder.”
“Fuck. I thought maybe you were older than me and you could give me some advice or something.”
“Nope. Sorry. Do you want a French Press or a Pour Over?”
“Whichever is cheaper.”
The thing was, besides the pot, she was doing everything that she needed to do. She was taking care of herself. She was going to the gym every day. She wasn’t really over sleeping. She was getting out of bed when her girlfriend went to work each morning. She half made the bed, gestured towards putting out some clothes, even made breakfast and coffee some mornings. But as soon as Lauren would leave, she would get back in bed and watched 5 episodes of Parenthood. She knew she shouldn’t be staying inside and doing nothing in her pajamas until noon. So that was something she could fix. But she had even stopped drinking, because she knew it was a depressant and she knew she shouldn’t. She’d been hanging out with friends, too and even talking about whatever was on her mind. Even the hard shit.
She kept looking forward. Researching the future, making maps and plans in her head. So why wasn’t anything getting easier? The night prior she’d had a vivid dream: there was a big room. It looked a lot like the attic she pictured that Anne Frank and her family hid in. A mix of all the plays, movies and the imagined places in her mind. There was a lot of furniture and somehow she’d been tasked with the rearrangement. Two twin beds. One huge bookshelf. A guitar. A few chairs in the far corner. Another thinner, taller bookcase. Her younger brother and sister were there. They were supposed to be helping her, but they were really just dicking around and getting in her way. Typical. She grabbed a bookcase, the big one, the one that spanned the length of her arms. She lifted, totally with her back, regardless that she knew better. It was way heavier than she had imagined. The back fell completely off. The shelves started to come out of their respective pegs. It crumbled. She pulled at all the pieces, trying to get it to come back together. On and on with each piece of furniture. Crumbling at first lift. Everything had fallen apart in the last year.
But it didn’t really matter because she was only hanging on by a thread before. It had been a gradual and messy untangling. She’d finalized the divorce from her parents. She’d broken up with her best friend. She’d started a bakery and then let go of a bakery only a few months later. She fell in love with a woman and had come out to everyone. All in the last 10 months. So it was almost a welcome break. Almost.