The Year Alex Adamley Refused To Leave His House
It was Good Morning America that finally sent Alex Adamley over the edge one morning in mid-July. His alarm had gone off at six a.m. sharp that morning and with some groaning and muttered cursing, he had heaved himself out of the king size bed and shuffled down his stairs and into his kitchen, where, mind still clouded with sleep, he began to navigate the mechanics of getting some coffee. Grab the pot, get water. Fill the machine. (Laura had wanted them to get a Keurig, but Alex had never wanted to spend the money.) Reach up into the cupboard, find a filter. Then, coffee. He flipped open the bag and glanced inside. With a shrug, he upended the remaining contents into the filter and turned the machine on.
Alex was not having the best month ever. His girlfriend, Laura, had dumped him last week. He was pretty sure he was about get fired and every morning, he flipped on the television to find either bad news (riot, terrorist attack, police shooting- take your pick) or entirely superficial news (the latest celebrity ‘who gives a damn and why does this qualify as news’ feud). Increasingly, it seemed to Alex that the world was heading straight to hell in a handbasket and the rubble of his personal and professional life was following in its wake.
The one shard of light, the one piece of good news- if it could be called good news- was that his financial situation was pretty generous. Thanks to a generous inheritance from his grandparents, he owned his townhouse outright. He had no student loans and plenty of savings he could lean on- with care and discipline of course,
Enough coffee finally brewed for a cup, Alex grabbed a mug and poured himself a measure. He always drank the first cup of the day without cream or sugar. Just black. He found himself preferring the taste the older he got, or maybe the gloomier the world around him seem to get. It was bitter, acrid and tasted delicious. He replaced the pot, heedless of the few drops that splattered into the empty space where it had been, sizzling in the heat of the machine and walked into his living room, where, as he always did, he sat down and turned on the television to see what was going in the world before he headed outside.
“This morning on Good Morning America, horror in Texarkana as a town reels from a devastating school bus crash that left twenty two children dead. We’re also live from the Pacific Northwest as a rattled region takes stock following the first major quake in the area in decades. All this and more, this morning on Good Morning America.”
Alex set his mug down and sat very still for a long moment. Again. Another day of chaos, death and despair in the world. Natural disasters everywhere. Some tragedy or horror. It never seemed to stop. Would it ever stop? What the hell happened to those days when you’d wake up and there’d be some concert in the park or something? Or some celebrity chef would come by and make fritatta or some other damn thing no one in their right minds would cook? Where were the cute, superficial fluff stories like the ones about a giraffe with three legs or a little girl that raised enough money to get someone a new kidney? What the hell happened to good news?
“Fuck this shit,” he said aloud to the empty room. He stood up, feeling awake and alive for the first time in weeks- a sudden burst of energy vibrating through him. He walked back upstairs and into the small office that he and Laura had, until last week, been talking about turning into a guest bedroom. He logged into his computer and checked his bank account. He did some math in his head and then stood back up, his mind made up.
He walked back downstairs to the living room, Good Morning America still delivering the usual litany of doom, including live shots of the crash site of the bus- police tape still fluttering in the background and plenty of uniformed officers and first responders moving through what had to be a still active scene. Alex fought down the urge to vomit. Why not just show the twisted, burnt corpses scattered across the road? This was obscene. This was horrible. He sat back down and picked up his coffee mug again taking a long pull from it before setting it back down on the coffee table in front of him and picking up his phone.
He opened the camera on his phone, switched the view to look at his face and switched the mode to video and hit record.
“Hi, everyone. Some of you know, some of you don’t, but my name is Alex Adamley and I’ve decided that I’m just not going to leave my house any more.
My job sucks. My boss is a world class prick who couldn’t manage his way out of a wet paper bag with a rock- by the way Vinny, consider this my resignation. I quit.
My girlfriend of two years dumped my ass for some damn reason or another. Well, I know the reason. She wanted a $13,000 wedding ring and I’m sorry, but my ass can’t afford that. That’s nearly a down payment on a house, which would be far more practical than a ring with the divorce rate being what it is. So, she left me. No big ass rock, no girlfriend.
Every morning, I come downstairs, make some coffee and turn on the television and what do I see? Death, destruction, horror and despair. And I’m tired of it. Can anyone remember a day when there wasn’t bad news of some kind? Can anyone remember a day when things were just normal, boring and well, regular? It seems like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, so I quit.
I quit the world. I’ve got plenty of savings in the bank and can probably dig up a new job here in the next few months, but for now, I quit the world. No more. I’m staying in here. The world can continue riding the express train to hell without me for awhile.”
Then, Alex Adamley hit ‘upload’ and put his phone down on the coffee table, feeling quite pleased with himself and then, picking up the remote he had placed on the couch cushion beside him, began to flip through the channels to find something to watch. Coming across a marathon of The Simpsons, he smiled and got more comfortable on the couch, taking another sip of his coffee and settling in for the day ahead. Yes, he thought to himself, this would do just fine.
About twenty minutes later, he realized his mistake when his phone rang. First, it was work: “Yeah, Vinny, I meant what I said. I quit,” he said. “No, I’m not coming in to get my last paycheck. Mail me that shit. You’ve got my address.”
