What do you think of when you hear the word “Isolation”?
It really all depends on who is asked, I suppose. Some people consider isolation one of the worst things that could happen to you. The fear of being alone. The darkness that can encircle you when you’re lost. A ship at sea, hoping desperately for that lighthouse to lead it to shore.
And then, there are those that look at it the other way. Hiding away from the troubles that bog you down in life. Escapism. Vacations from reality. Just look at all those artists that hide away, a cabin in the woods, where they are released from restraints and can concentrate whole-hearted on their work. Some of the greatest artistic works have blossomed from seeds of isolation.
I suppose I fall in the latter category, myself. The thought of isolation has led me to where I am now. My apartment may not exactly be an oasis in the desert, far from any forms of human life. But I’ve made due.
According to the notches on my door frame, etched into the cheap wood framing with the blade-finger of my Swiss Army Knife, It’s been thirty-three days since I’ve sealed myself away. Contained myself in my own inner sanctum of sorts. The only way I can even gauge time is by the sunlight I allow to sneak in through the tiny crack between the boards on my window.
Thirty three days, is that all? You’d be surprised how long that can actually feel when you’re cut off from everything and everyone. Isolation has a way of morphing your perspective of time. It feels like a few lifetimes ago when I began my little project.
The idea itself was sparked simply by walking past a news stand. One of those tiny booths with all the magazines and papers. Row after row of River Fisherman’s Digest, Class Act Dining, Sports Illustrated. Shit, there is even a monthly magazine dedicated to cheese. Fucking cheese!
And right there, next to that waste of publication space, was the local newspaper. I don’t know why I even bothered glancing, maybe out of instinct? Self-preservation. Better make sure the headline doesn’t read “Rape Aliens From Neptune Seeking Young Males To Carry Their Seed!” or something that could seriously mess up my day-to-day.
But yes, the local paper. The headline actually made me cringe. Almost as if it was a natural reflex to my brain being sucker-punched. The bold print was really that staggering to me. There, at the top of the main page, where the most important of the important news should be, was this:
“Scientists Prove Fast Food Shortens Life Expectancy”
There it is, folks. The crowning achievement of the last 24 hours. Supposedly intelligent, college graduates with large I.Q.s and even larger paychecks have used what I can only assume to be some kind of Federal Grant money, rooms full of expensive equipment straight out of an episode of Stargate, and many man hours just to let you know that, yes, eating greasy burgers and chili-cheese fries isn’t good for you. Thank God they let me know!
Now, let me tell you a bit about myself. I grew up in a suburban household with a mother who worked the phones at a dental office and a father who refilled people’s oil at Manny’s Car Surplus. I spent most of my formative years reading The Incredible Hulk comic books and wanking off to Asian porn on the internet. I graduated high school at 18, like most people, with a 3.2 GPA. I snatched up a Liberal Arts degree. And, like most who carried that prestigious degree, I proceeded to get a job at Starbucks. And there I’ve been for six years.
That’s me. Chris Burton. 24 years old. Not smart, not particularly good at anything outside of making paper cranes out of restaurant napkins. And yet, I’m more than certain that I could tell you that fast food isn’t good for you. And I could have done it without years of lab work.
This is where we stand as a nation. Instead of working towards curing diseases or stopping world hunger, we’d rather file all our achievements under the “Thank You Captain Obvious” heading. It drives me insane, watching our priorities go down the shitter. Celebrity news. Reality TV. Public Interest nonsense about dogs saving old people from burning buildings. A world built around cute anecdotes to tell at your next Oscar party. It’s enough to make your throat fill with the acidic taste of stomach bile.
I retained that line of thinking throughout my work shift. And if you’ve ever worked at a Starbucks, or in customer service at all really, you know that your “Lack Of Faith In Humanity” bucket can be filled up pretty quick in an eight hour shift. It’s especially painful to hear people place coffee orders that sound more like a Shakespearean soliloquy. That analogy surprise you? Remember: 3.2 GPA, folks. I did pretty well in my English courses.
It wasn’t until the walk home that the plan began to fix itself in my brain. Pushed in by a bulldozer of hatred for the mundane and obnoxious aspects of Americana, and cemented into the foundation by a lack of a social life. The plan was simple: stop exposing myself to it. Completely.
I would simply board myself up in my studio apartment and ignore humanity for the duration of my stay on this plain of existence. And that’s exactly where I am now. Thirty three days in, and I don’t miss billboards, sports scores, conversations about fishing, none of it. Not a damn thing.
