Not just weird and sorry, but misunderstood. I need to work on my inflection or personality or something.
Stress, anxiety, depression: all the best things. When I was younger I could just check out for awhile when this happened. It’s not that hard to deliver pizzas when you’re suicidal.
It’s the difference between, “Aw, bro, I’m so sorry I forgot your cheese dip. No, no, it’s my bad. Let me run back to the store. No problem at all. Let me see if I can get you some free breadsticks” with excited affect, and: “sorry, I’ll be back in 10 minutes” with no affect.
And the thing is, the amount a person tips is ingrained in their personality and rarely varies given the circumstances. Take me, for example. My usual is to tip over 20%. Add two dollars for every ten dollars, round up; it’s simple. I learned to overtip from my mother. I think we both feel like our very existence warrants the world an apology. If I feel I’ve gotten really shitty service I might tip 15-18% instead. “That will show them!” I think. Of course, it doesn’t show them.
I got a little off track, but what I started to say is that I’m depressed, but I can’t check out, I have all these responsibilities. Teachers are all “why haven’t you turned in the work?” and my students are like, “when are you going to give me back my story?” and blah blah. On top of that, I’m not single, so I have this whole other person to juggle. I have to consider his feelings. The way I do that tends to be to constantly accuse him of not considering my feelings, which are considerable. It’s exhausting, being depressed.
There’s a lot of reading and writing to do, but watching David Attenborough’s Animal Documentary series on Netflix, one after the other, this is about all I can manage. It’s a wicked indulgence. To watch an antelope frantically clawing through the water in slow motion, only to have this prehistoric beast, this heartless, cold-blooded alligator leap from the depths and chomp the thing – I don’t know what to say. My God. Cheetahs are fast but gazelles are better at dodging. In one scene you see it make an unexpected zip, the Cheetah gets caught up, stumbles, and the prey animal lives to fight another day. In the next sequence though, we’re reminded of the pitfalls of eyes on either side of your head – deer runs straight into a tree and the Lioness rips his neck open.
Wait, there’s more.
Big fat walruses, hundreds of them on the beach during mating season, all of them roaring and armless, like slugs with tusks. The babies squeal for their mothers who try their hardest to keep them alive, but male walruses – angry they are not the baby’s father – wobble over and suffocate them. Nature is filled with murderers and everyone wants to live. For a moment you’re happy the gazelle gets away, but then it’s all, “Cheetah just wants a hot meal, what’s so wrong with that?” Who do you side with? Nobody. Nothing. No one.
But the prey animals, they don’t want to hurt anyone, right? Have you ever felt a blade of grass? It’s covered in microscopic barbs. It wants to live the same as everything else. There are no winners here. It’s like watching a war or a funeral procession. Look out your window, hear the crickets chirping? The crickets hate each other. The birds want them dead. The grass doesn’t want to be stood on. Everything’s fucked.
Who invented this world? Where is this God I keep hearing about? I can see now why Rednecks might all gather together in a field with shotguns, shooting pointlessly at the sun. I can imagine a scenario where that would seem like a reasonable reaction.
I believe in beauty and hope and kindness, sometimes. Sometimes I try to express it or talk about it, but I have this problem with inflection. Have you ever tried to say something enthusiastically, genuinely, in earnest and full of love, only to have people react something like, “yeah right!” or “are you being sarcastic?” I’d say that happens to me about twice a week.
We workshopped my non fiction piece on Monday and afterwards I said, “Thanks a lot. That was really helpful.” The class laughed. The teacher snorted, “yeah, right!”
“I meant it,” I said, to the air. To no one. Helplessly.
It hurts. It makes me want to not find things beautiful and to not be grateful.
Is it comforting to know that elephants in captivity can paint flowers with their trunks? They’re just trained to do it. It’s a circus trick, and then their human masters sell the paintings. They have no fucking clue what they’re doing. Whatever. We’re all doomed. That’s my position.