Kyle Oldhafer is an aspiring writer and academic. He resides in Long Beach, California but will soon be based in Santa Barbara. His poetry and prose explores existential themes and the gritty aspects of humanity.
I have worried too much. Last night I sat at the dinner table confused. Yesterday I attended a dinner party at my boss’s home that ended at midnight. He is one of the strictest editors in the country, as The Crow’s Nest, the paper I write for, has a .00005 percent chance of acceptance. I can say that my journalism and I have always been abstract but never in my life have I felt more a stranger to my own body. I took a seat and looked at my hands. I found them awfully weird looking; that is when it all started. I tugged at my tie frantically and those sitting across the table gazed upon me as if I were alien. I started to sweat so I took off my blazer and hung it on the back of my chair. I felt the drip of sweat coming down my scalp, through my hair, tickling my forehead. I found it highly unsettling. Why is sweat liquid, I thought. What makes liquids liquid and why are there liquids, I thought. Why is it when I feel this sweat I know it is liquid, why is it I perceive sensations in this way, I thought. The sweat became more pronounced. My navy blue shirt turned black beneath my pits and chest. It was a professional event so I had no other option but to leave it on and sweat.
I started to shake my leg under the table and my unease heightened as the editor’s wife came over to pour some wine for everyone. As she went around the table and poured the wine, I sunk into a persistent observation of the wine while it flowed into each glass. It came to me that the bottle’s shape and its aesthetics were so random. The wine, such a deep color. Why red, I thought. Why do I even recognize it as red. I noticed that I was tearing down the prejudices I had that made it seem like I lived in order and structure. In that moment, I discovered that wine is random.
After wine was had I began to calm, until I cognized that the alcohol I had consumed was generating chemical changes in my body, resulting in a more mellow version of myself. I then proceeded to obsessively examine my thoughts. What are these thoughts, why am I having them, why do I think, and why can’t I stop thinking, I thought. For a still interval I became immediately distracted by the wooden table that lay before me, and I rubbed it subtly. I tilted my head in awe as if I saw something of great amazement for the first time. I told myself that it was merely just a slab of wood, and I rebelled against my own unawareness by retaliating, what makes it wood... why is it here... and why does it so happen to look and feel this way, brown and smooth.
Why does everything happen to be like this... why is it all this way, I thought. In a terrifying minute, I discerned that the universe and my perception of it is truly specific and chaotic, rather than consolidated under organization and utmost normality. As I continued to pluck the nuances of absurdity out of a standard dinner party, I found myself in continually ascending angst. I could not function for I was relapsing back into a state of debilitating pondering during the most simple of actions. I took a sip of water and paused myself, for in my consciousness I had to muse about the water’s peculiarity. I was scrutinizing my food more so than eating it, in which I was hungry. Then in the course of my meal, I felt a great illness come on. I succumbed to nausea, a dull headache that I can not explain. It radiated throughout the entirety of my skull. It was at this point my relentless anguish ceased, for what I see in retrospect is that the physical pain I felt was made more important by my body. It was instinctual human biology trampling over whatever thoughts my mind deemed insignificant.
I am not a whole person, a whole spirit... I am a sack of cells and molecular processes. I am not a product of freedom, I echo. I am a product of nature and its random tendencies, and all I can do with that actuality is accept it. My thoughts last night have rendered frivolous for I received naught but a sickness.