I’d been staring at the same page of notes on a 75 year old woman with a prolapsed bladder for the last twenty minutes. The merrily pulsating cursor just daring me to write the word urinate one more time. Why didn’t I stick to those art classes again? Oh yes...so I could get a real job and afford a crappy apartment with a fridge full of crappier wine in this crap city…
“ What is wrong with me…”
“Why the long face sweetpea?” I had to suppress a groan as I turned to find Kate pouting in feigned concern, “You look like you just lost your best friend. OH!” Her greasy lips puckered absurdly, “Did your cat die?” The twinkle in her eyes gave her away, she was just waiting for me to reveal a tragedy she could spread around the office. I knew her tactics and normally found them only mildly annoying on the worst days, but her voice grated on me more than usual. How the hell could someone live in this city for ten years and not lose that ridiculous accent?
“I don’t have a cat, Kate.” I tried to keep from scowling. “Nothing is wrong with me, I was just...thinking. And trying to work.” I saw hope fade from her face as I turned back to the computer screen. She looked a little hurt too. Great. Now I’m being an ass. Just another thing to pile on the list of things I have to feel bad about.
“Well if you need to talk honey, you know I will always let you bend my ear.” I gave her a nod but didn’t turn to face her again. Eventually, I heard her knock off pumps walk out of the office and down the hallway, on to find some real drama probably. I tried to finish up my notes on Mrs. Hoyet but, despite what I had told Kate, my mind was anywhere but work.
At least I had been partially honest with Kate, I was thinking. Thinking about how this job and everyone here was sucking the life out of me. How miserable and angry it was making me. I sighed and slumped over the keyboard. It wasn’t their fault, even ridiculous, drama hungry Kate. It was just...me. There was a time when I wasn’t this way when I wouldn’t have lashed out at Kate for being who I knew she was when I had patience and some semblance of tact, but I was having trouble remembering that person. I felt like a stranger, and quite frankly one I didn’t like very much. Something was missing, not like the cliche stuff; a rewarding career, an engaging hobby, smaller hips...something bigger. The kind of something where you wake up and think, Shit! This is not who I am supposed to be!
It started slowly, about six months ago, with a feeling of restlessness. But that little discomfort had grown over time into a ridiculous, unexplainable, incurable misery. I managed through twenty-seven years as a reasonably happy person. Maybe not the most successful, or wealthy, or lucky in love, but content at least. True, I never wanted to be a nurse, but when it became obvious being an artist wouldn’t pay the bills it was a quick fix that stuck. And even if it wasn’t the most fulfilling job, I was good at it. Well, the paperwork at least. People had never been my strong suit. I had given up trusting my own judgment on just about anyone but being single wasn’t all bad. I found comfort in being alone. I didn’t have much in the way of a social life, but that was by choice too. Small talk is unbearable and making friends was as big a hassle now as it had been in grade school only with less coloring to make things fun. Still, I never found it difficult to see the good in my life.
That’s what made this sudden change even more unnerving. At first, I figured some kind of quarter-life crisis. Of course, that just made things worse, not only was I stuck in a crap job with crap friends, I was also old. I tried everything; supplements, yoga, hell, I even thought about God once or twice, but nothing helped. The feelings of emptiness, of wrongness, just grew bigger and darker until it was an impossible to ignore black hole following me around. I stopped caring what was going on in the world. I found excuses to not leave my apartment, not call my family. I felt like I was going mad.
I don’t remember walking home from work that day. I do remember deciding not to go back. Eventually, I found myself locked in my apartment a few weeks later on an “extended leave” from work, drinking cheap wine at ten in the morning in my pajamas and wondering what the hell was the point of it all. I couldn’t even find the energy to go back to bed. If I had just turned on the damn television, just once, I might have been better prepared. No, that’s not true, nothing could have prepared me for this.
I had just started thinking about the bills again, and all the people who must think I’m a nut job, when my head exploded. Well not literally but it certainly felt like it. At first I thought I was dying and, in my current state, didn’t mind too much beyond embarrassment that the EMS would find my place such a mess. After a few seconds it became apparent I was not, in fact, about to get an easy out, so I shut my eyes and buried my face in the couch cushion waiting for the pain to subside. I don’t know how long I laid there but when I opened my eyes again the room was full of bright white light. It was blinding and hot. It hurt to move my head. Something is wrong. I should run, I should scream. But I didn’t, I just laid there as the walls began to blister from the silvery heat. This isn’t right. But still I just watched. I couldn’t breath. I don’t want to die. That realization should have meant more but it was just as disconnected as the horror show going on in my loft. I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the light destroying everything around me. But not me. I looked down at a body that no longer felt like mine.
The light, it was coming from me, pulsing from my chest, ebbing from my hands. It’s inside me. I was the light. And that’s the last thought I had before I blacked out.