I saw the sun come up out the window again. I think it was fourth time this week, but it may have been the third. I actually had to bring up the calendar to check what day of the week it was. Thursday. Today is Thursday. It is day five now.
Things went to shit Sunday night, when the system locked me out for no apparent reason, leaving me staring at an error that I didn't quite understand. I put in a ticket, sent out some emails, and tried to nap on the couch for half and hour to see what would happen. I couldn't sleep of course because my brain was still trying to figure out the problem. I checked the damn thing a few times over the next hour, hoping for a change in my fortunes. But the error kept recurring and I didn't know what to do so I stared a the ceiling for a while and tried to get my head to shut up about things for a while. I may have dozed off at this point, slipping across the boundary of subconsciousness and and letting illogical thoughts mingle with irrational thoughts. All the while, the error flashed across the screen; across my brain.
Three hours later the session timed out and I was able to get back in the system, just in time to sit there for another hour listening to the fans whir around me while a little blue progress bar inflated ever so slightly. I was running queries every once in a while to make sure that what I was seeing crawl across the screen was actually happening in the back end. I don't remember if it was; I was doing it mostly out of muscle memory at that point, like a kid sucking their thumb.
Even this event, as frustrating and tiresome as it was, wasn't that bad in retrospect. If it had merely been an isolated incident, I would have been okay. But it was the opening act.
I remember Monday. There was a phone call that afternoon, and I told someone what had happened that morning. I think it was my boss on the other end of the phone, exclaiming sympathy at the right points in the story. I had all of the facts in order, but the essence of things was missing. He said that he appreciated the effort, and that rang true for me. The effort is the important part here, not the productivity. Productivity is a surrealist goal that we might have in mind, but it only materializes in short bursts every once in a while. The effort is the attempt to coax this hidden thing out of its hiding place, so that we can view and appreciate it.
I was out on the porch when the sun went down on Monday, wrapping the lower layer of clouds in a shroud of pink and purple. Actually, this may have been Wednesday now that I think of it. Yes, because I didn't make it home until late on Monday, and the sun probably went down when I was on the el. Either way, the sun went down and I logged back into the system to watch the little blue bar make its way across the little white trail. It is a millipede that I need to protect at all costs. I have to make sure that it doesn't die. It didn't die, but it did take forever to make it the few inches from zero percent to one hundred percent. I stared at it the entire time, moving the mouse around to make sure everything stayed awake, including myself.
I ate something. It was probably soup, but it may have been casserole. Things started changing at that point, because food started tasting so much better then all of a sudden. I don't think I've ever had such a string of delicious food in my entire life than I have in the last few days, and I don't know what to make of that. Maybe my brain was trying to ground itself at that point, and it grabbed the first thing that came in front of my face. I must have gained so much weight these last few days, scamming things out of whatever fridge I found nearby at the time. I should probably bring bagels into work soon, in case I stole someone's lunch when I wasn't paying attention.
And then it was three in the morning again, and I was hunting down little errors that were causing problems. Logical inconsistencies that I could not control, only change when the problem presented itself hours after the fact. I went to bed and stared at the ceiling again, waiting for things to shut down enough for me to slip into sleep. But then I had to get back up to check on a bunch of things and suddenly was back at work again. I guess that it was Tuesday then because that is the way things are supposed to go.
The last few weeks, I've been trying to determine what a nervous breakdown feels like. I thought that it must be when things seize up, and you can't get yourself to get out of bed. Or maybe you have good intentions, but and kind of concentrated effort seems to crumble under the weight of it all. But lately I've been thinking that it might be a consistent level of confusion that makes things come unglued. Maybe time loses its linear nature, and things begin to bleed together. If that thought is correct, then I might be there now but there would be no way to be sure. But then maybe I'm wrong. I'm not sure which would be better right now.
I look like shit right now. I know this because I have been informed that I look like shit by several people, and I believe them. My skin started taking on a weird greenish tone after that second night of working straight through. I feel like I can still see it even now, but I don't know if I can trust that perception. Maybe I'm expecting to see it, so it shows up if I start paying attention to it. I don't have the bags under my eyes like I was expecting, but they have definitely sunken into their sockets like they are trying to escape the constant barrage of computer screens and ceilings I've been throwing at it. I can't say that I blame them. I just need them for one more day at this point, and then they can have the whole weekend off.