I suppose you’re wondering how I expect to stay like this? What about bills, rent, things like that, right? Well, I was getting to that!
I may have left out the part where I’m sitting on twenty million dollars. A major detail, yes, but one that I didn’t want to lay out there immediately. It’s amazing how different people treat you when you hold a minor fortune in your bank account.
And how does a Liberal Arts major slinging coffee to yuppy business men in power suits make that kind of money? The same way beer swelling, coon hunting NASCAR fans do. Powerball. Some say guns are the great equalizer. I beg to differ. The Powerball can take you out of your studio apartment above a Korean Nail Salon and slap you smack-dab in the middle of that gated community. You know, if you wanted it to.
Or you could put that money in the bank, order Die Hard 2 on Netflix, and fall asleep eating rocky road ice cream with your cat. You could return to work the next day, act like you’re not capable of buying everything they have there and throwing it in a river (the thought had occurred), and ask your shift manager to politely tell the news crews to shove their cameras up their ass.
That’s what I did. And it felt great. That’s the problem with people who win the lottery. They just spend it all and end up back where they started. I don’t need a Gold-and-Jewel encrusted something-or-other. I don’t want a giant mansion with rooms I can’t even find without the aid of a map. I just want to know that I have the option to do abso-fucking-lutely nothing.
Little did I know that three weeks later, I would be playing that trump card.
I did use some of the money. To buy planks of wood, nails, and a plethora of assorted canned goods. One of those giant “Lovsac” beanbag chair things from the mall. And about forty substantially large jigsaw puzzles. Even a few of those 3-d ones of famous landmarks.
It only took a few hours to board up all my windows and doors, making sure to leave enough space for the previously-mentioned sunlight to pour in. It didn’t take much effort to arrange for all my bills, rent, heat, electricity, etc. to be automatically paid for directly from my savings. And it sure as shit wasn’t hard for me to quit my job. In fact, I used a little money for that as well.
Did you know you can still hire planes to sky-write stuff for you? Did you know it takes one of those pilots only a few short minutes to write “Hey John, Fuck Yourself. I Quit. –Chris”?
Everything was taken care of. And so far it’s worked out just fine. I’m currently in the small two-room studio apartment I’ve lived in since I was 19, slouched over, naked, in my giant purple beanbag chair, surrounded by cans of beans and half-finished Styrofoam versions of the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building. My cat is asleep on top of a 3000-piece picture of some flowers I spent all last week working on. I can’t walk five feet without tripping over another crate of collectable copies of X-Men and Iron Man. It’s like a teenage dream come true. Without the bus full of slutty cheerleaders. Although I could probably have that arranged…
That’s what my life has become. A hermit in the middle of a large metropolitan area. Sitting in his bomb shelter, protected against the fallout of human stupidity. A Nintendo DS loaded with shitty RPGs, enough fantasy novels to make a D&D nerd shit himself, and a cat that will chase a laser pointer for hours on end with hilarious results. Finding a life in the lack thereof.
I have no idea how long this will last. I’m sure eventually I’ll get bored of it. I already somewhat have. But perhaps that’s good. Maybe you need to be bored in order for your mind to truly wake up. Maybe that’s what happens to all those artists, in the middle of the wilderness. They don’t find some profound understanding. They simply get bored enough to hit a catatonic state. It’s then that their brain kicks in, a defense mechanism, and slaps them with inspiration. The most beautiful song, the most profound painting, the most spectacular novel.
Not that I’m expecting any of that. Maybe I’m just hoping to find a way to return to the realm of man. Maybe I’m just waiting to figure out the variable in my life’s equation that’ll balance out the annoying things my mind picks up on everyday. Maybe I’m just waiting to die, content with doing things my own way and at my own pace.
Maybe I’m just answering that question, about isolation. Like those ground-breaking scientific minds that figured out a McDonald’s apple pie a day doesn’t keep the doctor away, maybe I’m just running a little experiment. Maybe I’ll come out of this with my own news headline:
“Local Man Discovers Isolation Is Good For You.”
Or maybe I’ll slip and crack open my skull, and they’ll find me several years later having been eating by my cat.
I have no idea. But how is that any different from anyone else’s life?
For now, I’m just going to crack open a Dr. Pepper, read some Lovecraft, and not put on any pants. I’ll see where it goes from there.