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the concept of man;
Most people are addicted to television or coffee. I’m addicted to sadness and spearmint gum.
I suppose that’s a exaggeration of my immensely placid existence, but it’s true. I don’t have cable, you won’t ever find a single receipt from Starbucks in my pockets, and when you look in my wastebasket, all you’ll find are wrappers and many, many cigarettes.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not addicted to cigarettes. I’m addicted to the idea of cigarettes.
I started smoking when my wife told me she wanted a divorce. I was drawing up a contract for one of our clients [A presumptuous oil company; those bastards] when the phone rang. I picked up.
“Ed, I can’t do this anymore.”
In the two beats of silence that followed I could have been selfish or I could have been selfless.
But that is a fallacy. Because I did neither of those things.
She never finished her sentence because she had hung up.
When I came home that day, she had already taken all her things and left. The house seemed a little more crowded, which was strange, because people generally associate absence with emptiness. I felt like the walls were squeezing every ounce of energy out of me, like they were the masses of people in the streets of the city tearing at each other, ambition with no purpose, and they were going to drag me to hell with them.
The divorce papers came a few weeks later. I signed them. Then the papers that said she was engaged to some B-list Hollywood actor. I read them. And all the while the maple tree outside my house shed its leaves, baring its skeleton to my glassy eyes. I felt perverted, as if I didn’t deserve to see the splendid monument of nature in its nakedness in my own lethargic ineptitude.
We had planted that tree the day we were married.
I experimented a lot in the time after the divorce. I read any book I could find and chewed every brand of spearmint gum there was [Orbit is my favorite]. I grew in and out of different labels: “humanitarian;” “Orthodox Catholic;” “pacifist;” “sciencetologist.” I wanted to find some higher level of belonging, an unseen force that could direct me to meaning again. But I outgrew those names like I undergrew my suits; no one term was concise enough to cover the breadth of the grief I bore in my lungs underneath my indifference. I felt like the world didn’t deserve my suffering or my sacrifices; I felt like nothing could ever amount to the lie I lived when love had infected me.
I didn’t like calling it sadness. But it was, it was that and loneliness and a general atmosphere of incompetence. And I thrived off of it, I lived off of my misery and the religion I created out of worshipping my own tragedy. It didn’t make blood run through my veins but it made it look like it did, and that was my trick on the world.
There was only one thing I had ever wanted in the world and I had let her get away.
I’m fifty-six now. I think I’m going to kill myself today.