It's an ex-tree mountain, sitting there, confronting me. Staring across the shitty blue carpet
, hovering in dangerously precarious stacks (threateningly) as if daring me to touch it. As soon as I do, I know, a scene straight out of Calvin & Hobbes
will arise. You know the one, where Calvin comes home and gingerly steps into the house? The next panel, not that one…the one with the gigantic chaoswirl
and heads, arms, stars and tails poking out. To be followed be both parties exhausted on the floor.
That's what awaits me. A wrestling match so entropic that even if I tried to keep my mind straight and cool I couldn't track the twists and turns. I'll watch my bank balance go up dizzyingly, then down with the shriek of a stooping peregrine falcon. The fact that this all happened eight months ago and probably not in the order I'm reconstructing it makes it no less heart-sickening; watching the government take all of its year's worth of taxes out in one evil night as I weep into the paper of the W-2s and 1099s.
I think I'll have some Scotch. Wait a moment. I have a bottle of Ardbeg that I haven't opened, and have possibly been saving for a desperate instant. No time like the present. I'll be right back.
-insert theme music from Jeopardy here-
I'm back. I chose the Glendronach at the last minute, probably because the box is designed in more interesting colors.
(silence broken by the clink of cubes and the liquid sounds of heaven spiraling down the hatch, clockwise in the northern hemisphere)
Aaahhhhh. Yep, nothing like it in the world, the elegant anaesthesia (I wish I knew whose line that was; I just remember it isn't mine). So where were we. Oh, yes, the homicidal psycho jungle stack. On the top, looking as if an errant breeze might snatch it, I can see the buff-and-severe-black-ink of Princeton University stationery; no doubt they want money, either voluntarily or otherwise, depending on which office has stamped the return address. Maybe if I never look, Schrödinger will help me keep the answer behind the grey wall and I won't have to pay 'em. Unlikely, though.
How did I end up in such a fix? I can hear you asking the question, you know, out there beyond the screen and excited phosphors and glass that separate us, not to mention the miles and miles of cables and fiber and switches and routers and hard drives and busses and such. How. How how how. Well, the answer's deceptively simple.
For two years, I've tossed my mail into a pile on my desk, once in a while opening something to pay a bill or figure out which wedding I'm supposed to be at when. Then every month or so I migrated the pile of billchaff over to a handy box that sits in front of my dresser. That box is there because two years ago, returning home from the summer in California, I discovered that I finally had reached the point where I had Too Much Stuff to fit in my room, no matter how organized. It's amazing what a demotivator that is vis-à-vis cleaning one's room.
In any case, two years it grew, and grew, and had to be transplanted because the first box gave up the ghost and split seams. Two years. I've watched it grow higher, then briefly shorter as I went through it in an attempt to throw out the envelopes and Special Offers to Receive a Visa Card Now and the Please Accept These Stamps with our Thanks and the occasional ATM receipt from my pockets. Then, somehow, it became more intimidating once I'd finished, knowing that I'd cooked it down to the essential hell of only being stuff I really needed to deal with, and I promptly lost interest in the activity.
So why now?
Because I've now held a job long enough that I've reopened skirmishes with all my creditors, paying off some and placating others. I now know roughly where I am financially; while not great, it's a lot better than I was a year ago. After this much time, and after settling all these accounts at an arbitrary point ranging from last month to last week, what's in this pile lurking, lurking on my chamber floor has all been rendered entirely irrelevant!
Okay, not entirely. I still need to file it so that the IRS doesn't, in the words of Eddie Murphy, crawl up my ass with a microscope. It needs to go into organized folders in my file cabinet. I need to separate the financial stuff from the school stuff from the job stuff from the lint.
Scotch helps. I learned this from a dear roommate of mine, as I watched him (an incredibly organized soul) prepare to do his taxes one year after we graduated and had moved in together in New York. After spreading all required paper in front of him, and then adding all stacks of Bill Ore paper which were likely to contain required pieces of paper, he perched in the middle with his Mont Blanc fountain pen, a pad of crisp white paper and an enormous Scotch. I was so intrigued I watched him for most of the process, companionably imbibing along with him. By the time he was done, we were done, and learned from that night that the IRS day was a one-bottle night.
In any case, here I sit. I think I'll reach over there and pick up that top piece of paper. I think I'll start the process. I think I'll grab the first one my fingers reach. I know I will. I have to, because I've simply moved the whole pile into the living room so as to force myself to deal with it, and that means I have no more than sixteen hours before my current roommate returns from work and announces that he, too, has rights to the living room (quite reasonably) thus forcing me to stack it up again and lose any progress made.
All or nothing.
The funny thing is, I never bounced a single check this whole time. I just juggled it in my head, and the extra conservatism that this caused (as opposed to the daredevil I'm-going-to-bring-this-in-to-the-last-penny-whoops-forgot-about-Mom's-birthday sort of attitude).
Any moment now, I'll pick up that first piece.
My Brother P-touch is waiting, as are fresh folders, a new file cabinet, pens, paper, a calculator, my iBook, and the remainder of this just-broached bottle of golden hope.
Any moment now.