It was four a.m., and the ever-present buzz of the city drilled its way through my slightly cracked window. I thought briefly about closing it, but I knew from experience that it wouldn’t keep the noise out. I didn’t really want to move from my spot either, my body was exhausted. I reached down and pressed my thumb deeply into my calf, hoping it would help the soreness. It seemed to aid temporarily, but as soon as I released the pressure the pain set in again. I felt like a zombie. I stared into my dimly lit room focusing on some imaginary spot on the wall. I couldn’t look away; it almost felt good to let my gaze get stuck. I felt like my eyes were wedged open, as if my subconscious had given up on maintaining life’s little necessities, like blinking. They started to burn, but the pain didn’t bother me – in fact, I welcomed it. I had been suffering from insomnia for months now and couldn’t come up with a cause. I recalled an episode of Oprah that I’d seen about insomniacs. Maybe I was chemically imbalanced, I thought. The burning became so intense that I blinked without actively attempting to, and I released my focus. My pack of cigarettes sat face down on my nightstand and I reached for them. I struck a match and lit one up. I’d always strangely enjoyed the smell of sulfur and I relished the scent as I shook the match out. I took a deep drag and played with the smoke as I blew it out in tiny O’s. Glancing down at the floor I noticed my clothes were strewn about recklessly. The sheets were crumpled at the foot of my bed and I poked at them with my feet as I smoked. Boredom set in, and I thought about flipping through my copy of "It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken". I had read it so many times that the edges were beginning to fray and the shape of the book itself seemed to resemble a rolled up newspaper. I wanted not to think, I decided, so I clicked on the T.V. - only to find that my cable had been turned off.
“Damn it!” I screamed out loud. I threw the remote at the wall, as if this action would somehow remedy my inability to pay the bills. The crash left a small scratch in the paint.
I needed to repaint in here anyway, I justified, as if I’d ever actually get around to it.
I looked down at my feet, sore and blistered from hours of endless service. I had been working as a waitress at a trendy restaurant in east midtown Manhattan . Every night seemed to teach me something more about the true nature of people. The vast majority of them, I’d concluded, were self – righteous fakes.
My mind wandered back to my experience that evening. It was mid October and as I left for work at a quarter to six, the sun had just disappeared behind the tall buildings in my neighborhood. I was always surprised how quickly I created distance between me and my apartment building as I walked. I passed by my local pub, Jerry’s. The bartender was an old coworker of mine and she waved at me from inside. I waved back; I could tell that she wanted me to come inside, but I motioned at my watch and threw my hands up as if to apologize. She nodded, and I turned my focus back towards the sidewalk. I walked quickly, almost breaking into a jog on several occasions, nervous about being late again to work. My boss had threatened to take away my “money” shifts if I were tardy again, and I winced at the thought of his face if I arrived a moment passed my shift’s start time. I looked down at my watch and noticed that it said twelve-thirty. I stopped and stood in confusion. I saw that the seconds hand was motionless and I tapped it a few times in some ridiculous attempt bring it back to life. “Shit!” I shouted, not at all concerned about who may be around to hear me. I began to walk again slowly as I unlatched it and slid it into my apron. I looked down two blocks at the bank’s clock tower and could faintly make out that it was indeed a quarter ‘till. My shift didn’t start until six-thirty, but I knew the subway would be packed with people anxious to get home just so they could leave again. I was inevitably correct. I was relatively new to New York , but had learned quickly that in this city you’ll get run over if you don’t do the trampling yourself. With this recently acquired wisdom, I fearlessly pushed my way through the mobs of people heading down into the station. The artificial light in the subway seemed to change my mood, and I got a sense of excitement about my night at work. Though physically exhausting, and sometimes incredibly stressful, it was always a good time. I sometimes found myself feeling guilty about how much money I made for essentially socializing. I continued on to my train, passing up a group of break dancers with a boom box. They had a crowd of people gathered around them and I briefly stopped to gawk. They were talented, but I was spoiled by living in this great city. The excitement of the crowd and the quick pulse of the music did stimulate my enthusiasm about my evening, however.