Chapter Four: No Start Button

Another day. Another like the last thousand or so that came before it. He was falling into a funk again, one of those dark clouds that came down and swallowed him every once in awhile. They hadn’t started until after high school. Back then, he’d had a lot of friends. He still did, he guessed. He hung out with a lot of people from work, and sometimes his friends from high school would come back into town. Most of them had gone to college. That could be the reason for this latest funk. A lot of them had just graduated in May. His best friends from high school, Christine and Dan, were off traveling Europe together post-graduation.

Everybody was moving to the next act of their lives, and he was still a loser working at Wal-Mart. That wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Sometimes he thought about going to school. There were a lot of Voc programs at the community college down the road. He liked cooking. He did a lot of it….before he’d started to feel so low, anyway. He used to cook up fish and steak and casserole on a regular basis. He used to love cooking for his family. Culinary Arts would be a good program to get into. He didn’t mind the food industry. He’d gotten some experience in the deli. He knew about safe food practices and prep and how to work in an efficient way so that he wasn’t stuck closing until midnight. If he buckled down and did the two-year program, then he could transfer those skills to something that actually mattered. He could be a chef in a real restaurant. He’d make more money. He wouldn’t have to live at home. He wouldn’t be seen as some kind of Momma’s boy, neckbeard, loser, living at home, aimless, a man-child. He knew what people thought about him. It hurt.

It’s not like he hadn’t tried to figure it out. He was still trying to figure it out. Maybe he would sign up for the culinary program at NCC eventually. It was the smartest move on his part. What else was he gonna do? Slice meat and mop the deli floor into his thirties? Nah, the time to get started was now, while he wasn’t too far behind everybody else.

But when he thought about going back to school, his stomach convulsed. He felt weak and dizzy. He didn’t want to sit in a classroom again. He knew he needed some kind of an education. High school had really been a nightmare though. He’d had a good group of friends. He’d always been the quiet, sort of funny guy. He’d had the one relationship with Monica. He hadn’t been cool, but also hadn’t been a total loser. His problem hadn’t been the kids. It was the teachers, and the books, and the tests.

Adam had never been great at school. Sitting in a desk and staring at a chalkboard had bored him stiff since first grade. Even if he wanted to pay attention, it was like he couldn’t. His brain wouldn’t stay on track. He always felt like as soon as he understood whatever in the fuck the teacher was talking about, they were on to something else. He’d barely figure it out, and then the struggle to comprehend started over. And that was if he figured it out at all. Lots of times he didn’t, and his test scores showed it. Sometimes he gave up and stopped torturing himself trying to get it. He accepted that he was going to fail the test and stared off into space. He thought about mangas, and video games, so that he wouldn’t have to think about what a moron he was. He was the only one who couldn’t keep up. Math was the only subject he was decent in. The rest of the day was a jumble of confusion.

English class was the worst. So many rules. So much stuff he didn’t get, symbolism, motifs, themes; what? Stories were just stories to him. Fun to read, especially when you could relate to a character and root for them. All of the other stuff, it was like trying to run Windows 10 on a Commodore 64. English class was software not compatible with his brain’s operating system.

Teachers never liked him. A few even called him out in class for daydreaming. Getting extra help didn’t do anything to help his idiot brain. The end of high school had been a relief. He’d always thought he’d go back to school, eventually. Chuck was about to start his first semester at NCC. Mom had gotten on Adam’s case lately to join his younger brother. “Get your act together. It’s like you got no start button!” He’d do it. He would do it. In his own time. School sucked and he didn’t want to go back to feeling like a moron all the time. It was stressful. It made him feel like crap.

These moods of his came and went. He’d been on this cycle of feeling semi-okay for a few months and then falling into a funk for the past five years. It started slow, feeling a little down, a little low energy. He’d just sort of have this general ‘what’s the point of functioning?’ sort of feeling. Everything he did, he had to talk himself into. Going to work. Showering. Even waking up. It was all a chore with no reward, another step in the slog of a life he didn’t want and hadn’t chosen. His life had happened to him. He was here, but he hadn’t picked this path.

Numbness would creep in, until he started to feel like he was almost detaching from himself. Everything he did felt distant, almost like an out-of-body experience. And that made it all a little easier, a little less exhausting. He grew more and more tired physically, but that distant, not-really-him, feeling kept him from feeling too….how could he describe it?..Tired. But tired in a way that was deeper than the physical. Deeper than bones.

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The cloud would lift and pass eventually. It always did. And the cycle had repeated itself so many times now, that he could recognize the transition from apathy to depression. He wasn’t exactly sure if that’s what it was, and he knew if he said anything about it to his mom she’d tell him he was being dramatic. Probably use it as an excuse to get on his case more. Blame him for feeling that way. He could hear her now: “You’re depressed because you have no goals! Get a goal. You’re a grown man!”

Better to keep it to himself. He tried not to think about anything while he showered and readied himself for another pointless day at the Wal-Mart deli. Better to keep everything to himself.

Life was a series of scenes to drag himself through.

Get up, go to work, get disrespected by bitchy customers, come home, watch anime, sleep.

Get up, go to work, get disrespected by bitchy customers and asshole bosses, scroll reddit, sleep.

Get up, go to work, try to flirt with co-workers and fail, remember what an ugly ginger loser he was, eat frozen food, sleep.

Get up, go to work, get shit on by management for clocking out three minutes late, try to explain that he was with a customer and if he tried to walk away he’d still be getting shit on, get ignored and talked over, drive home fuming, sleep.

Day off. Don’t bother getting up.

Sleep.

Sleep.

All day, just sleep.

The cloud was on him, but every day he left the house, he did a nice job of keeping it all to himself.

Photo by Jhefferson Santos on Pexels.com

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