i am employed


i wake up at 5 a.m.
i am alert
i feel dehydrated and alert
happiness is moving through me, tentatively, like it’s not sure of itself
i stand next to the sink and take a long drink from a glass of water
i think about the long period of time when i didn’t feel happiness
i feel movement inside my stomach, i say to my happiness,
‘are you leaving already? don’t go yet. slow down.’ and i am saying
‘no. oh. i will just keep it moving through me and let it go away,
that’s it,’ my happiness moves a little quicker now and it is
showing teeth and i start sweating and i wipe the sweat off
with my tie and then it is nighttime and i am in bed and can’t sleep
because my head sounds like this:


and it also sounds like this:

haha, muah, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, yum

and that sounds like a desk fan
so i fall calmly asleep

and the next day i am in the one room of the building where i work
and my boss is sitting next to me and he is breathing heavily
and not saying anything until he says, ‘well,’ for the length of an exhale
and i think it might be what he says before he fires someone and i feel kind of
alone in the world, ground level and lonely, even though i am happy enough
to laugh at a joke on tv and look at the face of my customers

and it is a mystery, really, what might be in there, and i cannot resist this

i close my hand on some change in the tip jar and slowly take
my hand out of the tip jar while staring at my boss’s face and
then glance and see the change on the counter, there is a dime,
three nickels, two quarters, twelve pennies, a button, a piece of yarn,
and a scrap of paper advertising a job conference at the best western
and i feel afraid and doomed while i am happy and a little lonely
behind the counter exchanging tender for the convenience store
and then work is over and i stand and smile and my boss
does not stand but smiles up at me and i laugh and my boss laughs and
i say, ‘that’s it, i’m done. have a good one,’ and my boss says,
‘hey, have fun’ and i laugh and my boss laughs and i think i
might go to the park and ask a sixty year old woman out
so i can tell her what i have learned about life and mortality and
death and she will be able to teach me and relate at the same time because
she is forty years older than me but then i am taking the key out of my lock
and opening the door and closing the door and turning on the tv

i steal a vitamin water
i say to myself, ‘stay healthy’
my brain says, ‘stay healthy and happy’
my brain says, ‘just give up’
and i say to my brain, ‘fuck you’
my brain says, ‘drink some regular water’
and i say, ‘no, not yet’
because i know secretly that i was caught stealing the vitamin water
and i don’t want to be finished by the time the police get to the door
i put the empty bottle in my bag and take it to work the next day
i put the bottle on the counter and name it C.E.O of the store
i want it to emanate an aura of firing me; and i want my boss
to be trained in interpreting emanations of bottled water and be
watching us approach from a distance and tap my shoulder and
say, ‘hey, i think the C.E.O is emanating an aura of wanting to fire you
from your full-time job that pays part-time’

i look around
my brain says, ‘your happy, do something’
i go into a deli and feel happy
because i am holding a grenade
i waved it in the air at the deli owner right when i went in
if he doesn’t forget i waved it at him he will probably shoot me
with a normal bullet that will kill me because my grenade looks like a grenade

but he forgets and
i leave the deli and i am kind of annoyed
on the sidewalk my brain says, ‘hey calm down your still happy’
i say, ‘i know’
and i fidget
i say, ‘i was happy anyway, even if you didn’t say that, so don’t
think i’m happy just because you said that’
i open a bottle of water
and i say, ‘i am equal with you and you can’t control me’
and i quickly drink my bottled water before i can respond to what
i said and the water is cold and it coats my esophagus and the cold
goes through my stomach and my heart starts to pump cold blood
and my brain shivers and makes a noise against my skull and i get
a little nervous but it is fun and i go home and lie on my bed
and roll over and i am having a nightmare

