At this time I was 23-years old. I worked as the assistant office manager at a large accounting firm. I went to the office, did my work, and left. The first thing I did when I got home (I always went directly home) was to look at myself in the mirror. “This is your real life,” I’d say to my mirror image. “There is nothing else but you. There. In the mirror. At home.”
All day long at the office, I’d think about going home and bolt out of the office exactly at five. Sometimes a co-worker would ask as I was leaving , as though the thought had just occurred to him, “ Do we have any letterhead left?” or Would you check on Mr. Wagonload’s reservations to Kansas City?” And I would snarl over my shoulder, “If it could wait till now, it can wait till the morning,” or “You saw me five times today and didn’t say a word about Mr. Wagonload’s reservations, so why do you pick five o’clock to break into speech?”
But if, as I was hurrying to the subway, someone called me by my name from across the street, the grateful and apologetic mania would grip me, and I could easily have stopped to talk for 15 minutes. And I’d ask all kinds of inane questions whose answers I couldn’t have cared less about.
I considered myself superior to my fellow workers – in fact to everyone. In all the important ways, I was better than they, destined for some vague, great destiny. It’s true they knew how to way “hello” and “goodbye” and I didn’t. But then, the really important things I had in abundance. Why did I need to know how to say “hello” and “goodbye?”
The office manager, a plump woman with severe arthritis in her leg, would limp purposefully down the middle of the hall, while I slunk along the wall itself. Oh, I knocked cockily on it at rhythmical intervals with the back of my hand. But the truth is that I didn’t feel as safe in the middle of the hall as I did against the wall. The office manager and I regarded each other with mutual hostility. That’s not quite right. She just disliked me. But I also feared her and had the greatest respect for her. Sometimes, when I saw her limping down the hall, I had to fight back the urge to ask her how her husband was, or to apologize to her for something, or to tell her what an amazing person she was.
Other times, I’d think, “if only they knew what I’m really like,” and try to feel a bemused contempt for them. But all that came was a measly feeling of fear. Who would want them to know what I’m like anyway? If they knew, it would spoil it.
Something else now took a serious turn. Ever since childhood, I had felt that I was immortal. This feeling was allied to another feeling of being on the verge of disintegration and death. It was a contradiction easy to understand. If I was godlike and immortal, how terrible it would be if anything should happen to the godlike and immortal me, and how vulnerable I therefore was. I, the immortal one, could die! The simultaneous
convictions of immortality and imminent death reinforced my feeling that no one was like me, that I was fundamentally different from other people. Now, although I regarded the people of my time and place as pygmies and didn’t want to be like them, still, I felt cut off from and deeply drawn to those same pygmies. The irony is that, even if I had tried to effect reconciliation, they likely would not have been interested.
And then I read about lightning-quick changes of mood……………..
To be continued and continued