It was six in the morning, and there were slivers of glass falling upon my head as I stuck a metal object into an open light socket. “This is what responsibility looks like,” I thought to myself as I pried out the remainder of the cheap Sylvania bulb that had failed–failed me–so spectacularly. I was taking ownership by exposing myself to the strangely exciting prospect of electrocuting myself before sunrise, as the alternative was a kitchen full of glass shards and darkness when I needed light the most.
The sound of a hot shower echoed through the halls of my apartment as I stretched and inhaled. “Still not awake,” I said aloud before yawning. This is responsibility? This life is too short. For the first time since I slid out from beneath the covers, a rush of blood came to my face and my eyes jerked wide open: I was awake. Even as my eyes had remained half-closed from both exhaustion and primitive for of self-preservation as I picked at electrified metal and glass, I was aware. But now I was awake, and the dull checklist formed in my mind. Shave head. Shave face. Drink coffee, drink protein shake, iron clothes. $11 an hour, $77 a day: it was worth the effort, for now. It beat borrowing money and piling up debt to subsist, but that instinctual question I’d asked myself and answered gnawed at me as I stepped into the shower. Too much to learn and experience, and too much tying me to this life to pursue my passions with conviction. Then again, what’s my passion anyway? And when have I ever demonstrated conviction?
As I stepped out from the tub and looked at the face in the foggy mirror, I saw little save for a broad, stubbly mass with an obvious expression of skepticism. A quick slap on one cheek to further stimulate some feeling, any feeling other than grim resignation, left me with a distinct sting and a notion that, perhaps, I can muster defiance. It didn’t matter much what I was standing up to that day. As long as there was a windmill to conquer with shield and spear, there was a reason to get outside.
Outside, the normal bite of January cold was absent, replaced by an insulating curtain of rain clouds that was a pleasant change from the usual stinging shock of wind that marked my first steps into reality each morning. I crossed the street and exhaled. My breath was barely visible as I toggle between option screens on my phone. A rare impulse arose to take a photo of myself, though it always struck me as a particularly lonesome thing to do. Most of the photos I had of myself contained myself in the frame, alone. That feeling of desolation that hung over so much did not register, however. The time was right, my face was now smooth and cherubic, and my smile unexpectedly optimistic.
The photo was that of a young man with a slightly disingenuous smile, neutral eyes, and a face that hinted but did not indicate corpulence. “That’s me,” I said with a trace of pleasant surprise. A fleck of spit spilled onto the concrete as I pronounced the ‘ts’ sound. Nobody saw that.