restlessness

flash fiction or w/e

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The open road was the second mistake, but it took a while to get there. First came the boxes: cardboard, made for packing and impermanence. You hated for things to be thrown away, and you hated the boxes, but you kept quiet until the yard sale when the girl with the red backpack came and bought my lamp. You went inside to make coffee but there was no coffee maker anymore and I walked in just as the ceramic hit the floor. It was the loudest thing.

The first mistake had to have been the wooden floors. The creaking was so insistent! More than the dark knots and the smell of dust and yellow light in the hall. It all got to my skin before you did, before you took my hand and we danced in the living room while the seasons changed. I never knew what home was. I only wanted to look at the maps.

Inevitably the floors and the lights and the boxes all led to the open road, the one you insisted you would accompany me down, at least until we hit the coast. Through the city we were alright. Across the plains we were alright. Up the mountains (and down the other side) we were alright, but when we hit the water we started to sink, possibly because there weren’t any floors out here. Howdid we not see this coming! Why weren’t we prepared!

It was not until we got out of the car that we realized The Wanting was terrible and The Leaving was worse. It was not until then that we realized that the colors of the maps were not true and you’d have to go back the way we came and I’d have to stay here. But it was never anyone’s fault.

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Your Official Guide To Having Ennui

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Perhaps you first felt it when you were walking alone on an autumn day, looking at fallen leaves, and realizing you were neither happy nor sad, but definitely more sad than anything else. Maybe you tried fruitlessly to figure out the reason for your almost-sadness, but instead found yourself staring at a river while reading a letter from your sister informing you that she joined a convent because she was desperately in love with you. Or maybe that was just Chateaubriand. At any rate, I am here to provide you with the Official Guide to Ennui you never asked for: what it is, how to diagnose it, and what to do if you have it. Fear not, fellow sufferers, my degree in French literature will lead you through these trying times.

First you must figure out what type of ennui you have. Many flavors of ennui exist, sort of like ice cream if ice cream gave you no enjoyment but you kept eating it anyway. We’ll begin with French Ennui, because that’s where the term originated. Ennui means “boredom” if translated literally, but has taken on a broader significance through its use in literature (see Chateaubriand, Sartre, and Baudelaire, if you really must). French ennui is related to existentialism, but lacks the urgency and atheism of the latter. It is Anna Karina walking on a pristine beach saying over and over, “What can I do? I don’t know what to do.” At its core, this flavor of ennui involves having no real problems and lots of down time. You might have it if:

-You like the idea of nature, but not actual nature.

-You tell people you are “a romantic,” which is different from “romantic.”

-Black coffee and cigarettes are your major food groups.

-You routinely blame things on your spleen.

If those don’t sound like you, you might have Russian Ennui. This type is different from the French type because it involves some sort of duty or obligation, and more specifically the avoidance of said obligation. In Russian literature the family is the main source of obligation (see also: the State). The more pressure the family exerts on the sufferer of ennui, the less he does, and the less he does, the more time he has to think. Doestoevsky says that excessive time spent thinking becomes a “disease” that produces only more idleness (see Notes from the Underground if, like, you really want to). You might have the Russian sort of ennui if:

-Instead of completing assignments at work/school you take long walks through harsh weather conditions, preferably snow.

-You talk a lot about “citizenship,” but don’t join any clubs/teams/groups.

-Your cabinets are filled with cheap black tea and half-empty bottles of vodka.

-On a good day you answer 1% of calls.

If Russian ennui seems bleak, you might have a third kind: Modern Ennui, which results mainly from living in a society that runs on technology. The blue glow of computer and smart phone screens is the symbol of this type of ennui, and sufferers are those who crave human relationships, but prefer to slip back into the comfort of the internet whenever faced with an opportunity to interact face-to-face. They are plagued with apathy and find it nearly impossible to perform any task that cannot be completed with a few keystrokes, but are cripplingly bored at the same time. You might have Modern Ennui if:

-You can count your IRL friends on one hand.

-A restaurant without online ordering brings on a mild panic attack.

-You are exhausted from working all day on the computer, and as soon as you get home you open up your computer.

-You have a tumblr.

Now that you’ve identified which type of ennui you have, you can go about treating it. Kidding! This is the essential part of ennui: there is no cure. Once diagnosed, the best you can do is accept that life is one long road of unceasing monotony. So get a cat, refill your coffee mug, and settle in with the e-book version of Les Fleurs du Mal because you’ve got a ways to go.

On Being Medicated

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Previously published on Thought Catalog

You function “like a normal person.” You take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and make it out the door in less than an hour. It used to take you the whole morning. And two to three cups of tea. And a handful of songs that glistened on your ears. If you made it out at all. You used to lose time looking out the window because everything was beautiful, and everything in every season had a hazy glow attached to it. In the summer you’d go out to see what the plants looked like after the heavy sky left drops of rain on the leaves. In the winter the fresh snow would cover everything and fill your mind with soft corners.

But now, none of that. There are only dirty sidewalks and messy gardens and more fucking snow. The world is a place you are forced walk across to get to work/school/home. At work you answer emails and make phone calls and order supplies and tie up loose ends and find solutions to problems. Under fluorescent lights you go to meetings and cross things off your to-do list. Your hair is combed, your tights don’t have runs in them, and your boss praises you. You smile because you have forgotten that this is not you.

No, the You you’ve known all your life would not feel good about completing a purchase order or remembering which folder a document is in. The You before the medication had dreams about doing more than this. It was always Which city am I going to next? And now it’s When is the microwave in the breakroom free? During the day this doesn’t seem like a big deal because you are focused and productive. You see clear goals and paths carved out to get you there. You are medicated, and everything is linear.

But when have you ever been a fan of straight lines? At night you remember how you used to love the twisted ones best. How much time did you spend just wandering, even if it meant not getting where you were supposed to go? You would always find something better, or at the very least you’d see/touch/taste/feel something amazing on the way there. The world was not something you were forced to be in; you wanted to be in it, badly, and wanted it in you. You wanted to put your hands on it and breathe it in. What was that like, again?

It’s too hard to remember because every morning you wake up and swallow a blue capsule that pushes all that out of sight. It gives you tunnel vision, and during the half hour it takes to kick in you can feel the narrowing like waves crashing over you. Soon this part will be over, though. Soon you won’t be reaching out to grab the hand of the person you used to be while the tide pulls her under. You’ll forget her and you’ll forget the way the sun hit the streets just right this morning and how the breeze brushed past you whispering “Follow” as it disappeared around the corner. You’ll be fine, and you won’t dream.

It’s ok because this is what the doctor says is “fine.” This is what your parents and teachers and bosses say is “fine.” But you know this is not fine because fine is having space for your thoughts to breathe. It is thanking the stars or the lord or the Smiths that you are not like the others. It is what you were before you were medicated. It can be yours again, and you know it, and each day it’s harder and harder to hold your breath and go underwater. One day you won’t do it. You’ll just stop, and you’ll live again. You’ll stop, and you’ll see and feel and be in love with the world again. Any minute now.