The human condition has us constantly face a struggle to accept how little we know. A unique perspective is enough to re-frame our complete understanding of our lives and the people in it. At any given moment there are countless ways in which we are missing the picture obvious to others.
At a café with a friend, a conversation about a person’s ability to change came up. Mike, the friend at the café, said that people lack the ability to change. That regardless of what the surface might seem like, the internal working of a person, their thoughts and feelings on what they are doing remain the same.
I disagreed. I’ve seen change in the most random or drastic of ways. So, I told him this story:
I knew a guy, 22. A composed individual, he never really broke the rules. He never stepped out of line. Because of this, his life was an endless cycle of following the rules and hating himself for being unable to break out. Self-loathing fueled madness consumed his moment to moment interactions, but he bottled that shit up. He bottled anything unacceptable to the rest of society.
While attending college on scholarship to be a criminal attorney, the way his father always wanted him to be, he worked in a law office. The pay was enough to afford him a car, a single bedroom apartment and enough play money to get that wide screen TV he never used. His tasks at the law office were small and simple, like filing, proofreading, and all the annoying phone call related things like scheduling and canceling appointments. And the worst of all, coffee runs.
Day in and day out, the activities repeated like clockwork, someone gave the order and the reaction was always the same, “How high sir?”
Same calls at the same times. The same cases with different faces. Different cases with the same faces.
“I’d like you all to meet Eliza,” on a Thursday morning, the office manager introduced the new intern, “She’ll be helping us out around here.”
“Now this story is getting interesting!” said Mike, excited I brought the love interest into the story.
Eliza. She stole the room.
This guy couldn’t seem to look away. He forgot to breath and gasped loudly, breaking the room’s concentration. Eliza couldn’t be more opposite to him. Red headed, impulsive, confident and intense, which he quickly learned. The middle of the day, she’s tasked with helping with the filing.
This guy was quiet and personal, but Eliza didn’t care. Less than a minute in, she tried to start a conversation. He ignored her for as long as he could, but before long her impulsivity joined the party. “I’ll keep talking if you don’t start,” she said.
He looked up at Eliza, half a smirk and an eyebrow arched. He asked what the point was, why it was so important that they interact more than what is required of the job. “Just because,” she said.
Needless to say, this girl broke the guy and they began to engage in meaningless dialogue on a regular basis. They became friends. Close friends. So close, in fact, that they began to date. This guy knew Eliza smoked pot often, drank every weekend, and once in a while took ecstasy. So long as it didn’t involve him.
Until it did.
Four months into dating, they’d been so blinded by each other that the stupid activities began to bleed into the rest of their lives. He began to smoke pot occasionally whenever Eliza did. She’d miss work, and he’d miss work. Before Eliza, he had a social drink here and there, but after meeting her he was up to five or six beers and a shot or two on weekends at whichever bar they landed in. He still managed to file correctly, still got the calls out whether they were late or not, and scheduled as if nothing was ever wrong, but the office manager and the attorneys he should have been helping were getting annoyed with his behavior. They were getting tired of his constant absence and the stacks of papers piling up.
He eventually got tired of hearing his name dropped in gossipy whispers and quit the job, after Eliza convinced him to. She quit, too.
“Interesting.” Mike said. He looked confused. I figured the story was convincing him otherwise so I continued to tell it.
Eliza moved in and for the following weeks continued to argue with the landlord. Eventually, they had to leave because of Eliza’s consistent arguing. Unable to find place as affordable, they landed in motel rooms for the following six months where things spiraled further out of control. He joined Eliza when she did ecstasy, he’d drink with her, smoke with her, party with her and fuck her every moment of every day for the six months.
His savings dried up and with it vanished Eliza. As if she never existed.
“Oh, whoa…” Mike said.
No one to call to find her, no known location she could have gone. She was simply not there one day.
He didn’t know what to do with himself. He found himself looking for a way out of the madness that his life became because of some random girl who came in, used him and left.
He bought midnight companions every night. The drugs weren’t helping anymore. His mind raced every second, of every minute, of every hour. Odd jobs kept his funds well enough to supply his habit of forceful forgetfulness. He started to inhale white powder ash mountains to replace the alcohol and other drugs, but hat stopped working, too.
Stuck buying drugs, fucking strangers, going to his shit job, going to sleep and repeating, he mentioned to his dealer that he wanted a change of pace. Something strong enough to pull him out of his head.
So he was handed a tiny vile with colorless liquid inside. “Through your veins.” said the dealer when asked how to use it. “Your head will be the least of your concerns after this.”
He used it.
For the first couple of weeks the grip the drug had on him overwhelmed all the senses and rendered him incapable of functioning. He could barely hold down a job or feed himself for the first months, but eventually he began to adjust to it and figured out how to tolerate his mundane life by using.
“This is still his life now,” I tell Mike.
“I see, I see,” he says.
“My point is, that everyone breaks and changes one way or another, one way or another. This straight arrow is the best example.” I take a sip of my fancy mocha latte, watching Mike’s face. He didn’t seem to struggle with being given an amazing example.
“Oh… Oh! I get it. You thought that story was about a guy headed somewhere in life losing it all? Or about a good hard working person becoming a bad drug addict?” Mike said.
“…Yes?” I say, unsure of where he’s going with this.
“You’re wrong. It’s the story of a guy addicted to handing control and decision making to someone else. First, it’s his father suggesting Law as a career path that lands him in a job he hates.
Second, following Eliza’s series of bad ideas.
And finally, submitting and allowing the drugs to continue making the choices for him since he had no one else left to follow,” he said.
“Nothing changed about this guy,” he pointed at me, “You are confused buddy. It’s a guy who was and still is allowing someone or something else take the lead regardless of what might happen to him in the process.”
I haven’t spoken to Mike since.