Paul heard his friend snoring and felt baffled how he had even fallen back asleep after all the chaos. Is that what sleep is, Paul wondered, an off switch? Dreams and nightmares some funnel for neurosis and anxiety?

Paul watched him sleep like a baby while he thought of Marlon Brando or some mythological actor rumored to be able to cry on command.  They talked about it the day before (how his friend wasn’t able to cry), how men train their entire lives to hold back the urge, but why exactly? To not be weak, was that what it was—to appear strong? Maybe something else, some societal code built out of necessity such that if parents let their sons cry (as they inevitably do), they’d be setting them up for some great shame or horrible letdown later in life—that if Paul as a child willingly cried in the open, some obscure and faceless authority might paint a molten red cross on his face, a mark he would never be able to wash away.




Paul laid in the dark with Stacy, tracing his fingers across her back and along her tattoo. He realized for the first time he could trace the particular one (she had several) like a pattern of braille, the sensation brand new. As he stared at her intensely in the dark, he became aware he was performing some bizarre form of magic wherein his eyes would bulge in and out of his head as if he was entering the beginning phase of sobbing, except he never started to cry—there was nothing to cry about. He wondered if she could sense this, some painful emotional aura, she certainly couldn’t see him in the dark.  But for some reason Paul felt like his eyes were becoming tangible daggers in the blackness, with no intentional enemy except for whatever was directly in front of them. Not Stacy, not anyone.

Earlier in the evening Paul sat hunched over on Stacy’s couch talking to himself, as she often allowed him to do. “I’m just not happy,” he flat out admitted. “It seems like other people are.” As soon as the words left his mouth, his mind returned to his office earlier in the day where he sat directly across from two utterly miserable people.  “I mean, fuck, I guess neither are other people. Nobody’s entirely happy.” Stacy nodded.  But what was Paul trying to get at, that his depression was somehow more special?  The whole analysis of it circled around twice, three times, and only made him feel more selfish, like even more of a complete fraud. Paul stood up uncomfortably and walked into the kitchen to pour some more whiskey. One thing he enjoyed about being over at Stacy’s was her lack of entertainment, she only had a 19inch television and virtually nothing to watch. Lately this suited Paul even better, he was growing much more at home with the empty spaces of daily life. Filler wasn’t always necessary.  

Sometimes at home, Paul would find himself wandering around his empty living room with no purpose or direction at all except for the sake of pacing around. The antithesis to this borderline insanity was his new office setting at the Writerly Monthly, where a diligent employee was expected to sit at his desk at least 85% of the day (Paul didn’t begin to try to calculate the percentage that should be devoted to actually doing work but he could easily surmise that bosses usually did less).  Here, was the ironic and boring crux of Paul’s philosophy on life:  he was supposed to sit somewhere all day long only so that he could go home at the end of the day and sit somewhere else.  At least at home however, whiskey was allowed.




Prior to the Writerly Monthly, Pauled worked briefly for a delivery company, FastEx

Paul worked for FastEx for over a month during the holidays, but the temporary drivers for FastEx had much lower expectations than the contract drivers (which he had signed aboard). For instance, an older aged temp driver at FastEx may have only twenty stops in a day while a contract driver could sometimes have over two hundred.  Temping for FastEx was such an ideal gig (once Paul completed his stops, he was free to do pretty much whatever he wanted) Paul even considered doing it full time. One day, sitting at his friend’s apartment in a randomly induced haze, he received a text message from a contractor offering a salaried position. This was Paul’s very first (and most likely last ever) job offer via text message. Paul found himself surprisingly giddy, he even wagged the phone in front of his friend like he had been extended an offer to work for Donald Trump.

But right away on day one, there were signs of trouble. Paul was the very first team member on site for the Monday “safety meeting,” but he didn’t require any insider knowledge to know that the meeting was going to be largely a waste of time. One instruction, which he had already received as a temp driver numerous times, was to avoid reversing the truck at all cost. “Backing” was the number one no-no for FastEx. How does a driver avoid having to reverse? He parks in such a manner that doesn’t require him to reverse. Except in the event a driver finds himself in a tight scenario where he needs to reverse, he’s welcome to get out of his truck and inspect what’s behind him (Paul hardly imagined anyone actually doing this).  If in a hurry (Paul would learn), drivers are permissible to toss caution to the wind and wildly engage the transmission into “R” without any fucks given. FastEx could be a dangerous world.

The second team member who showed up to the Monday meeting was a stout, long bearded fellow in a backwards baseball cap who barely acknowledged Paul’s presence. He looked extremely tired and trudged to the very back of the room where he pulled out his phone to disengage from any potential 7AM get-to-know-you conversation. This was one of the top perks of FastEx: if someone wanted to be left alone, they usually would be. As several more drivers came in, Paul started to pick up on a pattern of their statures. Everyone was more or less massive. There was one skinny driver but his goatee and tattoos signaled some kind of mystical wherewithal. As for the rest, one guy looked limber enough to be in the NBA. Another had the looks of a bouncer on steroids. Paul had openly admitted to Richard, the contractor, (a seemingly nice enough guy but something about Richard gave Paul the urge to punch him flat in the jaw, possibly to get rid of his permanent smirk) that he was interested in the job because of its physical nature, but now he began to wonder what he was in for, this was clearly a top performing team. One thing he did already know: his truck was going to be much bigger, and much more filled (Paul’s prediction turned out correct.  The last item, a car bumper, was almost impossible to cram inside).

