And Then I Thought I was a Fish

IDENTIFYING INFORMATION: Peter Hunt Welch is a 20-year-old single Caucasian male who was residing in Bar Harbor, Maine this summer. He is a University of Maine at Orono student with no prior psychiatric history, who was admitted to the Acadia Hospital on an involuntary basis due to an acute level of confusion and disorganization, both behaviorally and cognitively. He was evaluated at MDI and was transferred from that facility due to psychosis, impulse thoughts, delusions, and disorientation.

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Observations of a Straight White Male with No Interesting Fetishes

Ever wondered how to justify your own righteousness even while you're constantly embarrassed by it? Or how to make a case for your own existence when you contribute nothing besides nominal labor to a faceless corporation that's probably exploiting children? Are you clinging desperately to an arbitrary social model imposed by your parents and childhood friends? Or screaming in terror, your mind unhinged at the prospect of an uncaring void racing to consume the very possibility of your life having meaning?

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This is the story of a boy, a girl, a phone, a cat, the end of the universe, and the terrible power of ennui.

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24 Hours of Privilege

Composed on the 1st of July in the year 2014, at 9:23 AM. It was Tuesday.

This is the approximated average of what goes through my brain every day.

9:00 AM

My iPhone alarm goes off. I hit snooze, secure in the knowledge any catastrophe severe enough to affect my work in a way I couldn’t deal from a random computer would be severe enough that I’d have to stay home anyway.

9:09 AM

My iPhone alarm goes off. I hit snooze, secure in the knowledge that I do white-collar work for a tech startup, so I can get there, you know, morningish, as long as I’m sober.

9:18 AM

My iPhone alarm goes off. I hit snooze, because… I dunno. So comfy.

9:53 AM

Dammit. Slept through the snooze for half an hour. I really was going to be on time today. I glance out the window to see if the weather could excuse working from home. Sunny. Damn. May as well get to it.

9:55 AM

Because nobody cares what I look like, I un-self-consciously pull on the jeans and t-shirt I threw on the floor eight hours ago. If anyone notices, they’ll chalk it up to my manly laziness. One minute later, I finish my morning routine by chugging a liter of free tap water, waving a toothbrush at my face, and glancing in the mirror to make sure my hair isn’t sticking up. Hair looks good. I congratulate myself on being tall.

9:57 AM

I glide past my mailbox, which is probably full. I check it about once a week, pull out the mail, flip through it, and stuff it back in, unless it’s too full, in which case I just carry a handful straight to the trashcans outside my building. I know that no piece of mail without a handwritten address will affect my life in any meaningful way. I don’t rely on physical correspondence with any private or government agency to get my food and utilities, and my creditors can suck it. If it’s important, someone will call me.

10:05 AM

Halfway to the train. Only have to dodge a couple of slow people today. Why the hell can’t everybody move as quickly and gracefully as tall and healthy 30-year-olds in comfortable shoes?

10:07 AM

A loud conversation signals danger to me. I hate loud people. Just trying to draw attention to themselves. Why can’t they just accept the natural respect granted them by other human beings? Doesn’t everybody get that? I glance in the direction of the noise and see the conversationalists are black. Damn. I don’t hate black people, I hate loud people. But black people in America tend to be louder. No, dammit, certain cultures tend to be louder. I dislike loud white people too. Like Italians. Is that racist? They’re white, so it’s cool right? What’s with loud people? Is it a cultural thing? Economic? Why can’t everybody just shut up so I don’t have to think about this? Jesus, I don’t care what you need to do to get by in your neighborhood, just keep it out of my brain space.

10:09 AM

Rounding the White Castle. Still hung up on whether or not I’m racist. I have black friends. Bah, classic excuse for a racist. I repeat the word “nigger” in my head several times to be sure it still makes me uncomfortable. It does. Good. Not racist. I stop thinking about it.

10:12 AM

I swap my shades for my glasses in the subway for easier reading on my Kindle, which I just loaded up with another batch of random books. People don’t read enough. Why doesn’t everybody have a kindle with $3000 of literature on it? As I put on my glasses, it occurs to me that people still associate glasses with intelligence. My genetic shortcomings are advantageous to my career.

