My grandma died shortly before Easter. I made the trip back to Omaha. My cousin came by, and we taped photos of our grandmother’s life, most of the pictures previously unknown to us, on a science fair board. Scotch tape and cardboard. It stood in the back of the church for the next few days. I attended the visitation, rosary, funeral, acted as pall bearer, shook a lot of hands. I flew back to Austin the night after the service, considering over the course of two dark plane rides, the legacy of dementia in the genes of my father and brothers and me, constantly fighting with my iPod as it churned out, unbidden, the saddest of my sad bastard jams. I wouldn’t cry, not while I shared an armrest with some fast food-smelling stranger.
I was up early the next day to begin the New Job, in which so much time and interviewing and cover letter writing had been pumped. First days are a grim business. One has to be determinedly cheerful and friendly, exude an air of gratitude and aggressive industriousness that would make Willie Loman blush. This was to be who I was for the next few exhausting months.
I’d been smiling so long when I sat down with the creative director that even when shit started going south my face didn’t falter.
“Make this job the priority in your life, and you’ll be successful here,” he said, all steepled fingers and knitted brow across a conference table.
That, I think, was the catalyst. A small bloom of claustrophobic panic opened up in my chest. That a job that I took out of rent-paying desperation and a lucky knack for the business should become my life was laughable, but it had also unquestionably brought the exhilarating (and selfish) momentum of moving and running around for the last 6 weeks to a halt. Where there were open doors, there was now routine and a silent, soul-searching commute to bracket the parts of the day that belonged to them.
Is it coincidence, the constant convergence of these things (grandmother, job, death) in my head? How can I help but read my own future in all this shit, predict that these are the days that my rotten brain will play on a loop for me in, what?, fifty years? This is the present that will replay because these rote office days outnumber the days that can be counted as actual living. Is this what she saw, eyes open through the morphine?