Hey team! I think you'd enjoy this a bit more if you read Today I am Apathy first. Thank you :)
He had been the most qualified applicant. I meant to interview him myself but a last minute trip to Minnesota in order to calm one of our authors had stolen that chance from me.
Jimmy had been the obvious choice for the new Copy Editor. In fact, he was over qualified, so I made them bump him a pay grade. He would probably be aiming for a higher position if his resume hadn’t been so light, but I am pretty sure I am to blame for that.
Not that I feel any guilt. It’s just a fact. Our relationship threw him from his original course, and it took him a while to regain his bearings.
I’d say the same for me except, well, I’ve always been a good sailor on rough seas.
He was across the banquet hall now, doing his best to take part in a small discussion with one of our researchers while his gaze constantly dragged to me. I wasn’t sure how to handle that kind of attention. Between the time, distance, and several very expensive therapy sessions, I’d put much of us behind me. Judging by the familiar, nervous way he was squeezing his left hand while he talked, he could not say the same.
And really, that makes sense. The ending of our relationship was very different for each of us. I still don’t fully know how it was for him, as we were many miles away. But on the floor of my mother’s kitchen the week of Thanksgiving, the final break did not go very smoothly at all.
I don’t remember anything before looking at my brand new thumb ring and noticing it was bent. In slow motion I saw the gray mark on the tile and knew the two were connected. Had I been slamming my hands against the floor?
“Audrey? Audrey tell me you’re okay. Say something.”
It was Jimmy’s voice on the cell phone a foot away from my shaking hands. I sat back and realized I wasn’t breathing. I took a huge gulp of air that burned my throat. Had I been screaming?
“Audrey! Say something right now or I’ll-”
“Oh shit thank God.”
“Jimmy I think I had a panic attack of some kind. I blacked out. When did I call you?”
“This is just a panic attack? You’ve got to be kidding me. This is ridiculous.”
“It’s not ridiculous. I’ll call you back, I need air.”
“No, no don’t you hang up on me again. I’m on my way and I-”
But I did hang up. Again? I wasn’t sure. All I was sure of was my head hurt, my hands hurt, and my ring was bent. I looked around the room cautiously. Momma’s favorite vegetable knife was on the tile with me, but it was clean. I checked myself all over just to be sure. I hated blood, and the thought that I’d accidentally nicked myself on a fallen knife almost made me sick.
There was a buzz. It was both in my head and also on the floor- Jimmy calling back. I didn’t answer. Let him suffer. Let him think the worst.
I tried to stand, realized my legs were weak. Oh damn I must be drunk. Did I drink? I checked the counters- yes, an empty glass with smears of red wine lips.
Momma’s Yorkie came in, sniffing all over. Sweet Bessy, she licked my face all over, cleaning up the tears and tickling me into a smile. Then she began to lick my fingers. There were minuscule lines of blood in the wrinkles of the knuckles she was cleaning. I must have slammed my fists against something really hard, but I saw no other marks around the kitchen. I squeaked out a thank you to the sweet pup. Thank God for old neighbors. It was late, and I was sure the Joneses had taken their hearing aids out hours ago. It was for the best that no one heard whatever I’d been screaming to make my throat so sore.
But that was all seven years, many shots of tequila, and like I said- several expensive therapy appointments ago. As the good Dr. Kern said, I’d had an episode of anxiety-induced memory loss. I found it easier to just say “the monster got loose” but he was all about the science. Either way, that wasn’t me anymore. I was not a young girl unsure of what she wanted, but a woman who knew what she needed. The monster was now just a purring tiger, placated with breathing exercises, a loyal social circle, and 75mg of Sertraline each morning. The elegant, mighty tigress of course had not left, but slept in the back of my mind, rarely wakened by the troubles of everyday life. In fact, rather than a caged competitor for my sanity, I had embraced her as an ally. I think that’s partially why I was the youngest Editor in Chief that Fey Publishing had ever employed- even in today’s world, it takes a few claw marks for a woman to get this far.
“Hey there’s the new boy- let’s get him over here so y’all can start badgering him,” Teddy Craig, the best and tipsiest boss I’d ever had, said as he stuck his long arm straight up to gesture Jimmy over.