10:20 AM

On the train, looking over 90 percent of everybody’s heads. I’m still feeling bad about going off on a long-rehearsed rant about a former employer being a “short, awkward sociopath” to a friend who was slightly shorter than the aforementioned employer. I learned at OkCupid that height is for men what weight is for women, and I knew that some men were uncomfortable with being short, and my former employer had a very tall friend, so in my occasional rage fantasy, I spout this to his face as a remark to leverage possible self-image issues. My friend, without blinking, says, “He’s not that short,” and I feel like an ass. It takes me back to another friend who was standing on a chair for a show and said, “So this is what it’s like to be tall,” and I looked at him and realized I didn’t even know he was short. I don’t notice anyone’s height unless they’re at least four inches taller than me. I just see “people my height,” “giant freaks,” and “everybody else.” It didn’t occur to me people might be concerned about their height until I was in my late 20s.

10:40 AM

At Starbucks, reading various things off signs and menus and newspapers while I stand in line. As long as something is mostly in English, I can read it. I grew up with people reading and explaining complex literature, in houses that had multiple rooms dedicated to storing books. There are few topics of nonfiction or styles of prose my upper-middle class childhood didn’t expose me to, and that left me with an enormous vocabulary and a broad system of background knowledge with which to tackle almost anything. Jeez, doesn’t everybody have that? Childhood is for reading, right? I shake my head, then use my over-educated middle-class vocabulary to read the back of a CD entitled “Music for Little Hipsters.”

10:42 AM

I smoke a cigarette outside my office. Smoking is the only thing I do anymore that makes me feel awkward around strangers, and my office is on a particularly bad street for that, with a trickle of people wandering by with kids and dogs and a never-ending series of trucks making deliveries. I hide my cigarettes from children, try not to blow smoke in people’s faces, and stand in an area calculated to annoy the smallest number of people. I know it’s hopeless, since my bouts with quitting taught me that a normal nose can smell a cigarette from half a block away, but I try to be a good little smoker, because I know I’m killing myself and I should quit and I don’t want to bother anyone. At the same time, I’m waiting for some asshole to say, “You know cigarettes are bad for you?” or, “That’s disgusting,” so I can tell them to fuck off, because I know at least a few people are thinking it, and at least one person shoots me a dirty look every day. I spend most of my cigarette breaks in this state of being apologetic and angry at the same time. Must suck to feel that way about something you have no control over, amirite?

10:46 AM

Made it to the office, checking email. No emergencies. Next, in order, I check The Doghouse Diaries, xkcd, smbc, what-if.xkcd, Facebook, Twitter, and reddit. Gotta ease into a desk job, you know?

11:00 AM

Time for the 11:00 AM shit. I hear regularity is a sign of good health, which boggles my mind, considering my lifestyle, and especially my past lifestyle. I guess it helped to be born into a family with no genetic or historical markers indicating susceptibility to any known disease. I play my turn in Scrabble on my phone and wash up.

11:10 AM to 1:50 PM

Work. It’s generally not that hard, despite it being a job that evolved out of a hobby. I developed lots of hobbies while frittering away the seven years of on-and-off college my parents paid for me to occasionally attend, so odds were one of them would turn into money. I was finding myself, you know?

2:00 PM

Lunch! I toy with the idea of picking up a sandwich and eating it on my desk, but decide to do my usual routine of sitting down at a restaurant and reading for an hour over a gourmet meal and a glass of wine, because I can. I bring up Yelp and peruse restaurants. I’ve been searching for the perfect meatball for the last few years, because I found it once in a Holiday Inn on 31st street. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed, and nothing else has passed muster since. I suspect they were veal, which troubles me morally. I have time to think about the morality of my eating habits, so might as well. Unless I accidentally find the perfect meatball and start suspecting it’s veal and adopt a Google No Evil policy. I look longingly at a few veal recipes, but can’t bring myself to consume a tortured animal with foreknowledge. I feel good about myself. I decide on an Irish beef stew, pack up my Kindle, and head out.

3:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Work, chit chat, a dash of Facebook. A great deal of chatter in the IRC chatroom, equal parts mutual tech support, politics, and mom jokes. We joke about how diverse we are: we have an Asian, an Indian, and a couple of black people, although one of them is Canadian so he doesn’t really count. Hell, we even have two girls. In a PROGRAMMING chatroom. Look at our goddamn rainbow of hands across Benetton.

