Tuesday I spoke with my friend Jack. It’s hard to talk to him.
He is one of those people who are half-crazy, full of life and so ballooned with the idea of success that he is blind to his own teacher-and-braggart way of speaking.
I can’t stand it.
Yet I am drawn to him. His big ideas for making just enough money doing one thing so he can turn around and use the capital to do something he loves – and will still make a fortune doing — is this flavor of person I find often in my life.
“You have just got to believe in yourself. It’s a certain way of looking at the world. It’s taking risks and knowing when to grab that chance. I had a great chance working for the Denver Post. I could make six figures a year. But then I looked at the people who had worked there for 20, 30 years and I realized I didn’t want to be stuck in that kind of life.”
“Mm-hmm,” I said, thinking ‘commitment phobic’ and recalling his past history of several longer-term girlfriends, but also a history of one-night stands (including me) that would make any sane person run down to the hospital for STD tests.
“And so what I’m doing now is small company, but I’ve already got nationwide accounts set up. Nationwide accounts for this tiny company! And once I work there awhile, I can be independently wealthy. And then I can do what I want. I can write, publish books, I can buy a newspaper and …”
He continues in this vein for a while. I only manage to insert the occasional, “oh.”
It’s not really much of a conversation.
And half-way through it leaves me feeling like I’m not good enough. He casually casts out disdain for the corporate life and yet maintains respect for those of us who play it straight? Not sure I’d buy that one.
But I keep listening. Masochistic? Maybe. But as I listen, the painful part turns into this melodious background, white noise with a hum, a rhythm that has my brain firing in a billion directions about my own life.
I cradle the phone in one ear, pausing to touch a lampshade, feeling the soft, silky fabric of the inside on my fingertips as if I’ve never touched such a surface before. I stare at my hand through the shade, nearly black against the yellow light bulb, each finger blurred.
I pull my hand out, touching the outside of the lampshade with only my index finger, running it down and up, really feeling what the lampshade feels like. As if I’m in a fugue state.
And a moment later, I’m pacing the floor, forgetting the lamp completely, forgetting what deep recesses my mind had pulled itself into. My brain is careening off in a different direction, crazily. What about my future? Didn’t I want to be a writer? What was I doing?
I suppose his flavor is Red Bull – energy and invigoration – but with a strange taste, like medicine. It’s hard to drink, because the bubbles keep interrupting themselves, piling upon each other like his thoughts, words spilling out too quickly.
And I end up with a headache. Too much sugar is bad for me.