This probably isn't making a lot of sense right now. I'm still trying to sort things out in my head, and figure out which problems are actually there, and which problems exist because my brain is summoning them. The line between these two things seems dangerously thin at the moment, and the confusion that it creates is hard to get through.
Tuesday night I ironed a bunch of shirts because my brain was still on so I had to give it something to do. There must have been a dozen of them laying over the living room chair, and I ironed them one by one in an obsessive fashion. This is perfectly normal for me though. On one east coast business trip a few years ago I spent two hours ironing two shirts, systematically obliterating wrinkles that weren't even there anymore. The regular work of ironing seemed to help settle me a bit then as it did Tuesday night, waiting for something to happen.
What I shouldn't have been doing was watching 2001 while I was ironing, because my brain just wasn't ready for Bowman to enter the monolith. As I was sitting there watching the ending I could feel my brain go tipping sideways off a cliff. So then I watched 2010 because it was some kind of marathon and I hoped that maybe I could recover a bit from what Kubrick had just done to my head. I don't know how much it helped, but at least I was staring at a television instead of a progress bar for a while.
As I tried to sleep Tuesday night, I realized what I had actually been doing at that point. I had not only been watching television, but I had been watching movies. Two movies, back to back, while I just sat there and let it happen. Under normal circumstances I would never have mindlessly watched television for hours on end. This is where I really started to get worried about myself.
I did sleep for a while, but it wasn't a good sleep. It was a tossing sweaty sleep, like people get when they've had the flu for a few days. My body and my brain were not on the same page, fighting for primacy in the darkness. I blinked, and the clock moved forty minutes, twenty minutes, an hour. When the alarm went off, I was absolutely convinced that it was Saturday, and it was a beautiful feeling while it was there. But then the cell phone went off and I saw that it was Wednesday, and a wept a little bit in the shower. Part of me was glad that I could still do that.
I remember the clouds out of the office window as the storm rolled in. It was dark again, and it was very disorienting to me because it had just been dark a few hours ago. I know I should have been able to sort that out in my head, but things were weird then so I had a hard time breaking it down. There was a meeting in a conference room, and we watched the lightning come down on the west side of the city, and we heard the crackle over the telephone. It occurred to me that the lighting was causing the crackle to be heard in Texas, and Atlanta, and London, and who knows where else people were calling in from. I ended up dwelling on this a bit too much, and then the meeting was over and I was back at my desk.
And then I lost an hour. It fucking disappeared.
I was sitting at my desk, working on whatever thing was on fire at that particular moment. I went downstairs and had a smoke, came back up and started working again. Suddenly, it was an hour later than it should have been and I didn't have an answer for that. I went and talked to one of the kids, and I asked them what I had been doing for the last hour. I got exactly the look one would expect from asking that kind of question, and I was informed that I was over there ten minutes ago asking for help on a problem. In hushed tones, I told them that I has absolutely no recollection of this happening. Did I make sense then? Did I have a thousand-yard stare on my face the entire time? No, I seemed absolutely fine. In fact, I actually came up with the answer myself after a few minutes, and ran off to write it all down. After I sheepishly excused myself and walked back over to my desk, there was the answer blinking back at me on the screen, half implemented into the script already.
I knew I should have gone home right then. I knew that by mind had crossed a line somewhere, and now I was sitting on the other side of it, looking back on the results of that mistake. I should have buried myself under a pile of blankets and pillows until I was ready to reemerge from my cocoon. But I had work to do, apparently, so I sat back down and finished up what I had been doing before I remembered how to remember. I sat there and caused more damage, even though it was clear what I was doing to myself.
This is why things are so wrong right now. This is why I'm afraid and slapping at a keyboard, hoping that the words sort themselves out somehow, and that there might be a solution that floats to the top.
Wednesday night was last night. I know this seems like a silly thing to say, but I'm saying it for my sake at this point.
Last night was the worst of them by far. Everything up to this point had a semblance of routine to it. They were processes that I had created, that I understood. Regardless of my mental state, they were thought patterns that I already had tucked away somewhere, and it was a matter of dusting them off and running through it one more time. But last night was not my doing, and it was not my fault, and it was unfair right from the beginning.
