Yesterday was dissipation. I couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone. I had to remain relaxed, slackened. Sedentary and supine. I needed stillness and silence. Dim light and drugs. A long shower to wash away the filth of working.
I needed to be unseen. Hide in my tiny room and smoke pot with the curtains drawn, a sliver of light breaking through the bottom left corner of the window. I bought light blocking curtains but I didn’t get the right size, so a little light always sneaks in.
A day off isn’t a day off if you have to go out, if you have to do things and ride buses and see and hear the public. If you have to go out there and take a train and submerge yourself in a mass of mongrels. If you’re going to hear sirens, honking horns and subhuman music as you run a gauntlet of hobos with your eyes fixed forward and your jaw clenched, you might as well head into work.
It’s not just working that ruins you. It’s getting to work and getting back home. Spending half the money you make keeping yourself alive and mobile so you can keep working. Poor people used to live where they worked. They fell asleep on tables next to their sowing machines, on top of each other, five or six to a room. And then they woke up and went back to work.
The lower classes couldn’t afford to separate work from home. They couldn’t afford privacy. That was a higher class luxury. For most workers, there was little difference between public and private. When you closed your shop down in the evening, your neighbor wouldl knock on your door and ask for something.
We might as well go back to that. What’s the point of having a separate space if work defines your life anyway. If work haunts your time away from work. Why pretend there’s something else to preserve.
Some people look at a day off as a day to pursue their interests. Enjoy company, friends and family. Go to a park or museum, get a drink or go to a restaurant.
For me, a day off is just off. Nothing will happen. I will do nothing. I’ll lay on my couch and feel my bones ache. Soak in the silence. Meditate on the simple joy of not moving, of not having to look at people or answer the same questions over and over.
I concentrate on the absence of grinding, repetitive tasks and the freedom from being under surveillance. That’s a day off. When miscellaneous Bangladeshis bring pasta to my door. A day of avoidance, of indolence.
A day without wiping, sweeping and mopping. Lifting up mats, taking out trash bags bursting with slimy, hot food and coffee grounds. Without burns, heat, steam, spills and stains from sticky syrups and sauces.
Making drinks for people and then making the materials to make the drinks. Preparing the syrups, dosing the coffee, making the milk alternatives. Almond cashew milk. Chalky, jizzy water that tastes like nothing.
Some day soon a robot will do this job. I can’t wait to be obsolete. The problem is that I’m not dysfunctional enough. Once I have nothing to contribute to society, then I’ll live easy.
The robot will make all the coffee with precision and efficiency. It will never feel tired or irritable. It won’t get lost in demoralizing thoughts about having wasted years of its life. A robot doesn’t pity itself for pitying itself.
The last role for people in the service industry will be telling the story of the product to the customers. The machines will produce the goods and the humans will produce the narratives. Fuck if I’m going to do that. I hate telling stories, especially stories about food and drinks.
The other side of working when it’s busy is working when it isn’t, and that is its own nightmare. Time turns to sludge. There’s the uselessness of doing something stupid over and over again, and there’s the uselessness of not doing anything for hours on end.
Doing nothing is perfect when it’s your own time. Then it’s the pinnacle of existence. But when you’re on the clock at your job, when you’re on your feet standing in place waiting for direction like an abandoned cow, it’s unsettling.
The heaviness and abundance of time. Of course it slips away when you’re with people you love. It’s slick and scarce when you’re playing and laughing. But when you have to be in one place for eight hours without anything to do, that’s when you feel the pressure, the weight of what passes. It surrounds and suffocates you.
When time moves slowly enough, fragmentary memories float to the surface. You catch pieces of the past. It’s never a complete scene. My dead selves return and find me stuck in a forgettable present.
I’m not making new memories. Nothing I’m doing now is worth remembering. Even those important moments and people from the past are fractured, incomplete, filled in with fantasy. When I’m working in the evening, standing and shouldering fat, heavy time, I look out the window and catch the sunset. And the waning sunlight and trembling leaves impress me with impermanence.
For as inert as time feels on the inside, I see everything changing through the glass. Despite my static soul, the world seems fluid. The glimmering orange of the fading day grows darker by the moment. I project myself into a future in which I’ve already forgotten this moment. I want to remember this sunset, to recall the shadows filtering the light, to freeze and fix this ceaseless movement.
The void is what’s full; nothingness contains everything. It’s changeable reality that empties itself; it’s time that leaks the contents of the void. I’m a sponge of spilled time.