No, really, put your money away. This round is on me.
So, as I started to tell you on the phone, I just don’t see myself staying at my job much longer. I mean, I have one of the biggest brains on the planet. What am I doing with it? Splashing around for a bunch of a-holes in fanny packs. I swim laps. I clear my blowhole. Mindless. I leap in an arc over the water. It’s nothing special. The best part of my day? Slapping my tail against the surface of the water and drenching those whiny 8-year-olds in the front row. “Oh, Mommy, the fishy got my souvenir T-shirt all wet and yucky!”
YO, BIG GUY! LEMME GET TWO SHOTS OF 1800!
In college, I thought exclusively about writing and traveling. I thought I’d swim from the Bering Strait to the southernmost tip of South America, then maybe cut across the Atlantic to, say, Madagascar. Spend a few years on the coast of Africa, who knows? Never went through with it, though. BARKEEP, CAN WE GET A COUPLE OF LIMES OVER HERE, WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE? The longer I stayed in a “real job,” the more I knew I could never turn back. When I met Elsie, I said to myself, “Wow, so this is what it’s like to be in love, to embrace the corniness of it all.” For a while, I really felt like I’d do anything for her. She was brilliant. She was ferocious in bed—a lot of cushion for the pushin’, which is how I like it. But that 5-ton female brought with her 5 tons of obligations. She wanted me to climb the corporate ladder, to attain leadership status in the pod. She never said so, exactly, but I knew it to be the case. Was I really that whale? Could I become that whale, even if I really wanted to?
At work, I tried to stay positive. My co-workers and I would giddily whisper about how so-and-so was fabricating her billables and how Flipper had hooked up with his secretary after the Christmas party. One guy was even getting softcore porn delivered to his office. National Geographic. As it turned out, there was something very comforting about all that gossip. Our daily lives were nothing short of madness. We were marine mammals living in giant pools in San Diego! And yet my co-workers and I could laugh at ourselves and, in that sense, transcend the boredom and meaninglessness of it all. At least for a while.
Then I felt all that change. I don’t know why, exactly. I’ve started feeling the weight of it all. My girlfriend. The job that forces me to bury my creative impulses. Once, for a class called Creative Nonfiction, I swam down to Scammon’s Lagoon during winter mating season and transcribed the simultaneous chatter of every gray whale, all in one continuous stream of unpunctuated prose: “Oh my God oh my click-click-click oh my (inaudibly low drone_) God I love you so much I just want to (squeak_) stare into your (hum, drone) big beautiful eyes forever click-click-click-click …” What happened to that writer? What would my life have been like if I had hit the road in search of new stories, instead of settling in San Diego and hanging on to old clichés? Do all my “what if” questions have to be in the past conditional? Why not the present? WHAT? NO, JUST KEEP MY TAB OPEN, PLEASE. Should I leave behind the job, the girlfriend to whom I’ve already dedicated so much of my adult life? NO, I SAID KEEP IT OPEN. I think I need to start answering some of these questions. YEAH, YEAH, IT WAS TWO HOEGAARDENS. After all, I can’t stay in San Diego forever.