Nothing went right at all. The files were all screwed up. The system had an unholy latency that made simple queries and fixes take so much longer. I had to dig around in the files by hand, switching things around and deleting things. It took me four hours to cobble together a reasonable set of data, and then another two hours to get that data to run into the system. And then I was staring at the little blue bar again, tracing the steps I had watch it make so many times already. The first few times it made the journey without incident, making a happy little chirping noise as it touched the other side.
Then it died. At sixty-three percent, the little blue bar got stuck, and stopped moving. Minutes passed like hours while I waited for a sign of life. I dug into the back end, and watched the numbers not move for a while before I had to concede that this little blue bar wasn't going to make it. It was three in the morning, so I cursed as silently as I could while I restarted the system and went back in.
And there it was again: the error. The unexplainable error resurfaced from whatever depths it had been lurking in, and it crushed me again. Once again, I had to wait until it decided I had performed my penance appropriately. I tried to nap the time off, but the error taunted my like it had so few days ago, keeping the world from closing around me like it should. These things can't happen. There should be a logic in the system to keep these things from happening, just like there should be a logic in my system to keep these things from keeping me awake. It is this disorder that is the reason I am the way I am right now. I spent that time on the couch trying to convince myself that I wasn't haunted somehow. I tried to understand what was happening to me. But at that time of the night, with uncertainty and confusion lurking around me, an answer was never going to arrive. Answers don't work that way, even with the best intentions.
Maybe I'm more fragile than I think I am. I know that my body is a fragile thing, because when I try to move around I can feel the creaks and the aches and the sharp pains that remind me that things will never be well inside of this shell. But my brain has always been the strong suit in this hand, and now I'm beginning to wonder if I have found the limit to that as well. I don't know what this leaves me with. What will I do the next time I find myself on that fringe? Am I stronger for having seen what it looks like? I don't like these questions, and I don't like the reason they are here at all.
Just like last time, the session eventually timed out, and I was able to get back in and try to finish up what I had been doing. The damage was already done by this point though, and I only managed to sleep for an hour or two before I found myself back on the train and in the office. Things were more surreal there than they had been before, and simple problems grew to monumental sizes without warning. I did manage to do the work that needed to be done, but every step was made through a dense fog of mental deficiency.
When I did leave the office and get on the train on the way home, I ran into someone that I hadn't see in a while. We have good conversations when we do see each other, and I latched onto that like a leach, trying to draw some energy out of the words she was saying. I hope she didn't see the look that must have been in my eyes, buried deep in their sockets and covered with sunglasses. I hope she didn't notice the desperate tone my voice must have taken in those moments we were talking. I don't think I'd be able to explain it properly if she saw what was in there.
But these are the things I'm reduced to right now. I'm grabbing onto anything that looks like an anchor, hoping that I still have a bit of strength left to hold onto that moment until I can settle things out. I'm thinking more about the tangibility of objects, the grip of personal philosophies, and the dreams that are sure to return once I find my way out from under whatever the hell it is that is pushing things so out of control.
The sun has gone down again, and I should be working right now. But I can't bring myself to log in one more time. I can't take another look at that screen, another period of waiting for the little blue bar, another set of queries that are run out of habit, and another wish to avoid that error that haunts me. I've taken those things to an extreme already, and lost myself in the madness that it can sometimes create. I'm at the fringe, and I need to take a moment to make sure that I'm not going to fall off the edge completely.
Instead I will take a little pill from the medicine cabinet, a pill that I'm trying to avoid, and I will force my body to shut down for a few hours in a desperate attempt to reincorporate myself. I will crawl under the covers and make another attempt to sleep and reset and get back to some kind of baseline that I can build off of again. This way I won't have to watch the sun come up tomorrow morning because it will already be there when I push myself out of bed, glowing and showing the world what it really looks like. And maybe I can wake up and feel like myself, and feel like time is flowing in one direction again instead of splaying itself across monitors and laptops and all of those things that force my mind to work in a dysfunctional way. If that doesn't work, I will try again tomorrow night, and the night after, and the night after, until I start to feel like myself again.
Tomorrow is Friday. It will be day one.