October 13, 2020

I am sitting here on the rim of a broad meadow in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, on what has become My Bench. At this hour the park is full of children, pent-up dogs howling at each other, joggers in spandex, & 9-to-5 workers on brisk strolls, recounting their professional woes either to each other or through headphones. A cool, wet breeze rustles the leaves—it's in the high 50s, & I'm sitting here comfortable in jeans & long sleeves. For now the world is cool, wet, & crisp—apple season—but frosts will be on us before long. Perhaps that's why it's so crowded today, even though the path is muddy with recent rain—people out glimpsing their last views of temperate nature, before the snows blow the city inside & the virus back to the fore.

It's funny now to think back to my stoned, existentialist, abrupt departure from your apartment earlier this summer—I can now see that I had plenty to worry about. Unemployed life is not easy, & I think it's due to the link we make between what we do & our identity. Your actions speak louder than your words, right? If someone were to ask me right now, "What do you do?", I guess my honest answer would be, "I sleep until noon on an airmattress & then stare into my friend's refrigerator for half an hour in my underpants." But is that really the entirety of who I am right now? Like, fuck, maybe.

In all seriousness, though, my existence has been two-pronged. First, I have been throwing full exertion into my fiction. I touched up a short story I've been working on for two years now & I submitted it to 20+ literary magazines . . . What is at stake is about $500 if I get published, & my entire artistic self-worth if I don't. I am alsow orking on a few more stories, journaling every day, & writing a few letters a week. A day where the pen does not touch the paper is an abject failure, but it is hard to consider my self successful when all I did was scribble in a notebook in a day. Artistic progress is slow, frustrating, & unprofitable—this period of singular focus on it can only last so long, for finance's sake as much as my sanity.

My other main endeavor has been in my own psychological health. In Austin this summer I often experienced depressive episodes that left me bedridden for days—I think in 2020 this is par for the course, but at the same time it was nothing new to me, just a horrible flare-up or an especially wide reopening of a perennial wound. I have struggled to justify my own existence since I was twelve or thirteen, & so I know when things are getting dark in my mind, & things were really, really fucking dark for me, man. Depression is more than an emotional reaction but an illness, & in my four years in Austin I only dealt with that illness in two holiday vacations a year. That shit catches up to you, as I’m sure you’re well aware, & in my isolation & in our apocalyptic epoch the darkest elements of my mind were in full song, to the point where quitting & moving to New York was, to me, a reflexive effort in self-preservation. So now I’m staying here with my friend . . . I’ll be sitting on his balcony, drenched in cool sunlight & reading some short story while overlooking South Brooklyn & its brownstones, & he’ll come out, plop down next to me, & then we’ll look over the city, shuttered in pandemic, & cackle about our mutual despair, & wonder what normal brains feel like. Then we go lift, or play chess, or go for a walk, or do whatever we do when the sun goes down, & then we’re through another day.

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