"How do I live this way?"
A Southern California native, Michael Jimenez divides his time between the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles. Michael is a published writer with two pieces of work in the spring 2012 issue of West. An Honors Program student, Michael has been developing a unique technique for writing within the context of traditionally structured English composition classes. He hopes to present this process at the HTCC Student Research Conference at UC Irvine. Michael attributes his success as a writer to his lifelong love of reading. A husband and a father, Michael says his family is the most important facet of his busy life. Michael's schooling comes at the perfect time because he can do homework next to his six-year-old son in hopes that his son will absorb some techniques and discipline at a young age. Michael plans to continue to challenge himself scholastically through the most rigorous courses available. He hopes to attend UCLA in pursuit of both an undergraduate degree as well as admittance to the UCLA School of Law.
Finding My Mind
What kind of person loses his mind like this?
"As you breathe out, I want you to open your eyes and breathe in once more the energy of the earth. Take it in and feel its peace, its power, its energy. Exhale slowly. That concludes today’s class. Please do not forget that our next session is cancelled because I’m going to visit my family in Ohio this weekend!"
She really thinks I believe her. I know she means Vegas for the weekend! She’s lying to us Jake. I can see it in her eyes. Besides, I searched her car with a glance as I walked by earlier on. I saw that pair of heels and the bikini she packed. Ohio? No use for those in that climate. Someone should teach her to zip up her bags instead of leaving them wide open where everyone can see them. I’m telling you Jake, she’s getting paid a salary to teach yoga classes while she’s shaking her rear in Vegas. We pay a pretty penny to be stretched and meditated and dammit I think we should find some other free spirit to do this to us. We’ll talk later. As I fondle the keys to my black Aston Martin and start the engine I can’t help but hear a voice echoing William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” saying: “A truth that's told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent.”
Top down, radio up, speed at a crawl due to the traffic; that’s how I enjoy my Aston Martin in Los Angeles. You would think that my flat black Aston Martin would help me slice through the traffic. It doesn’t. It doesn’t even make the people move the hell out of my way in the Starbucks parking lot. Grande Mocha Latte three shots with caramel sauce? Wow, she must really need some caffeine today. Still attractive, but definitely took a beating since I saw her last. Maybe if she got a little more down on her luck she would sell me that lot she owned on third and Lincoln. Hey, Lisa! You look a little beat up. Has business picked for you yet or are you going upside down? No worries, slide me an email later on and we can hook up for dinner. Again my subconscious passenger quotes Blake: “A truth that's told with bad intent/ Beats all the lies you can invent”
The drive up the coast was a beast today; I really hope this coffee is worth it. I don’t really want the caffeine; it’s more like a burning desire. It doesn’t even have an effect on me any more. More than anything I drink it to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal. Headaches and mood swings are normal for me; you don’t want to know how I dump on others when I don’t have my fix. How do I live this way?
It had been happening with more frequency lately. These quotes from the class; they came and went from time to time in the past. It had been years since that class, but for some reason it kept coming back to him from time to time. Now it had appeared that they were here to stay. Today it had already happened twice. Why was this happening?
I don’t know if losing my job made me this freak of a person. What I can say for sure is that since I lost my job, it has gotten worse. What kind of person loses his mind like this? Why can’t I just cut myself like the other crazies? Maybe I’ll drink until my liver is the consistency of hair gel. Maybe I’ll start abusing my loved ones? Maybe that’ll make me more normal. There’s no way I should be hearing voices quoting a class from years ago. It’s just not normal. On the upside, that doormat that replaced me at the firm couldn’t cut the mustard. Nope, they didn’t exactly come back crawling, but they had come back. I took a pay cut, but I’m chained down in the saddle once again. I had asked myself why I took the offer. I already knew the answer.
Some guys wear a power tie to work. I don’t need one. I drive an Aston Martin. Today it begins. Back to work. Same man. Same job. Second shot. I walk back to my old office. I fumble with the keys and manage to get the door open. The familiar smell of books and leather furniture bring back memories of deals closed and the sound of pen grinding across paper. It had been months since I was here, but the feeling was more familiar than I had suspected that it would be. Pre-flight check done, engines are warmed up, and all systems are go. First client on the radar. Twenty minutes until show time.
