“What the hell do you think you’re trying to do?”
I’m approached by a young man. One glance reveals the nature of this beast – no doubt he’s a type one old money Ivy League product hailing from the Northeastern regions of the country. He is wearing a white polo and khakis, his medium length blond hair is permed to the side, Ray-Ban’s on his head. I can smell the overwhelming stench of some expensive cologne he probably received from his girlfriend’s family as a graduation gift from Yale. His fingers have the scars of cracking one too many lobsters in his life; his Blackberry is in his belt holster, ready to be deployed at any potential fear of market fluctuation.
I’m crouched in the far corner of a room, facing the white walls, furiously trying to organize the work in front of me. I look like a mess. I haven’t shaved in days and my tired eyes are blood-red. My white cap and my light green button up shirt have numerous salt stains from continual perspiration. My khaki shorts are stained and dirty. Drops of sweat fall on the papers that I’m shuffling back and forth; reorganizing; taking notes here and there.
“Hey guy, I’m talking to you. What are you doing?” he asks me again. I turn to face the beast and I give him a hard stare. Little does he know or understand that these papers I’m dealing with are my only possession. These papers I’m shuffling are literally my life. This is serious stuff! I pause. Hmm. The beast probably thinks I escaped the ward, I think to myself. It’s no secret that my behavior is frowned upon in everyday society. He’s here to round me up! Cautiously, I turn back to my work, keeping him in my periphery. I’m striving to organize these papers in the right order, dammit. I’m seeking peace and harmony in a disheveled and disgruntled pile. No luck so far, but I’m working on it, so leave me be man!
The beast hovers around me. He moves in closer. I can hear his heavy breaths. I’m starting to grow apprehensive; I had no intention of ending up in shark- infested waters. The creature persists. “Listen, I’m going to ask you one more time, what do you think you’re doing?”
I stop shuffling my papers. Without looking up, I scowl. The tell tale signs of an upcoming confrontation are upon me. The heat in the room is rising quickly. It’s sticky, the sweat is adding humidity. I’m losing my cool. My mind is starting to feel warped and stretched like a rubber band; the tension is becoming unbearable. The beast is still here, breathing heavier now. Sensing that understanding with this vicious creature will not be met any time soon, I look up at him and mumble, “Dammit man, leave it be. Move on, find another prey.”
It was a mistake. The type of animal I am dealing with has little room for common sense or sensibility. Even in his days as a toddler, the creature was taught to get what he wants; his teeth are kept sharp to devour any competition.
My response has infuriated the beast; if I don’t move quickly I’ll surely be savagely consumed. He is now within a few feet of me. I can see his veins bulging out of his swollen neck, chocked off by his polo that is wet and dripping with sweat. His head is blood red, swollen to triple the size. The creature’s sunglasses are on the floor and he has grown dark, heavy eyebrows. His ravenous eyes are protruding out of his head. I see food scraps stuck in between his sharp teeth. His jaw is ready to snap at me at any moment now. I stare up at him with fear and awe. The tension is making it hard to keep a straight head. The temperature is becoming unbearable. I’m sweating what seems like buckets of water while my mouth is wide open with shock. The room seems to be melting. It’s changing color into a deep, dark hue of blood-red.
The beast inches closer and I now feel his heavy breath upon me. “I won’t ask you again, what are you doing here?” he roars. I freeze. The few small gasps of air I can manage are tainted with the foul smell of rotten animal carcasses, surely the creature’s last meal. I’m tucked away in my corner, sweating and shaking. I’m weak and barely conscious. In a moment I will be eaten alive and forgotten.
Somewhere deep within my brain, a neuron goes off, probably triggered by a last-ditch physiological response to keep me alive – an adrenaline rush. I recognize that I have to make a move fast. These are dire straits, but I have to keep my head straight. Eyes on the prize, I tell my shaken self, it is too soon yet for my downfall. In this blood red pressure-cooking room where I am cornered by a vicious beast, there are no prizes left. I tell myself that I’m not quite ripe enough to eat and I’m not old enough yet to spoil. In other words, I realize I still have time before these creatures get me!
In one fast swoop I gather most of my papers and crawl through the legs of the beast, who is now wearing a bib covered in drool. Before he realizes I’ve moved I’m already on my feet. As he turns his head in confusion, I look at this hideous creation one last time. I give the beast a quick kick to the behind, toppling him over. I don’t look back and I escape with my sanity in tact and my papers in my hand. A close call.
And yet, there was never a beast present at all. Who or what was I truly escaping? The creature never existed. No polo wearing Ivy Leaguer ever questioned my business. There were no shuffled papers or scarred lobster fingers. No sharpened teeth. Yet there was fear. There was a lot of sweat. There were meltdowns and close calls. There was the self doubt. A general confusion and the apprehension of catastrophic failure. What am I doing, I’d endlessly ask myself. But there was also the determination to push on and the unwillingness to quit. The resolve to please myself and not others. There was a heightened sense of self confidence and an unjust headfirst mentality. And in the end, it was exactly the balance between the two opposing forces, the push of willpower and resolve and the pull of fear and anxiety that kept me grounded and on my feet, a system of checks and balances ensuring that I keep moving in the right direction.