(Content Warning: mental health, cussing, and mentions of marijuana)
Somedays, you feel the need to be high to function or, better yet, to disfunction, to stop disputing with yourself, with life, and just let the chaos settle itself down. You quiet and ease your racing mind while watching the smoke cloud your peripheral; in a moment, everything hushes, mutes to a barely registerable echo, white noise, and conch sounds, you listen to it, the settling silence washing over the living room.
Your friends, when they come over, gawk at your bookshelf, at the to-be-read pile that grows each visit, at the fact that you still don't have a television. There's no art on the walls and no recent pictures of you or your family on the frames —you can't even remember the last time you took a picture with anybody, anywhere. Regardless of the conditions, you've always done your best to comfort everybody who walks in through the door —everybody but your overly talkative mother; you prefer she leave as quickly as she came. Your need to please, your obsession with making everybody happy first, comes from being the eldest son and older brother, your need to feel accepted, some terrible hook-ups —childhood trauma involving bullies for sure— and because you're a teacher.
It's Sunday night, and in less than twelve hours, you'll be working. You'll slap on a smile for the school secretary, for your boss, for the people who work at human resources, and most important for your students —though after so much forced smiling, a decent grin, and a cheery good morning in class will work just fine. You'll walk down corridors with imaginary shackles at your feet, telling yourself how you'd rather be home, thinking that you'd rather be anywhere but there —but do you really mean that? You do, of course, you do. You love staying at home alone, reading your books, and writing your novel. If it were up to you, you'd be doing just that, sitting on the floor —because your sofa is just as drab as your artless walls— listening to lo-fi or some instrumental tune, waiting for inspiration to strike you with her lightning.
It's not that you loathe your job —you love teaching— but you've become complacent with the tiredness, with the sedated —almost inert and utterly depressing really— movement of your sorry excuse of adult life. You know you should be thankful; you're working, paying your bills, and your students, for the most part, are amazeballs —you were lucky with the divvy up this year and got to avoid those students. But you're also going to be twenty-seven this year, closer to thirty than twenty, and your mentality, your dreams are more fractured and unreal, looking less like a fantasy and more like a horror movie.
You'll walk into class tomorrow, and you'll ask your students about their weekend —the answers won't really change from the ones you received last week. You'll have them open their books, you'll lean back against your chair, start the class saying something funny or stupid as you regularly do —last week, you broke your coffee mug, which ended up getting a unanimous laugh, more so than when you tell a decent joke or make a fool of yourself. Your students are always sloth-y for the first class, their faces long and melting like wax, their heads being held up by their own hands, keeping their upper bodies from collapsing. Your last period is just as bad because the students are antsy and wild, counting the minutes for the end of class so that they can get the fuck out of there and go home. You don't blame them; you were the exact same way once too.
Sometimes you wonder if you're anyone's favorite teacher or if any of your students find you relatable or cool —which is why you're up to date with the latest memes and pick up on pop culture references— hoping that your classes are memorable. You like to tell yourself that you're doing a good job, that you're trying, and that what you're doing is essential. Your students don't give a crap about single-file and will stampede out of the classroom. You'll put everything haphazardly in order before you leave, grabbing your stuff and running out of the room as if there's a fire, and once you're outside, you'll watch the students trickle away, some of them turning to wave good-bye while others pretend that they don't even see you.
You're halfway through your joint when it dawns on you that you really should quit smoking —you say this all the time but never do, claiming to yourself that marijuana is medicinal and all that's right with the world. You don't have the funds to properly sustain your craving for quality weed. If you weren't a stoner, you could buy art for your empty walls —honestly, you'd spend that money buying more books. You're haunted by the thought of having to work tomorrow, by the fact that it's almost ten pm, and you still haven't prepped a single class for the next day and haven't written a single new word for your future bestseller. You get irritated because weed usually does the trick and leaves you feeling inspired —not tonight, I guess. Tonight, you're just existing, watching the white clouds unfurl, following their ghostly trails out the window.
You've wasted an entire Sunday doing nothing, and in a few hours, you'll be trying to fall asleep, wondering what it is that you're actually doing with your life. The school isn't paying you enough, and you're overdue for a vacation —you've been telling yourself that you'll be more productive next year— that you should quit, but being jobless is not what you have in mind. You're thirsty, but the kitchen seems so far right now, and you don't want to risk toppling over from trying to stand up —it would be pretty funny, and you'd surely laugh at yourself. You're thinking now how there are two bottles of water and two bottles of gin in your refrigerator, enough, if you're lucky, to last the rest of the week. You think about standing up again to get water, but you also know that if you open up the fridge, you won't resist going for a tall glass of ice and the bottle of flavored gin.
You have this terrible habit of deprecating yourself, of blaming your choices—then the world— for everything that goes wrong in your life. You try to remedy the bad by being good —not perfect, just decent enough— and you try to lift yourself up with over-positive words and half-truths, but none of it ever really works. You contemplate self-harm and self-sabotage; you imagine lowering the joint so that the ashy, sparked tip touches the couch cushions and makes everything burn. You see all the invisible smoke flooding the room, and for a moment, you think about doing just that, not physically but metaphorically, but then again, what do you think you're smoking for?
You stifle the edge of your joint against the ashtray, leaving the rest of the roll to smoke early in the morning before heading off to school. Tomorrow's Monday, which means you can get in later, properly have breakfast, and read a couple pages of your book. You're not sleepy —weed sometimes does this to you— so you grab a blanket from your room, spread yourself like a cat on the sofa, and start jotting down a few lines of lyrical prose. You think about writing a piece, claiming victory over your writer's block with a story. It's quiet; the night's settled the noise in the vicinity, and in the darkness, your ideas come to life like fireflies.
There's very little to distract you now, very little to do so late in the hour but write. Tomorrow you'll wake up tired, and you'll thank yourself for ultimately screwing yourself early in the morning with such little sleep and complain about how you should have gone to bed earlier than you really did. You'll make coffee, open the fridge and realize that there's no milk, only bottled water, and gin. You'll entertain the idea of day-drinking for a little — you'll remember that you've left that part of you in the past— but you'll go back to the living room and light the rest of your joint instead.
In a couple of hours, you'll head down to the school and do your best to genuinely smile. You'll ask your students about what they did over the weekend, not really expecting them to say much. You'll casually mention that you, the night prior, did some creative writing. They'll look at you and think that you're pretty put together —or at least you hope they do. The first English class of the day can be dull, so you'll decide to do something different and talk to them for ten minutes about anything aside from school —or their weekends.
You'll do you're best to make them openly laugh. You'll do your best again to feel the high of teaching a good class. When the students stand up and leave, they'll remember you, maybe for a moment or for the entirety of the day or until their next class. Once they're gone, you'll thank yourself —though you'll feel tired and try to come off to yourself as nonchalant— for doing your best and for not giving up.