“Why the long face sweetpea? You look like you just lost your best friend. OH! Did your cat die?” Kate pouted her mouth in feigned concern but the twinkle in her eye gave her away. She was just waiting for me to reveal some tragedy so she could spread it about the office. I knew her tactics. Her voice grated on me more than usual today. 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 at her. “Nothing is wrong with me, I was just thinking...and trying to work.” I saw hope fade from her face as I tuned back to the computer screen. She looked hurt but I couldn’t bring myself to feel even a little sympathy.
“Well if you need to talk, honey, you know I will always let you bend my ear.” I didn’t even turn to acknowledge her. Eventually I heard her knock off pumps walk out of the office and down the hallway, on to find some real drama. I tried to finish up my charting but, despite what I had told Kate, my mind was anywhere but my job.
It was true, I was just thinking. Thinking about how I hated this job and everyone here. How miserable and angry I had become. It wasn’t their fault, even stupid, drama hungry Kate. It was all me and that was starting to scare me. I remembered a time when I didn’t feel that way, when I would not have lashed out at Kate for being who I knew she was, but I was having trouble remembering how to be that person. I felt like your a stranger in my own life, like everything about me was just wrong? I was missing something, not like a rewarding career, or engaging hobby, or smaller hips, something bigger. The kind of wrong where you wake up and think, Shit! This is not who I am supposed to be!
It had started slowly, about six months ago, with a feeling of...unquiet I guess is a good way to described it. But that little feeling had grown over time into a ridiculous, unexplainable, incurable misery. I had managed through twenty-seven years as a reasonably happy person. Maybe not the most successful, not wealthy, famous, or lucky in love, but happy all the same. True, I never wanted to be a nurse, but when it became obvious being an artist wouldn’t pay the bills it was the quickest option. And even if it wasn’t the most fulfilling job for me, I was good at my at it. Well the paperwork at least. My love life was...lacking. I had given up trusting my own judgement but I had come to enjoy being single. I was comfortable being alone. I didn’t have much in the way of a social life, but that was by choice too. I found small talk unbearable and didn’t make new friends easily. Still, despite all that, I had never found it difficult to see the good in my life. I was proud, maybe even arrogant at times. And never depressed.
That’s what made this sudden change all the more frightening. At first I figured mid-life crisis. That just made things worse, not only was I stuck in a dead end job with no friends and no love life, I was also old. I had tried everything to find balance again; supplements, yoga, hell, I even thought about God once or twice, but nothing helped. The feeling 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. Everything hurt because it was all a reminder of what I didn’t have, even though I had no idea what that was. I felt like I was going mad.
I don’t even remember walking home from work that day. I do remember deciding not to go back. Eventually I found myself locked in my apartment three or four days 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 for what was about to happen.
I had just started to think about all the bills I couldn’t pay and all the people who must think me a crazy flake when my head exploded with pain. 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 kick it, 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 holding my head in my hands and crying but when I opened my eyes again the room was full of bright white light. Every corner was illuminated. It was blinding and hot. It hurt to move my head. Something is wrong. I should run, I thought. But I didn’t, I just laid there panicking as the walls began to blister from the heat. I couldn’t breath. In that moment I realized I did not want to die. No matter how miserable, how lost and alone, I wanted to live! I raised my hand to shield my eyes, my only thought to get away from the light, and saw the light, white hot and destroying everything around me, was coming from me. I could see it pulsing from me, ebbing from my hands, arms, chest, everywhere. It was inside me. I was the light. And that’s the last thought I had before I blacked out.