but the nightmare is cinematic and there is no plot but it is coherent
and i am impressed with the number of periphery characters
that don’t effect anything and the silent vast landscapes
there is no director even though it is a hollywood spectacle
and millions of dollars worth of effects are used in explosions
and cgi stunts where someone somersaults and stabs me in the heart
then cartwheels into a pit of fire and there is no plot but there are
themes and there is telepathy instead of conversation and i think
i am the national book award and i am writing an essay on it
and having footnotes and extrapolating those footnotes into a second
essay that is critical of the national book award for having this nightmare
i am happy and the essay gets rejected from harper’s and i am still happy
while i am still writing the essay in my nightmare and watching the
special effects of my nightmare like it was a movie
and i am writing the first line of the second essay
and the first line that i am writing is, ‘the worst award of its generation’
and then the nightmare is over and the ending doesn’t disappoint or teach me
i am the national book award and i am channeling that into taking a flamethrower
into a forest and burning wild animals and tress
and people in amusement park animal costumes that are running in the forest
mauling campers and smashing rabbits and paralyzing them and eating them alive
then i find a replica of my nightmare in pill form and i take the pill and experience it
all again and it is brilliant and i wake up smiling

i don’t shower

i put on sunglasses

and go outside

it feels like i am happy because every light is green

but really only the first two lights are green

the third is red

and i am still happy i start to feel disappointed that i am still happy

and at the next red light i am still disappointed and i imagine i am
in a place where you can’t cross the road wherever you want
my disappointment says, ‘it is too bad and the light is red.’
right before i said the light was red it turned green so
i was sarcastic when i said the light was red but
the bus doesn’t kill me and it doesn’t honk
and there is little noise but the drivers look agitated
and staring at me because they are angry and that
is good enough i could of walked faster i can’t hear them
inside their cars but they look like they are angry and that
is good enough and i drop my sunglasses and i stand there
and my brain releases melatonin and i feel sleepy but alive

and the light turns green and all the angry people drive away
some of the passengers look at me standing on the corner
one of them grins i watch the grin ride past my brain says,
‘wait; let me try something,’ and releases more melatonin
and i feel so sleepy and restless and sluggish and maybe even sad
and my brain says, ‘yeah, it’s always been sadness,’
and i say, ‘shut up, it’s more complicated than that’

but i let it

i am sad

my brain says, ‘don’t waste this’

i say, ‘i know,’ and i go into work and stand there
and my brain says, ‘this is work’
and i turn and walk behind the counter and i sit where i can look out a window
i feel afraid that the people at my work are talking about something devious and
financially crippling i did to them because i walked in and sat where i could
look out the window without saying anything i look at a bowling ally
across the street thinking they are talking about
how my detachment is worry and that this is worse that robbing them
straightforwardly because at least in a straightforward situation they
would know what was happening and feel psychologically stable
instead of desensitized and afraid which is how i feel

i see a bowler across the street and the bowler waves hi

i sprint wildly across the street and high five the bowler wearing a wrist guard
because i was really sad until i saw the bowler then i fell in love with the bowler
and i was happy again now i’m back at work humming and scrubbing and smiling

they all say, ‘bowl with me’
and i hand them their change
and one of them says, ‘i rejected all your stories’
then one says, ‘should i buy this’
and soon they all are putting down the bowling balls on the counter and saying
‘should i buy this’
and i get off work
and eat a cookie
and the cookie says nothing
and i go through the zoo and see a dead giraffe on the ground beside a tree
and it is saying, ‘subscribe to me’
it’s saying, ‘don’t ignore me’
it says, ‘save yourself’
and it says, ‘detonate the free t-shirt’
but i have sunglasses on so i can pretend that i didn’t see the
giraffe or hear it because when you have sunglasses on you
can’t hear giraffe anymore and people accept that and so i
step away from the ledge and then it is nighttime and i am in bed and
having another nightmare

but this time there isn’t anything going on
most of what i can see is dark and there is the top of a skull lit up
near the middle for hours i dream about the skull doing nothing
nothing happens i ache and shiver in my sleep at one point
the skull begins to crack and the brain starts to show
a lot of the brain is showing now
and then the skull stops breaking
this is a nightmare and not funny at all but deadly serious because the nightmare
has no sense of humor for a long time it is just the exposed brain surrounded
with a little bit of skull and at the end of the nightmare i touch the top of my head
my hand touches hair touching a pillow i cartwheel out of bed and
go stand near the mirror to get ready for work i scratch my head
and yawn and then drive away in my real life