by: Allie Burke

“I haven’t figured out how to tell between lying there awake and lying there dreaming…”


A thick, billowy cloud escapes the passenger window of my car. Shit. I catch the security guard overseeing construction sitting at his desk across the street. If he looks this way he’s probably going to think there is a car on fire. Normally I wouldn’t care – I’d just let it build up in inside my car – but it’s been hot lately and I’m in a sweater and I’ve recently discovered the best way to spend my lunch break is to take a nap in my car. I even strategically parked near a tree this morning for this specific purpose.

I recline my seat and lay down with a bunched up sweater tucked beneath my head. Before my eyes close, I see a woman walking on the sidewalk in my direction. She goes straight for the cloud and I mutter “Goddammit” under my breath as I pop upright and start my car so I can get window rolled up. But it’s too late, she’s already inside of that slowly expanded cloud because she had to get to her car, which is parked next to mine. This is why I hate vaping in places like Corporate America, or anywhere really. I want to quit. But I can’t. I won’t. I’ve already given up sugar, wheat, and cheese; I’ve started running again and showering every day. I even play tennis now. What do you people want from me? I need at least one vice to keep me grounded, to keep me from floating away, far from everything that is familiar to me.

I wait for her to reverse her car out of the spot, and I roll my window down again to get some airflow in the sealed car. More smoke, or vapor – excuse me, advocates – escapes, just as someone else with her window down parks there.

You have got to be kidding me.

I start the car and roll the window up again. I only have an hour and I’m wasting time.

I catch the look the new woman gives me and, screw it, I think. I’ll just roast to death in this car.

Why do people have to look at you like that? Like – like you have schizophrenia, or something. I laugh out loud because I do have schizophrenia, but it’s funny and not funny at the same time.

I lay back down. It’s not like it’s a cigarette smoke, at least. I try to defend myself against these women, not realizing that no one is listening. But, I mean, really. It smells like cake.

My alarm goes off forty minutes later and I don’t know if I slept. I never do; I haven’t figured out how to tell between lying there awake and lying there dreaming. It all looks the same to me.

I pick up my vape and hot-box my car some more. The world around me seems to be moving slower so I must have slept. My brain is struggling to keep up.

I wonder about writers in the three minutes I have left before I have to walk up to the fifth floor. How peculiar we must seem, to take what we see in real life and present it as something surreal. To remember every detail – every smell and every look someone gave you. Calling myself a writer is funny, I think, when I daydream about what the lives of Hemingway and Thompson must have been like. I work for a Fortune 500 company and I go to college after work in my suits. I don’t look like a writer. I don’t drink enough. My clothes are not frayed the right way. I don’t even write. I don’t have time anymore.

In an email I received from myself this morning I told myself that I would not be negative today. That I am the only one responsible for my successes and failures. I should finish that book where I got the idea to do such a thing – You by Caroline Kepnes – but I’m too scared. It’s a terrifying book, and as Sarah and I like to say, we don’t need rollercoasters. Life inside our heads is all the adrenaline we can take.

The salad waiting for me back at my desk has cheese in it. I don’t take it out.

I am the only one responsible for my successes and failures.

3 replies on “Failures”
  1. Nicely written. A little known fact (to non-schizophrenics at least) is what a GOOD drug nicotine is to help with anxiety caused, both by the schizophrenia itself and also to attenuate some of the negative side effects of medications. Glad you’re vaping instead of smoking! And I write this again just in case you didn’t see it——you write well!

    Peace! – DDM

  2. says: Neesa

    Thank you for your eloquent, candid voice. The management of schizophrenia is one that should not be judged.

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