Pretending To Be A Real Person Who Does Real People Things


It’s difficult for me to pretend like I’m a real person who does real people things in the real world. Sometimes I lay papers out on tables or I look intently at forms or I sit at the computer and type gobbledygook until whoever’s watching leaves the room. No one needs to know about the vast chunks of time in which I sit on the couch and contemplate all the different species of bear, the extended periods I stare ominously out the living room window at passersby. No one needs to know how long I can suck on a butterscotch hard candy while scrutinizing a weird shadow on the floor. This information will not form a glowing assessment of my value as a human being on this earth.

Everything seems to take me an agonizingly long time. Other writers produce an article every single day — some manage five or six or seven. How do they do that? I feel strong feelings of interspecies kinship with the baby sloths in these YouTube videos I watch over and over, these sloths who can hardly reach for a peanut before succumbing to intense malaise. I’d probably have a more apt life if my consciousness could transition metempsychotically into a baby sloth brain or if there was some sort of surgical procedure available. All my thoughts would be sanitized of subjects related to employment, bills, societal pressures, etc, and replaced with thoughts like: “leaves… eat… soft… huh?… grab… nap…”

My morning bathroom procedure is a seemingly endless ritual punctuated by mirror gazing and something akin to Zen meditation. The shower, to me, is a warm womblike environment — comforting, constricting, wet. Sometimes I zone out and go into a state of being unconcerned with trivialities like “YOU’RE WASTING ALL THE HOT WATER, YOU STUPID ASSHOLE!” I float away on a moist pink cloud up into a higher plane of being where I have my “best” thoughts. My roommates always ask me, “What exactly do you do in there for forty minutes?” I don’t know what to tell them. How did the Pevensie children explain Narnia?

A painting of a bird in a snowstorm took me four days to paint while other artists produce the same image in a matter of hours. The first day, I painted a tree. The next day, my roommate came by and examined the painting. “Is this it?” he asked. “Is this done?” I looked at him and said, “This would be a pretty shitty painting if that’s all there was.” He said, “Well, I mean, you haven’t added anything to it all day. I figured it was done.” Over the course of the next three days, I worked piecemeal on the painting, continually plagued with visitors asking about why the accumulation of detail was taking so long, why I was the slowest painter ever. I thought, ‘I’m pushing this fat thing through the narrow birth canal of my imagination, and you dare to question my productivity! I will lick your stupid face!’

When I meet girls, it’s difficult for me to explain to them how exactly I constitute a real person in the real world doing real people things. It’s necessary for me to circumvent certain perilous topics of conversation: poetry, my source of income, employment, the date I graduated, my major, what exactly I do everyday. These topics are gateways to the darkness, the black hole of sadness where my self-esteem is crushed infinitesimally. To combat this, I wear a cool jacket from Urban Outfitters all the time. Most of my self-esteem is inextricably tied to my cool jacket. The cool jacket has fake pockets though; I try to put my hands in the pockets all the time, but I can’t get my hands in there. What is with these pockets? Fuck. Huh?

How do I convince people I’m a real person? If I look busy, maybe people will take me more seriously. If I don’t text people to hang out in the middle of a weekday, maybe they will think I have important activities too. I’ll say things like, “I have to head to the bank to straighten out an account anomaly,” or “I feel like my health insurance deductible is pretty low,” or “The best route to work is to just head down I-35 and take the Oak Lawn exit.” I will suddenly insert these statements into ordinary conversation, and then people will say, “Wow. That Brad Pike, he’s a man who means business.” I will carry a briefcase and wear fancy blazers. I will get haircuts sometimes and wear cologne. I will fill my apartment with contemporary décor from Ikea and impressionist landscape paintings. I will do laundry and floss.

But it’s too late to start over. No one will believe my dramatic transformation. Apropos of nothing, did you know there are three stores specializing in fudge within a block of my apartment? Did you know one of those three stores also sells gourmet ice cream? One of the other stores on my street sells cupcakes. Boom, that’s my week mapped out right there; I’ll eat a bowl of cream of shrimp soup, and then I’ll have a cinderblock of fudge. How many Game of Thrones episodes can I watch in one day? I’m thinking all ten. What was I talking about? What was it? I’m going to take a five-hour sadness nap.

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image – Tinou Bao