Does it ever stop? That crushing feeling? You know the one right in the middle of your chest? You know, when everything is moving around in your head, all the words and the conversations and the things you have to do tomorrow or later or for the rest of your life…or the things you think you might wish you had done or the things that you figure you could do if you tried a little harder or were just a little better in general…you know, when those things start swirling and swelling around, getting caught in your sternum and moving right back up again into your brain? Does it ever stop? Or does that not happen to you at all.
He spent years digging in that basement. He still jokes about it, it’s one of his go-to jokes, actually. “Well, with 4 women in the house, where else could I go for some quiet?” He likes to pat the listener on the arm or shoulder as he let’s out a laugh, allowing them to commiserate (how can they not). If they like that, he’ll add, “even the dog was female.” This triggers his triumph laugh, where he makes a throaty weeze followed by a laugh. You can’t help but humor him on this. Trust, me you can’t. He’s so committed to this joke that you have to laugh. Then he tells the bit about how the neighbors were worried about his wife, because all this dirt kept piling up in the backyard, this enormous heap of dirt, so much that he had to rent a dumpster and have it picked up special order by the city of Los Angeles.
Anyway, I’m getting off track. The point is, he dug out the basement and made it into an office. And this is what it looks like now. He’s probably had that exercise bike since the ’70s, when he was still in college and had long hair. It used to be in the garage with a crappy TV that still has antennae and a remote that looks like the cell phone from Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. I’ve never seen him on the bike, but he says he uses it all the time, which is why he refuses to get rid of it.
Then there are the papers. Piles and piles of papers. The papers cover his computer, the desk, and most of the floor. Some of them are in folders or boxes, some are loose. There are folders from conventions and bills and credit card statements and coupons and airline tickets and optometry magazines and receipts and unopened envelopes. Some of these papers haven’t been touched in years. I know this because of the sheer number of papers that have amassed in this room. They pile up on the desk and trickle like a slow, lightweight avalanche onto the floor or the chair or the desk drawers. If you were brave enough to open one of those drawers, you would find more (minimally-used, most likely unread) paper. I wonder if having a wooden desk full of paper is a fire hazard. He does not take this question seriously.
My mother says he’s a slob, which I like to think is genetic. I’m a slob too.