Our lives had to change. We were going to start working out. We were going to stop watching television. We were going to think twice before buying thousand-dollar juicers. We each knew exactly what was wrong with us and exactly what needed to be done. We were taking control. Molly made spaghetti and Janessa made orange spritzers. Nobody drank the orange spritzers. We were too busy thinking about how we were going to change.
The apartment was warm, and I was sweating through my shirt. When the air conditioner clicked on I waited for the air to reach my face. What’s the point of being alive except to live a better and better life? If we aren’t getting smarter, healthier, richer, closer to God, what are we doing?
Get busy living, I once heard a pastor say, or get busy dying.
Molly said the only way to change our actions was to change our beliefs. So, she said, What do you believe?
I started walking at lunch. I walked laps around the building. I listened to podcasts and learned about synchronous fireflies in Thailand. They blink in unison, like Christmas trees. I didn’t walk with anyone, and I realized that, more than anything, what I wanted out of life was to be alone. I wanted to be invited to every party but never attend. I wanted all my plans to fall through at the last minute.
A secondary goal: Be a radiant bundle of joy.
When people asked what I was doing for lunch, I was always busy.
After the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon I scrolled down through the New York Times live feed and it was all happening in reverse: 44 injured. 37 injured. 28 injured. 3 dead. 2 dead. None confirmed dead. Reports of an explosion at the Boston Marathon. All day I hoped it might have been an accident, something gone wrong in the pipes. The next morning, though, the news story said bombs, said ball bearings. On a purely speculative basis, things are worse than ever.
For a while, all the scheduled tweets continued as normal, complete non-sequiturs to the world around them. This whole time, we’d been on autopilot.
I drove to campus and rolled down my window and rested my feet on my side mirror. I watched the sun set behind the trees. Why are we wasting our time trying to improve ourselves, I wondered. It feels, now, like pure vanity. Investigators are frantically searching for clues. I would rather the world fall apart of its own natural decay, but then I guess that’s happening too. A man was recently swallowed by a sinkhole in Florida.
And anyway, what’s so unnatural about a bomber building a bomb? Why is that an exception to the organic world? We are all, all of us, in the end, animals. Becoming something more was just wishful thinking.
Today I think it’s strange we’re all naked under our clothes. It’s overcast and warm. The air is hard to breathe. I woke up at 5 a.m., went out to the living room, and fell asleep on the couch. I could hear the wind pressing against the building, and maybe I could feel the building moving. I thought, Now I’m ready for anything. Our cat curled up next to me and rumbled like an engine. At work, I refreshed Google news twice a minute for eight hours. The bombs were pressure cookers. They were filled with shrapnel. How precarious are we anyway? Sometimes I feel like we’re right on the edge.
I’ve been walking at lunch. Every time I take a walk, I become more the person I want to be, which is a person who takes walks at lunch. Today, though, it’s raining.
They’ve released the names of the people killed in the bombings: an eight-year-old boy, two young women. Their pictures have been trending on Google. They’ve become celebrities (was there any other way?). I read the news constantly now. I worry about missing things. For example: the ricin letters, the bomber caught on video, the Friends reunion officially confirmed then officially denied.
Things have been happening. Thing have been going on.
A fertilizer plant in West Texas exploded last night, killing three, killing 50, killing 15. The number changed every time I clicked refresh. What’s the difference between mourning three strangers and mourning 50? I don’t mean to sound cold. The blast registered a 2.1 on the Richter scale. Dozens of houses were leveled. Later I walked through campus feeling like the whole world was rigged to blow. I imagined every building popping like a balloon. I imagined being picked up off my feet and carried through the air.
My professor had been pregnant earlier in the semester, but now she was holding a baby. She was patting the baby’s back. The baby was the size of a small forest animal. I worried she might drop the baby and the baby might splatter all over the ground. That’s how everything feels lately.
A police officer was gunned down on a university campus. One of the bombing suspects was killed. These two facts were listed in the same article, but I couldn’t tell if or how they were connected. I used to be a pacifist but now I say kill the motherfuckers. At work, they asked us to please stop drinking. People had been pouring wine under their desks. I just don’t think alcohol is necessary, our vice president said, clearly not living in the same universe as the rest of us.
Universe: University. Lunar: Lunatic. I forget sometimes how things are related.
But if we’re going to be the change we want to see in the world we’re going to have to start showing some initiative. We’re going to have to start walking our laps and returning our juicers. Only then will peace talks with North Korea resume.
I thought I only liked rainy days but it’s been beautiful lately and that’s been fine too. I take what I can get. They caught the bomber last night. He was hiding in a boat. While we watched the footage, a man at work said, How do kids end up this way? And I wondered if he knew that anyone was capable of anything.
When I die, when they open me up, they’ll find all my organs coffee-stained, a beautiful light brown. What’s this?, they’ll say.
I sat in the park yesterday and read a book about poetry. This week has been a television show, and now that it’s over, I’m not exactly sure what to do with myself. The park was filled with happy people, and I was a happy person too. I wasn’t thinking about anything exploding. I was thinking about how long the next year would take, how long until I graduated, how long until my life finally began. If we’re not finishing our degrees, if we’re not getting our foster-care paperwork in on time, what’s it all been for? A group of bridesmaids walked by in dresses the color of orange sherbet ice cream, and I waved at them like they were all celebrities. Then, for the sake of the bright-shimmering world, I took a walk.