For apparently the first two weeks of his new job at FastEx, Paul would be riding shotgun with his manager Gary. Gary was a friendly and intelligent guy, but from the start Paul could tell he was extremely over-worked.  He left Paul in the truck by himself for twenty minutes in the morning so that he could go tinker on a broken side mirror of another driver’s truck, while Paul wandered aimlessly in the back trying to inspect addresses and find some kind of pattern for the route. Mostly it looked like a complete mess and Paul recognized zero of the addresses. As a temp driver, Paul had been supplied with turn-by-turn navigation list whereas the contract drivers went off pure memory, so the learning curve was going to be steep. Paul had flashbacks to a day another temp driver had dumped off half of his load into his van because he had badly injured his wrist. The rest of the day had been complete hell because Paul had no direction or any clue as to where the packages were stored in his van. After that, he made a mental note to never offload any other driver’s packages. The pat on the back was hardly worth the extra work.

Heading into the city with Gary to start the route, Paul immediately started to feel nauseous. Everything from the city line to the inside of the truck became wavy and painfully colorful. The passenger seat of the FastEx yielded zero comfort, and Paul sat directly upright while he contemplated doing a tuck and roll out onto the highway while traveling 60mph—anything to prevent having to spend the rest of the day with Gary on the truck while his head swam violently. Soon enough though, they were at their first destination. Gary let Paul make the runs while he stayed inside the truck. After several more stops, Paul started to come to the realization that Gary was somewhat of a genius in the realm of FastEx. Every time the truck stopped, he snapped off his seatbelt in a lightning fast rhythm and went foraging through the back of the truck like a beaver preparing for the storm of the century. His memory for addresses and pertinent details of the various stops appeared autistic in nature—not to mention Gary knew not just their route, but every single other route of every other driver because he often served as a utility man if a certain driver got sick.

At one point during the day, while Paul stumbled off of a doorstep as he input a delivery code into his pistol scanner, Gary chided him to pick up his pace and start running. Paul was flabbergasted; he could barely type on the scanner and walk at the same time, let alone run. Later, as Paul juggled two giant boxes while trying to open a door, one of the top boxes went spilling onto the concrete. The concern for Paul wasn’t the box, rather a young child nearly squashed squarely on the head. Most disturbing, Paul was one time forced to remind Gary that an old lady was crossing in front of their truck as he looked to turn. The top of her bushy grey hair barely made it to the tip of the window of their truck. Paul simultaneously imagined and prophesized her grizzly demise on the grill of the FastEx truck. Halfway through the day, if there wasn’t already enough icing on the cake, Paul realized there’d be no lunch (unless he wanted to dine on Cheetos from a convenience store, this appeared plenty of sustenance for Gary).

As the sun set around 6PM, Paul sat inside the truck watching the rush hour interstate traffic go idly by. Gary remained inside the FastEx store waiting for their pickup window to close, only then would they be able to return to the terminal. While Paul stared at the traffic, he couldn’t help but ruminate on the vehicular stagnation as some greater metaphor for his current state in life.  For some reason, Paul had opted to pile drive his short lived professional career so that he could end up at a place like FastEx. But with no health insurance and two dislocated shoulders, Paul knew he couldn’t return to the job the next day. The math didn’t sit right—he’d be better off back inside a sterilized and air conditioned office.  The whole idea of being not cut out for FastEx was amazingly depressing.

Despite all of this, by the next day Paul was resolute in his decision to move on. FastEx had still supplied him with exactly what he needed, a break from the monotony of his prior job. And one day from the work did stand out as predestined in Paul’s mind: when he and two buddies stood outside of the terminal trading stories from everything from work, to parties, all the way to the war in Afghanistan. After milling for almost over an hour, Paul and Anthony drove out to fill up one of their vans with gas. When first meeting Anthony, Paul was immediately intimidated by his steely exterior, but shortly thereafter he came to realize Anthony was a laidback and quite hilarious guy (his stories ranged all the way from removing hemorrhoids at his last job, to having sex with multiple women in a hot tub in full display of an entire crowd. Most surprising, Anthony had never tasted a single drop of alcohol in his entire life). Driving to get food, Anthony made the joke that to approach women, guys these days needed cool stories, “like having been homeless or something,” he joked casually.

Not thirty minutes later, sitting in a sandwich shop, Anthony confessed to having been homeless for several years in his life.  His most brutal confession was that he had at one point hated white people, that he would oftentimes follow strangers to their homes to see what made them different from him, what made them tic. He even hinted these ventures verged on malicious intent. Eventually though,  a teacher Anthony met on the streets helped him change his entire worldview,  after which the disparities of life no longer caused him to harbor hatred or violence toward other people. The philosophy, slightly cliché in nature, still rang true in Paul’s mind. Driving back to the station, Paul’s brain turned to autopilot, firing on all cylinders as he tried his best to match Anthony point for point. “We all have these rabbit holes in our heads. We go back and forth, trying to solve things as if there’s an answer to a grand equation, but the sooner you realize there is no answer, the better off you are,” his friend concluded. Anthony’s strength and confidence was undoubtedly contagious, but Paul still couldnt help but wonder how long it would really last.

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