Am I absolutely sure that we can pull this off? Listen, I don’t care that he thinks he did something different. Look at me, dammit! I am Alfred Mark Jameson. I am the best attorney in the western hemisphere. And when I say that we will eliminate this stain from the underpants of your business plan, you better believe that I will deliver. Do not second-guess me. You ever read the book Kindred? On page 53, Octavia Butler writes: “You can’t come back all at once any more than you can leave all at once. It takes time. After a while, though, things will fall into place.” She was a fool. She never met me. I deliver. I don’t wait for things to fall into place. Life isn’t a game of Tetris. I will make the square peg fit the round hole. Why do they ever question me?
I never felt so good. Truthfully, I knew that I had an inflated sense of skill. This case was not going to be open and shut. My client was one of those guys that nobody questioned. Let’s just say that where his money came from was not information that he was willing to divulge. Rather small of stature, this man was clearly big on influence. Unfortunately, all it would take is one protein stain on some little black dress and my client, and my case, could be done for. My skill never came into question, yet somehow I felt I was at a tactical disadvantage.
Or so I had thought. The news came on a Monday afternoon. I wasn’t surprised that the defendant had backed down. His whole legal team had been vaporized when an underground gas leak caused an explosion. It turned the party bus full of legal professionals into a gelatinous, sticky pink coating of all the buildings in a one-hundred-foot radius. It was the emptiest payday I have ever had. My client signed a check, and that was it. I was lost. How was it possible to win and lose at the same time?
I already told you why I am here, doctor. I am making mountains of money, and yet I have these questions that I can’t answer. Why do I live this way? Why do I opt into these situations? Why do I pass judgment on others? Most importantly, why do I get these voices in my head? What! We’re out of time? This is ridiculous! I’m here for explanations, not to sit on your couch and complain! You better have some answers for me soon.
The letter came two weeks later. I had not been back to my psychiatrist since our first meeting. The letter read as follows.
I do apologize for the brevity of our last meeting. I do have other patients, and in the best interest of all of my clients I do have to impose some time restrictions on our interactions. I spoke with the professor of your class from years ago. She mentioned that you covered Siddhartha during your studies. Herman Hesse writes on page 53: “In all that searching, you don’t have the time for finding.” I think that this surmises the causes of your problems as well as the solution to said issues. Listening to recordings of our session tells me that you have many questions as to why you act out in certain manners. You want to know why you are drawn to these situations and why you react as you do. My advice is that you should listen to your quotes. You do not make the time to find anything. You are content to simply search for what you are scared to find. When you are ready to talk at length, please call my office to schedule a time that works for us both.
It had not become clear to me yet. But the haze was thinning. I had spent my life slaving away blindly. Bound to artificial morals and standards; I could not help but find myself lost and in limbo as my gelatin-infused standards deformed every time my ground would grumble. I don’t want to stop looking at the world or my worldly possessions. Those long legs look good! I love the sound of a metal credit card! I also want to see the life that surrounds my trophies.
I pulled into the parking lot and opened the car door. With its fresh coat of paint, my white Aston just begged for attention like a brand new puppy. As I walked into my weekly yoga class I felt more comfortable than I ever had. I had learned that our instructor had lost her mother three days before her trip home to Ohio. I was wrong about her trip to Las Vegas, this time at least. I had decided to work at my downtown firm on a case-by-case basis while I donated time at a local non-profit. I quit drinking coffee; I didn’t need it anymore. I even told Lisa that I would offer her my services and that we could talk about my business plan over dinner and a bottle of Cab at my place. Don’t judge me; old habits die hard. What made me change?
I was on the way home from the office of my favorite shrink. Top down of course so that I could breathe in the slimy Los Angeles air. Over the radio came an advertisement for the new primetime sitcom. Cue stereotypical voice actor with the movie times tone. “It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” Wendell Berry. With a bottle of cab in my trunk, my journey had begun.