8:10 PM

On the train home, wondering what I’ll look like when I get old. Aging well so far, despite the smoking. If I quit, I could probably attract grad students in my late 50s as long as they had daddy issues. I pause for a moment to consider labeling uncountable relationships as daddy-issue situations, because of course “daughter issues” would be creepy. Seems like a complicated thing to think about after a long day in front of a computer. I stop thinking about it when an unusual number of attractive women get on the train at Union Square, and I have to focus on trying not to eye-rape them, because that would be rude. I congratulate myself on overcoming this struggle. At no point do I concern myself with if and how people are looking at me.

8:30 PM

Walking home from the subway, enjoying the fantasy of someone attacking me so I can kung-fu them into recognizing that I have taught them an important lesson about dignity. Of course this is just a fantasy because I’ve never been attacked and don’t expect to be. I’ve walked through dark factory parking lots a mile from the nearest streetlight and the worst that’s happened is somebody told me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the facility. I can’t recall ever being in a place where I was scared because of the way I look. Once I was seeing a girl who lived in Harlem, and when I got off the subway I looked around and thought, “Wow, I’m the only white person I can see. So this is how black people feel in Maine. Neat!”

9:00 PM

I’m on my second glass of wine at the bar. It’s on the tab that I run once a month, that I’m allowed to have because whenever somebody mentions it’s hitting mid-triple digits, I can pull out a card and pay it, due to the hobby-job I complain about that pays me more money than most of the people I know because the market is demanding people who can make birds fly into pipes. Nobody has considered me a threat to their business since I cut my hair.

10:00 PM

I arrive home with my backup bottle of wine, since I need to get home before the Chinese delivery place closes. I know no one will judge me for the wine besides my parents, because I’m doing stuff for the economy or something. I have a 10 to 8 job: I’m contributing. Doing my part. Where’s the wine opener?

10:30 PM

I’m trying to decide what to turn on: Xbox, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Apple TV, Nintendo, or Ouya. I’ve actually run out of toys to buy. I congratulate myself on my restraint. I feel like I should use my Xbox more, since I bought it to deal with the emotional trauma of a bunch of people getting fired at my old job. Not me, of course. Can’t buy an Xbox when you’ve just lost your job. I bought some indie games to support indie developers, because that justifies everything. I download Oblivion, and commence the noble pursuit of playing a game on the gigantic TV I bought to prove I was an adult.

11:46 PM

Getting kind of late. I brush my teeth and congratulate myself on getting to the hygiene part of the evening before the evening turned into wee hours. I laugh at the phrase “wee hours” because I went to some liberal arts schools and we always laughed about the wee hours when we were crushing our pills and smoking our joints. The word “lamentable” echoes in my head, and I feel proud of knowing what it means, because I went to high school with people who didn’t.

12:30 AM

I smoke a cigarette and look at the letter tacked to my wall from Jose Armando Vasquez Lopez. He’s a child I briefly sponsored through Children International. My debit card expired during this sponsorship. I tell myself I didn’t know it expired, but I’m lying. I had the right intentions, didn’t I? Somebody else sponsored him after me, before I got the chance to write back. Not my fault, I was giving away money, wasn’t I? I feel like a bastard every time I see it, but I don’t take it off the wall. I did something, briefly, and here’s my proof. Also, it reminds me to guilt myself. I congratulate myself on being a good person.

1:12 AM

Definitely working from home tomorrow. Need to put the finishing touches on an essay displaying the self-awareness that totally excuses me from being complacent in the system of extortion and slavery that produces most of my toys. As long as you know your ironic t-shirts are produced by child labor, that’s cool, right? It’s just a worldlier irony.

1:34 AM

I consider going off grid for a week. Because the grid is the problem, and I can leave it for a few days and find myself again. Because there will always be a job waiting for a tall straight white boy who knows python is both a snake and a language. I can take time away from it all, because I don’t need to scramble at the hint of protein. I don’t need to worry about next week because there will be a safety net for me, no matter what I did, no matter where I am. I’m the all-American boy anyone would weep for if I ended up on the back of a milk carton.

2:04 AM

I feed my cats and give them catnip. They reward me with purrs. I put Buffy on Netflix and fall asleep to an episode of season 5. I consider shaving, but I’m a bit drunk, and it won’t affect my job, and I’m just attractive enough to not have to think about how attractive I am.

9:00 AM

My iPhone alarm goes off. I hit snooze, because I don’t have to give a shit. I congratulate myself on not caring.

Whoa! A keyboard that hooks right up to a printer?

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.73! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.