I had a seriously thrilling drive home tonight. I cruised North along the shore under a sky quilted in storm clouds, grey with the greenish cast of strange summer twilight. Bolts of brilliant purple lightning traced crazy arcs in front of me, striking trees along the roadside in explosive showers of sparks. Rain surged down in silver sheets and sinister black funnel clouds touched down on both sides, while the winds pulled the waves in from the harbors across the road. My heart raced and my fingers whitened on the wheel and my lips pulled back in a silly adrenaline smile – I was loving it.
I, uh, was also imagining all of it, while listening to this song.
I’ve been spending an awful lot of time in my head lately. I’m not much for phone conversations and I’m alone most of the day at home, save for a deaf dog – and what’s the sense in talking to him? I’m nearly thirty years old and I spend most of my waking hours playing Let’s Pretend. Let’s Pretend Skagway, Alaska doesn’t exist. Let’s Pretend I’m not losing anything I learned in grad school to atrophy at an alarming rate. Let’s Pretend it’s all going to be all right. And Let’s Pretend I’m not actually at my job.
This is the most crucial bit of pretending I do. I have to, in order to get by. I pretend to be happy. I pretend to be an extroverted people-person. I pretend this is only a temporary setback and I know exactly which path to follow once I find it. And also I pretend I’m a robot.
Yesterday got a little weird. I’ve been watching an alarming amount of Doctor Who lately, packing in as many episodes daily as possible before I have to give back to my brother and his new wife their house and their FIOS and their Netflix OnDemand. I am gulping down great big episode blocks, wearing a me-shaped impression into the couch and facing the same dilemma nightly: Go to bed at a less-and-less responsible hour, or finish this two-parter? I am watching the 9th Doctor’s season from the beginning for the second time, I’m in the middle-end of David Tennant’s run, at the beginning *and* present for Matt Smith, and last night I started a Tom Baker movie. It’s doing things to me.
Two days in a row I’ve come into work and two different coworkers have asked with concern, “Are you okay?” And I am, really; I try not to start the shift in a bad mood. The problem is the commute. On the way into work I am hunting trolls with Finnish warriors who also play electric guitar and driving off cliffs to sail away on the great wings that fold out of my car’s roof and narrowly avoiding the sinuous grasp of sea monsters as I soar over the waters to searing guitar solos. And apparently it shows in my face as I disengage from my ImagineMobile and step into the daily grind. I wonder what they see in my expression as I punch in and push up my sunglasses. So yesterday I just kept going, inspired by the continuous loop of the Doctor Who theme wavering through my mind.
Yesterday I was a service droid, a robot programmed to accept tender in exchange for goods while providing exceptional service. I kept my voice well-modulated and pleasant. I used ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ near-excessively. I kept my brain attached only remotely, and at the end of the shift when I pulled it down from the clouds by its string I was still sane, and had garnered two separate compliments on my diction and one suggestion to go into voiceover work. It was so successful I actively planned the next day’s character while watching actual lightning brighten the sky as I drove home.
Today I was an alien undercover, and my God if it wasn’t the Giggle Loop shift all over again. I had to bite my tongue, the inside of my cheek and quickly look away to avoid bursting out into absurd, delighted laughter to the surprise and suspicion of the customers. It all worked so well, explaining away all the frustrations I have regularly. Customers didn’t hear me, or cut me off to ask their totals in the middle of me giving their totals, or didn’t understand my joke? Translator technology error. Customers indifferent or grouchy despite my pleasant demeanor? Immune to my empathy field. Dropping coins or having difficulty pulling bills from the drawer? Stupid stubby human fingers. I’m afraid it’s the most fun I’ve had at work in weeks.
There are an awful lot of people inside my head, and I’ve only met some of them. I’m telling stories or painting murals or riding a horse at full gallop into glaciers under a black sky studded with stars as a giant ringed planet rises over me like Earth’s moon. And I’m also packing up the car and taking off for Buffalo, or renting a cabin in Wyoming while doing freelance writing, or pulling over for a few hours’ rest on an empty Canadian highway on the way to Alaska. I’m everywhere but here, and apparently it’s starting to show. I have a few choices, I guess: Man up and shut up and keep reading the classifieds. Listen to something other than Scandanavian folk metal on the daily commute. Or wait for a blue box to show up in the parking lot some night while I’m taking out the trash.