I was surprised there was no rush of heat in my cheeks, no fear in my belly. I mentally searched around my whole system as Dr. Kern had taught me to, even prodding the tigress for response, and there was nothing. It appears I’d spent so much on this boy years ago, there was nothing left for him anywhere in me.
“There you are, Jim-bo! Meet your new keepers! HA!” Teddy guaffawed, pulling Jimmy into the circle of finely dressed business partners around us.
He was introduced to my comrades, Greg always the first to relax a newbie with a tease- “Nice to meet you, I’m Greg Sullivan, VP of Publications here. You must be the new copy editor, James. Or do you prefer Jim-bo?” He winked, sending Teddy into another round of happy snorting.
“Whichever works,” Jim smiled back, “just not Jimmy, that’s what my mom calls me when I’m in trouble.”
He then met sweet Khalid and strong Becca. Then me.
“And this!” Teddy smiled wide and slapped a shoulder on me hard enough to know it was time to call him an Uber, “is Ms. Audrey Jones, recently promoted to Editor in Chief! She’ll be the top of your totem pole, Jim. Audrey, your promised new copy editor!”
I could see he was tense. I tried to embody warmth and welcome.
“Hello Jim- nice to see you again.” I had to remember not to call him Jimmy. Apparently he didn’t go by that anymore.
I tried to make my voice inviting. I wanted him to know he was safe here, there was nothing between us, certainly nothing that would jeopardize his new job. Did he know I’d encouraged his choosing?
“Again? You two have met?” Khalid’s question was voiced as if to Jim, but he looked to me. His eyes were hot with concern. It was only a few weeks since he and I had begun a small affair, but his protection had been like a blanket around me since we’d become colleagues and friends years ago.
Jim resisted when I ended our handshake. I couldn’t decide if it was nerves or something else. “Yes,” I answered, “we were in college together. And you know how small a Liberal Arts department is at a top Mathematics school.” I smiled back at my Khalid, nodding slightly so he would know I was okay. I hoped he didn’t feel hurt that I had kept knowing our new employee to myself. There was nothing in my past left to carry on, so I hadn’t felt it necessary, but in this moment, it felt like I’d told a lie.
“A fellow Wolfpack! Atta boy!” Teddy took Jim by the shoulder as well, so now he was holding Jim and I the same way a referee might competitors before a boxing match. I’d put my gloves down long ago, so I shook Teddy off, laughing.
“To what I was saying-” I decided the best way to deal with this non-situation was to treat it as such. Besides, I needed to hear Becca’s take on other countries’s approach on sensitive topics for young readers. I really thought we should be looking into it, and I let that thought take over my frontal awareness. I was a professional, and if there was any worrying to do about Jim’s obvious awkwardness or Khalid’s nerves, I would do it later.
“Agreed,” Becca answered, ” but then again…”
And so life went on.
PASSION (noun): Strong and barely controllable emotion.
Okay, everyone in the class who has an anxiety disorder raise your hand! Everybody? Alright, great!
Congratulations, that means you are human in the 21st century. Literally it’s now called GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) because it is so freaking common. Don’t feel un-special, just know you’re not alone, peeps.
So yes, I was able to pull the information on anxiety-monster from a very personal place. However, I am not an Editor in Chief* nor do I work with an ex of any kind. But since we played on Jim’s interpretation of apathy, I thought it only fair to see the other side. The other side of apathy is passion, and the other side of Jim’s story is Audrey’s. My attempt was to make them NOT exact mirrors, as two stories from the same breakup rarely are. But we interpret so much of what people are thinking or feeling during our interaction with them, when in reality, they may not being feeling much about it at all.
This is both disappointing and relieving to me. See, I’m dramatic (hence the entire blog about my own writing) so I like the idea that other people think of me. On the other hand, however, the idea that they don’t think of me much at all means I can do what I want and it won’t even hit their notice-radar. That’s where the passion comes in- when we allow ourselves to react without thinking of the inner story line of someone else’s journey. Maybe you’re a part of it, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re a WAY different part than you thought. I DO have an ex that thinks he taught me what patience is, when really he taught me when you need to STOP waiting. And I’m sure what I think I taught him (future planning, actually doing homework) is not what he learned either.
And please note- this isn’t just on ex’s, it’s anybody that goes in or out of your life. Take the lesson, then keep on sailing. Some people are calypsos, but don’t mix them up with the ones that are just buoys.