GMAIL DRAFTS: A NOVEL
Chapter 1: Subject: “Hey”
(Breakup e-mail number one)
Chapter 2: Subject: “Open position?”
(Job tip from six months ago never acted upon)
Chapter 3: Subject: “In case I get hit by a bus…”
(Notes to loved ones in the event of accidental death)
Chapter 4: Subject: “So…”
(Breakup e-mail number two)
Chapter 5: Subject: “OMG”
(Abandoned screed against Friend 1, to Friend 2)
Chapter 6: Subject: “I’m sorry”
Chapter 7: Subject: “GIF List”
Chapter 8: Subject: “FOR FUCKING REAL?!”
(Abandoned screed against Friend 2, to Friend 1)
Chapter 9: Subject: “I miss you”
(Getting-back-together e-mail number one)
Chapter 10: Subject: “(None)”
(123 words of a short story that will never be completed)
This is the thing you scream, at first, in your mind, hurling the thought towards Brooklyn as hard as you possibly can, all-caps; thundering, you hope, across the night sky, straight into their temporal lobe.
This is the thing that echoes in your mind for hours, refreshing when you least expect it, the sound behind the pressure in your eyes.
This is the thing you mutter, in your mind, when you see old voicemails you will not, cannot, delete; that you will not, cannot, listen to again.
This is the thing you whisper, months later, in your mind, when you see them across the room, as you near each other with sad smiles of recognition; fearful they’ll hear you, wondering if they share the same fear.
“I miss you.”
I am tired.
I am tired of hearing that I am shiftless, that I think myself special when really I am not, that it’s my own fault the world “isn’t meeting [my] expectations.” I am tired of everyone on the internet telling me I know nothing, that I am entitled, that I am lazy. I am tired of self-important magazines and bullshit marketers coming up with abhorrently stupid names for my generation. (Call me a “Millennial” and it will be the last word you speak.) I am tired of so many parents complaining about their children using the very technology their children have created.
You know what, Boomers (and a few Gen X-ers who got busy early on)?
Maybe you shouldn’t have created a world in which everyone feels pressured to go to college, where following your dream is the Ultimate Good. Maybe you shouldn’t have fostered an economic ecosystem in which a bachelor’s degree is basically a requirement to find a job that pays minimum wage. Maybe you should rethink your company’s stance on unpaid internships that serve only to broaden the gulf between the talented poor and the undeserving rich.
Maybe you should recognize that the reason most of my generation is graduating without gainful employment lined up is because you will have to stay in the job you currently have for the rest of your life, because Social Security will run out before you can retire and you foolishly invested most of your savings in tech stocks that had worse odds than a Vegas slot machine. (This is also why we had to sign away the next 30 years of our fiscal lives at age 17: because you invested our college fund, too.)
Maybe you should understand that those of us who have by some miracle found a decent-paying job in our desired field will remain where we are, at the bottom of the totem pole, for perhaps our entire careers, because upward mobility has simply vanished. Maybe you have never been at risk of falling into unemployment, a state the majority of us have already found ourselves in and still bear financial and psychological scars from, and so will never know the icy clutch of panic every time your boss asks to speak with you.
Or maybe, just maybe, you should shut the hell up.
The anxiety begins as a buzz nearly indistinguishable from the effects of a couple glasses of wine. Its source is somewhere inside your chest, possibly your heart, whose beat is currently cycling between the thrum of a hummingbird’s wings and the slow clop of a Clydesdale. The buzzing slowly fans out, up and through your clavicle and into your shoulders, down into your arms and finally into the fingers, moving restlessly, compulsively pressing the buttons on your phone. It snakes into your belly and wriggles like a living thing, your stomach churning with all the acid in the world. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and settles in your amygdala, activating the very worst of all the fears nested therein: You are unlovable, you are unwanted, now and forever. And all at once the buzzing turns to burning, a raging river of fire slicked with oil. The corrosive metallic taste in the back of your throat will not be relieved by any liquid, nature-made or not.
There is something wrong with you.
A couple months ago, I had the good fortune of being invited onto the Justified set. I got several stories out of it for my employer, but haven’t been able to really express what I got out of the experience. This was what I wrote on the plane ride from LA to Chicago (with a few minor edits and additions from subsequent interviews), basically a straight account of my day so I wouldn’t forget anything, but it approximates what I wanted to get out there.
The mountains aren’t quite right for the “deep dark hills of Eastern Kentucky”
Mama doesn’t call me Shortbody like everyone else. “What’s wrong with your name? Don’t you let them call you that,” she hollers when she hears Dale and Ruth call me over for fishing. I don’t know where she got the name from, but it’s not me, so I tell Dale and Ruth not to worry about that ol’ grizzlebelly. They laugh at the word; they know it’s what I named an old raccoon who took up in our backyard a couple years ago. He was almost all silver when I found him the first time.