1. Surfacing – Part 1

An excerpt from the book I’ve been working on – tentatively entitled Countdown to a Meltdown. No trigger warnings yet. That comes later.


jellyfish-risingAs though emerging from beneath a deep pool of dark, silent water, I feel my mind starting to wake. Upward I float, from the murky depths of sleep… my heavy horizontal body losing its sense of anchoring density, a light shimmering above me, drawing me up, drawing… drawing… coaxing me to the surface. I rise like a jellyfish… gently rising to the light above me, my tentacles hanging loose and wavy in the currents of receding sleep.

The first thoughts that push at the edge of my awareness are faint, but persistent. Indistinct. Noncommittal. Steadily building. Murmur… Mutter… Mumble… They echo like lone footsteps in a distant, empty hall, and I cannot make out any distinguishing features among them, any train of deliberate thought that grabs my focus.

Gradually, the thoughts come clearer. The day awaiting me. The day ahead. No words… just images. Feelings. Sensations. The flow of the day – like the flow of all other days – taking shape tangibly in my cinematic mind.

What I have to start today as a computer programmer at a small local eCommerce company. What I have to get done. Tasks at work. Meetings to attend. How my day will likely evolve, given the duties I have and the responsibilities I must fulfill. It all plays out in my mind like a long-familiar documentary that’s both historical and predictive.

It’s prescriptive, too. I sense the things I did not wrap up the day before. Now… I must complete my coding… I must finish that documentation… I must test the results of my work…. I must check in with the boss about my progress.

The images give way to thoughts. The thoughts became louder, sharper, more intent. My list of tasks acquires sub-tasks:

  • Documentation.

  • Finalize the summary of the problem statement.

  • Double-check the step-by-step flow of the program I’m designing.

  • Fill in the blanks in the code samples and double-check my logic.

  • Testing. Of course. Testing.

  • Make sure that my development environment is fully updated from source control, so I’m not testing the wrong version of the code and solving non-issues.

  • Write down my step-by-step process for future testing.

  • Log the bugs I find in the database.

  • Make sure I go from start to finish in my testing cycles without interruption.

  • Check in with the boss.

  • Make sure he has an updated list of all that I’ve accomplished this week.

  • Email him the list and make sure to follow up over the course of the day so it’s on his radar.

  • Make sure he knows why it’s taken me this long to complete the documentation.

My orienting list fleshes itself out in my mind, and the day ahead unfolds in my head, fully textured with clarity of thought and rich sensory detail. I see my cubicle awaiting me at the technology company where I work, I see myself walking through the motions of the day. I feel the intermittent flow of hot/cold air from the HVAC duct above my desk. I feel the floor underneath me bounce, as someone passes me in a hurry. I see my boss striding hastily across the office and hear myself calling to one of my coworkers who sits across the way. I hear the overhead sounds of white-noise air conditioning and the buzz of fluorescent lights… the hurried bustle of the sales team… the sound of the company president’s voice booming from my corner office not far from where I sit. I see the room flooded in bright, unsparing light… I see myself standing up and looking out the window on the other side of the 5-foot-high oatmeal-colored fabric-covered wall of my cubicle and catch glimpses of the outside world that’s been there the whole time, unbeknownst to me.

I haven’t yet stirred from the bed, but already my day has begun.

I open my eyes, and the bedroom slowly starts to come into focus. I look over at the clock on the bedside stand, and a sudden surge of irritation rushes through me.

It’s only 5:00 a.m. I need to get back to sleep.

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