I walk down the empty street, my feet dragging along the sidewalk and my shoulder sore from my bag wearing on it. My mind is filling with fog as the cold bites through my shirt. God, I’m tired. The sun slowly breaks over the horizon and the orange beams of daylight stretch through the receding ink of night.
I’ve never felt time move slower than it did this past night. Each bar was a temporary shelter from the night’s cold. I’d sit and stare at the faces around me, all of them unfamiliar and indifferent. Then there were no more bars to hide in, nowhere to pass the time. The city streets were quiet except for the occasional homeless person, covered in makeshift blankets. I must have looked pretty unprepared with my thin windbreaker and small sports bag with one day’s worth of spare clothes.
Each step feels draining as I wander in the direction of my former college. I check my watch and see there’s at least another 20 minutes before anything is open. I find an outdoor bench and sit down, ignoring the frost that clings to my pants.
I’m too tired to have clear thoughts on my visit but I can make out the feeling of anger. Even now, trying to stay awake and warm, I feel anger burning inside me like the embers of a dying fire. I’m angry at Donnie for not telling me he’d be busy this weekend. I told him a bunch of times I was coming up. Was it too much to ask for him to help me out a little? I’m angry at myself for not being clearer that I’d need to crash with him. But I’m too proud to ask for help.
My depressive voice takes an opportunity to remind me of how this is all my fault. Do you really expect your friends to try when you never do? You goddamn hypocrite, it says. You’re so quick to judge them, to call them out on every little mistake. No wonder they don’t want to be around you. You can’t even drop them a line or give them a call. And you blame them for not wanting to stay in touch?
You need to be lovable to be loved, it reminds me again. Normally, I’d wrestle with it but right now I’m too tired. I wallow in self-pity and let the depression radiate.
Poor you. I don’t know what I hate more: that the voice is right or that I can’t seem to change.
As the din of early morning traffic slowly brings life to the city, all I can feel is the breeze sending shivers down my neck as the fragile architecture of my self crumbles. The negativity and the hatred sweep through me, turning everything to ash. I know that I need to stop it but all I can force myself to do is to think about sleeping, just for a few minutes.
A girl in a black Dunkin’ Donuts uniform opens up the store front and I force myself onto unsteady legs and into the warm orange-colored haven. I can barely comprehend what the girl is saying as she asks for my order. I pull myself together enough to order a coffee. The second she hands it to me, I make for the open booth and climb onto the soft cushion seat. I rest the little white Styrofoam cup on the table and put my bag under my head. Just to close my eyes and lay down feels incredible. I drift off into a dreamless sleep as the smell of black coffee and fresh donuts hangs in the air.
I wake with a start and check my watch. It’s 9:30 AM. For only two and half hours of sleep, I feel revitalized. There are a few customers sitting at tables but only a handful. I shake my head and give myself a quick slap in the cheek to re-focus my senses. To be honest, I’m amazed nobody’s tried to throw me out. I down the cold coffee I’d ordered a lifetime ago and collect myself. The girl behind the counter is looking at me like I’m a walking corpse. I walk into the shop’s bathroom and look at myself in the mirror.
One glance it’s easy to see that the girl’s look was generous considering how shitty I look. My eyes are bloodshot and my hair is greasy. With my second wind still burning strong, I open up my sports bag and produce my travel-size toiletries. With the grace of an amateur hobo, I wash my hair in the sink and brush my teeth. The water is warm and calming as I splash some on my face, trying to wash off some of the grime and sorrow. I work quickly to avoid occupying the bathroom for too long. When finished, I take another quick look at myself as I pack my stuff up. Still rough and worn looking, but at least I can pass for human. I tuck my wet hair under my baseball cap and leave the bathroom.
Before any of the employees can take notice, I step out of the warmth of the donut sanctuary and back into the cold of the bright morning. I’m thankful for the temporary high I’m running on as I plan out the rest of my day. When I step out from the shadow of the buildings around me, I feel the distant heat of the sun on my face and feel better for it.
Inside me, there’s a tornado’s path of destruction and emotion. I take a breath, pull out my headphones and open up my phone. It’s still too early to text anyone else I know in the city but I scroll to my music.
The fire is out for the moment and there’s a lot to rebuild. But at least I’m back in control.