Texts can be so misleading. I should wake up now.
I open my eyes and I’m in bed, sweating and feeling cynical. I feel something rumbling. My phone is vibrating. Somewhere on my bed someone is trying to reach me, but I’m well out of range. Whoever it is should have sent me a text first anyway.
Like a pre-call.
I don’t do surprises. I can’t plan for them, and uncertainty makes me nervous. I like feeling prepared, but at this late hour an unexpected phone call has the opposite effect.
Someone wants something. Maybe just to talk. Maybe I forgot to pay a bill. Could be an emergency. If it’s that important, I’ll get a message. It takes me about twenty minutes and several cigarettes to really get going, and I just lit up the first one now.
I’m just laying here, watching ribbons of smoke ascend to the ceiling and then fade into nothing. My shirt is damp from sweat and I’m pretty uncomfortable. My ashtray is full and should probably be emptied. I feel two more vibrations in quick succession. I have a voicemail. I can’t remember the last time I checked my voicemails.
Checking voicemails is tedious, but I remember a time when it wasn’t. I remember when phones were used to actually make phone calls. That was back when people liked having conversations. Now they exchange endless streams of mini-statements free of grammar and the burden of correct spelling. Believe it or not, but there was a time when people actually enjoyed communicating in real time. Now we have emoji and acronyms, forced abbreviations, and suggestive shapes.
I light up another smoke and get all nostalgic and fuzzy for a few minutes. Nostalgia is your life story with sprinkles on top. It’s remembering that amazing camping trip you took when you were seven without that part about the swarm of bees or your fatass roommate who smelled like burnt plastic and stole your stash of Kit-Kats. Nostalgia is willful ignorance and I don’t think you can be nostalgic without it.
It’s a bias. A mental bias. Rosy retrospection, they call it. I like that.
Mental biases have some really exciting names, like availability cascade, reminiscence bump, and the ostrich effect. These are all a lot less exciting when you realize how often you rely on them to lie to yourself. I should really get out of bed now but instead I just stare up at the ceiling again. I can make out all kinds of images in the plasterwork panels.
A group of sauropods drinking from a stream.
A Viking longship riding out a tempest.
The Pennsylvania turnpike.
Mostly I see faces, one of which really does look a lot like Jesus. If I was religious, I would call this a miracle. But I’m not, and I know it’s just another mental bias.
Pareidolia. Seeing faces in things. It’s an evolutionary adaptation. God, what a buzzkill. Sometimes I wish I was religious.
I’m now on my third smoke and I’m still not out of bed. It’s nearly nighttime but my day is just beginning, so what’s the rush. I make my own schedule these days, which would be great if it didn’t involve writing about occupational hazards and a series of near-death experiences.
That’s like the opposite of nostalgia. I wonder if there’s a term for that.
My TV is on but it’s on mute. I glance over at it and see Morgan Freeman softly point his right finger up in the air, followed by several images of particles colliding. Out of nowhere a whisper in my head tells me that Morgan Freeman has been lying to us. Since day one.
Suddenly I have a craving for green olives and then regret breaking up with my third girlfriend, who had nothing to do with green olives.
My mind is wandering.
My phone vibrates again. A gentle reminder buzz. As if to say, “Pssst, about that call.”
I grumble under my breath like having a pending voicemail is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t even know where my phone is. I mean, I know it’s under my sheets, but I also know that the cosmos is an unbelievable bastard and probably transported my phone to a pocket universe until I’ve disassembled my whole bed trying to find it, at which point it will suddenly reappear in a place I swear I checked twice already.
I light up my fourth smoke but convince myself it’s only my third. I look over at the TV again. A commercial for Abilify. It’s animated. I wonder why they chose a cartoon to advertise an anti-depressant to adults. That little black blob is likable enough though, for the embodiment of depression. He even goes to the doctor with his victim. Takes notes and everything. It’s good to know he’s making an effort. I should probably get up now.
I slide out of bed like syrup rolling off a stack of banana pancakes. I see both a spider and an ant scurrying around on the floor. I spare the spider but kill the ant. I wonder whether I would be charged with a hate crime if insects were people. I try to capture the spider with an empty cigarette pack. I guess I did smoke four. My cat clings to the armrest of a chair like it’s a tree branch or something, belittling my heroic attempt to save a hapless spider with her callous, squinted eyes. Whatever kitty, at least I don’t think chairs are trees.
I shuffle over to the window with my new eight-legged friend. I slide open the window, let the spider out, and repeatedly curse at winter until I’ve closed it again. It’s goddamn freezing outside. I shake my head solemnly from side to side as if Nature has somehow offended me personally. My cat yawns and flexes her paws. I hear a gentle buzz near a bump at the foot of my bed. Oh right. My phone.
I look at my phone reluctantly as if I’m expecting horrible news or something. Two missed calls, one voicemail, and a text. My brother called but didn’t leave a message. The other caller was Visa and did leave a message, but I made the payment yesterday so they can go fuck themselves. I got a text from a girl I met last week at the library. I’m serious. She wants me to “come over and play.” There’s a picture of a banana and a cat next to it. She must really like cats. And bananas. She’s texted me seven times this week and there’s a cat icon at the end of almost all of them. Some of them had a banana next to it too. A couple of them had a pointed finger next to it and one of them had a big tongue. Not sure about those.
Anyway, I tell her, “sure I’ll come over,” and then ask her if she found any collars she likes, especially spiked ones. Hey, if dogs can wear collars then so should cats. She replies with a horned devil, a tongue, and then the cat again. Not sure about the devil but what’s up with the tongue? What does she want me to do, lick her cat?
It’s a good thing I’m not allergic to pussies.
Texts can be so misleading. I should wake up now.