The Next(4)

By: Rafe Haze



Perhaps dropping the turbulence of my past had simply been my brain’s natural evolution towards a more efficient present? Doesn’t a slump without the baggage of history speed your journey to recovery?

Assuming there was any recovery.

Or was this pretty much it?

Fuckity ho hum.

The door buzzer buzzed, startling me like a camera flash in a dark movie house.

“Yum Yum’s.”

“Come on up.”

I pressed the button to let the delivery boy from the Thai restaurant up. The door speaker buzzed again.

“Sir, could you possibly come downstairs to get it?“

“Why?”

“I’m double parked. Wanna keep an eye on my car.”

“No.”

“What d’ya mean?”

“You have to come upstairs.”

“But…”

I hung up and buzzed the door again. Part of me felt like an asshole. The dominant part didn’t give a shit. I had no injuries. I was not paraplegic. I was not too lost in any creative moment to be interrupted. I simply could not go into the hall, let alone go downstairs.

I never thought I’d become that New York housebound freak. The smelly, creepy, cat guy the neighbors all gossip about who lives in a dark hole constantly enshrouded in a mealy plaid bathrobe and a constant stale stench of old urine. Except I had no cats, and I don’t think any neighbors cared one flying fuck about my comings and goings—or rather my not comings and my not goings.

Perhaps the waiting for the Next is what eroded my desire to exit. Then my ability to exit. The gradual dismissal of all external stimulus, inch by inch, imprisoning me within a six-hundred and fifty square foot cell, enforced by loathing, fear, irritation, inordinate self-focus, and plain old plummeting of energy.

New York is a city whose very fabric is woven of smiles to the familiar corner store counter guy whose name you’ve never quite gotten. Of keeping half an eye out for the next musical you have to see. Of choosing between the expensive French-Argentinian cuisine and your favorite Thai joint around the corner. Of looking beyond the dog shit on the sidewalk to the twinkling lights a couple blocks down. Of smiling in spite of the freezing face-scraping wind as you sip your warm, mulled, hot apple cider in Bryant Park.

But my Manhattan monologue shifted restaurant-by-restaurant, dollar-by-dollar, subway ride-by-subway ride, block-by-block, toothy grin-by-toothy grin, until the balancing act became a wrestling match. New York’s infamous “bustle” became an onslaught of annoyances I couldn’t avoid. The seasonal delights every store and every theater shamelessly capitalized on became seasonal price hikes and overcrowding that robbed me of any delight.

I could see the new show starring Kelly O’Hara, but it’s all the same shit rehashed and priced higher. Couldn’t that fat fucker behind the counter stop making inane indecipherable small talk and take my fucking money before I smash his teeth in? If Mister Wallstreet Fuckface coughs without covering his pie hole one more time, I might torpedo his goddamn MacBook Air into the subway track and watch it explode on the third rail. Why go to the Thai Restaurant around the corner and risk another lovely bout of explosive diarrhea? Why push my way through the throng of umbrellas and spatially handicapped tourists just to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when I can see it on television like every other sap across the country? Lighting the Rockefeller tree with Christmas lights? I give it a three. Setting it alight with a match? Ten.

Perhaps protecting everyone in New York from the vitriol of my silent monologue was the biggest catalyst for my initial resistance to leave the apartment. Perhaps it became a kind of social obligation to keep them from my self-acknowledged malaise of hatred, irritation, bitterness, and disappointment. Perhaps each encounter with New York’s eight million residents introduced one more opportunity to compare myself to someone infinitely and effortlessly more successful monetarily, creatively, emotionally, physically, everything-ly. Perhaps.

All I knew was that the hall became a trench of torture. I’d step onto the floor outside my door and my heart pole-vaulted into my Adam’s apple. I could literally see the veins on my wrist inflate and decrease with dizzying surges of blood, and someone with a hammer and a chisel began to gouge my forehead. Within seconds, my shirt would sag from soaking up sweat from every pore of my body. The door to the hall became an inexplicable trigger for hyperventilation and physical excruciation, a splitting headache, and a fucking larger pile of mildew-smelling, sweat-soaked laundry to hand wash. And then I quite literally stopped trying to go into the hall. Or anywhere.

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