“Shadows of time between masks and hand sanitizers. Elbow bumps and cloth wipes drenched in alcohol.” Drained of feigned positivity, and living in a world increasingly rife with suffering, the mantra of the moment has been whittled down to just: “Let’s get through today.”
by: Allie Burke
I was really going to try to make it until 8:00 today.
But it is 7:24, and I can’t take it anymore.
I make my way through the sea of cubicles. I walk downstairs and outside into the warm sun. I call him. He picks up on the second ring. “Hewwo?” he says in a child’s voice, like he always does.
“How is it today?”
“One person hung up on me because I wouldn’t give him something we don’t have.”
“People are awful.”
We sit in silence for a long time. Then I say, “I’m going to go cry in the bathroom now.”
“Because I can’t do this.”
“I’m sorry baby. You can do this. Don’t cry.”
Like the rebel I am, I start crying.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he says.
“I’m gonna go. I hope you have a good day.” My voice sounds so ugly. Like a person I never want to see again.
“Try not to let them get to you.”
We hang up. I forgot to tell him I love him. I never forget.
I make my way back to my desk. It’s decorated with my pin collection and two figures of Deku and Todoroki. There’s a picture of he and I, in Maui. I’m a simple person.
I look at my instant messages. You should say something, it says. If it were anyone else you would tell them the same thing I’m telling you.
The person I need to talk to returns. We walk all the way across the office, into a small room with two chairs.
“The little room?” I ask. “Really?”
Many years ago, we used to be scared of the little room. It’s where people were fired.
He laughs. “It’s not like that. What’s up?”
“I need to know when this is going to be over. It’s been too long.”
“I don’t know the answer to your question.”
I start to cry. I knew the man for twelve years and if there was one thing about him I knew for sure, I knew he hated when women cried. He never knew what to do.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
He says, “give me a second,” and walks out of the room. He comes back a moment later, with a box of tissues.
I guess he now knows what to do.
“You should have came to me earlier,” he says. “Don’t let things build up. Talk to me. You know me. You know I’ll help you. We’ll figure this out together.”
I go to the bathroom. I lock the stall behind me and take a deep breath. I lift my shirt. The zipper of my leather jacket pushes against my name badge hanging around my neck. It disconnects from the clip and falls into the toilet.
The facilities representative is just outside the stall. She has gloves; I’m sure of it. I’d just have to dig it out and clean it off, everything was going to be fine.
I lean forward to go ask her, and the toilet flushes.
If you lose your name badge, you have to wear a sticker with your name on it in a visible place. I put it on my chest. For the rest of the day, everyone asks me if I forgot my badge at home. Each time I say, “no, it fell in the toilet” and the other person laughs.
Mondays in 2020 were like a bad comedy. Everyone laughs because it’s so ridiculous. You can hardly believe it’s happening.
Except it is happening, every Monday, and every other day of the week. And eventually we all are saying “2020 sucks” and everybody laughs. It’s like when someone asks you how you’re doing but they don’t actually care.
This is where I’d usually say to myself, I’m schizophrenic, and some things in life are hard in different ways than they are for other people. I’m paranoid of getting sick and dying, and I’m living in a fucking pandemic. But everybody’s living in a pandemic. Everybody’s scared of getting sick and dying. Every single person around me is suffering in the same ways and there is not enough medication or therapy in the world to make anyone feel better.
There is no “try to stay positive” anymore. It’s just “let’s get through today.” That’s all there is left.
That, and Tuesday. And Wednesday, and every day after that. Shadows of time between masks and hand sanitizers. Elbow bumps and cloth wipes drenched in alcohol.
I go outside again, for lunch. The trees sway and the wind breezes through the shade of the umbrella I’m sitting under. It is ninety degrees outside. Paradise.
It’s a beautiful day for a mental breakdown.
A Bestselling Author and Psychology Today Blogger from Burbank, California, Allie Burke is the Executive Director of Stigma Fighters and her writing has been featured in several magazines such as Women’s Health, VICE, and Psychology Today. From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.
Nicely done. I can see why she’s a best selling writer. She puts her pen on the gut feeling and lets it fly.
Thank you so much, Arthur.
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