an insomnolent malaise

You can tell it's going to be good day when the first thing your coworker says when you show up in the morning is "You look like shit, El. Party too hard last night?"

He thinks he's everyone's friend, but despite that he's not such a bad person. "Haven't been sleeping well," I tell him. "Can you hold the fort while I go get some coffee?"

"It'll be rough, but I think I'll manage." Sadly, he also thinks he's funny. Sometimes I humor him and smile at his jokes, but not today.

The coffee helps me feel more human, but these days it also gives me an eye twitch. Fortunately it's the week after Christmas and business is about as slow as it gets, so I can't scare anyone off.

My coworker tries to make conversation. "Any big plans for the new year?"

"If this past week is any indication, curling up in the dark and trying not to think at all. You?"

"You getting existential again, El? It doesn't suit you."

"I can't help it."

"Gives you a twitch. Nobody should have an existential twitch."

"I thought it was charming."

He grunts. "You shouldn't care so much, El. It's bad for you."

The rest of the day I think about that. Do I care too much? I didn't think I cared at all--but here's me obsessing over it, so clearly I do. Can you even turn that off? Can you not care when you care about not caring?


merry christmas anyways

It's been a while. Here is something. Might be the start of a new thing.

We walked home together after one of those Christmas gatherings for the lost and lonely, where people who can't or won't go home to their families meet up and drink champagne and celebrate in their own odd way. The streets were desolate in a way only city streets can be, and he, at least, was still in good spirits. I'd had a headache most of the night and the only thing I wanted was to take some aspirin and curl up in bed.

A secret: I've always mistrusted extroverts. In all that bustle I never felt like they really notice me--what I do, what I say, sure, but not my actual self. But, extrovert though he was, he noticed. He stopped in the middle of a story, halfway across the bridge, and looked me in the eye and said, "You okay, Ellie? You look tired."

I'd dreamed of this moment all night. I wanted to just tell someone I had a headache. I wanted to tell someone that the existential bullshit of the winter was finally catching up to me, that, in fact, holidays were depressing, and celebrating them just made me feel even worse.

Instead I said "It's been a long week," and I tried to affect a world-weary tone when I did. Then I smiled and said "I'll survive. I always do."

Sometimes I worry the reason nobody ever sees me is because I've gotten so good at hiding.