Then it was Laura: “I’m fine.” He said. “That’s nice,” he said. “Give my regards to Jeff.” (Apparently Laura had moved on- with one of her co-workers the department store she worked at- his name was Jeff, he worked in men’s wear and loved suits. All the suits, Laura said.) “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine,” he replied. “Bye.”
Picking up his phone, he looked at the video he had recorded and then saw that it was all over his social media. “Damn it,” he said aloud. He had forgot to adjust the sharing settings on his video account. So it had gone everywhere, to every corner of his social media footprint. No wonder people were calling him. He sighed. Oh well, he thought to himself. It’s not like I could have kept this secret for long. Then, his phone rang again:
“Alex, are you okay?” It was his mother. She sounded frantic.
“I’m fine, Ma.”
“Really, how are you fine? You quit your job and announced that you’re not leaving your house anymore. Is this about Laura?”
He sighed. It was going to be one of those conversations apparently. “Laura’s been gone for a week now and is already moving on. His name’s Jeff and he works in men’s wear. He’s a snazzy dresser, she tells me.”
“So what is this about?”
“I’m just tired of the world is all. It’s so shitty out there,” he said, waving his hand in the general direction of the front door. “So, I’m staying in here.”
There was a long pause. “Are you hearing voices?”
“Is the television talking to you?”
“Your Great Aunt Shirley had to be committed, you know,” she said. “If we need to get you help, we’ll get you whatever help you need and-”
“Ma!” Alex shouted. “I promise you, I’m not crazy! Now, I’ve got to go!”
“Where?” She replied. He hung his head in despair for a moment as he knew what was coming next- sure enough, there was a muffled sob and then, “I can’t believe you talk to your mother that way.”
“Sorry, Ma,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“What are you going to do?”
“There’s a marathon of The Simpsons on,” he said. “I thought I’d start there.”
“And then what?”
Alex shrugged. “Don’t know. Cheers maybe? Where everybody knows your name.”
“I’m fine Ma,” he said. “Gotta go.” And with that, he hung up.”
For the rest of the first day, Alex did nothing. He let himself get lost in the marathon of The Simpsons, until it got to the later seasons that he had already seen around three o’clock that afternoon, then he surprised himself by actually starting a binge watch of Cheers. He felt… relaxed. Hell, he thought to himself, I’m happier than I have been in weeks. He ate when he was hungry (some pizza rolls he found in the freezer), drank when he was thirsty (mainly iced tea, though he allowed himself a beer with dinner) and sat on his couch, doing nothing and feeling pretty good about it.
Except that his phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Friends were calling- he managed to put off a visit from his friend (though his preferred title was ‘Broseph in Chief’) Ben until tomorrow and for the rest he was having variations on the same conversation. “No, I’m not crazy,” he would say. “Yes, I’m fine.” Over and over again. I mean, Alex didn’t understand it. So you quit your job, decide you’re not going to leave your house until the world seems a little less bleak and awful- what was wrong with that? Why wasn’t that the logical response to a world gone mad? He was hearing from random acquaintances, friends of Laura’s, people he hadn’t heard from since high school- though the latter tended to fall into two broad categories: people he was happy to hear from and people he had erased from his brain and honestly didn’t care if they were alive or dead.
Around the end of the first Season of Cheers, he decided to go bed and turned his phone off so he could get a little peace.
The next morning, however, it began all over again. Alex woke up and grabbed his phone, out of habit, mind still shaking off the cobwebs of sleep and turned it on, only to be greeted by a fresh avalanche of voicemails. He checked on his original video post and found that it had one thousand three hundred and twenty two views, which surprised him a little bit. And people were sharing it on their Facebook walls and Twitter accounts, usually with some variant of ‘hey man, Adamley has lost his marbles’ but there were some out there who were supportive as well. “Yeah, I get it.”
“The world sucks right now.”
“If I could do this, I would.”
Alex shrugged. Might as well make another video and see if he could convince people he wasn’t crazy. He stood up and stretched, before grabbing his phone and heading downstairs. He put a pot of coffee on and wandered into the living room, where he sat down and turned on the news. CNN was not helpful:
“AIR ASIA FLIGHT DISAPPEARS OVER LAOS”
MSNBC: “REPUBLICANS ARE RACISTS”
Fox News: “DEMOCRATS ARE BIGOTS”
The Today Show was all about a daycare that had been shutdown in Kansas after parents had found out that providers had been dosing their kids with a delightful combination of Benadryl and essential oils.
Good Morning America wasn’t much better. Continuing coverage from the school bus crash in Texarkana- including interviews with some of the classmates of the dead children! Live! On television! Alex turned off the television in disgust and he stood up and headed back into the kitchen, where a freshly brewed pot of coffee waited for him. He poured himself a cup and then picked up his phone again, bring up a new video and hitting record.
“All right,” he began. “This is Day 2 and I don’t understand why people think I’m crazy,” Alex said. “Really, if you think about it- in today’s world it’s perfectly possible not to leave your own house unless you absolutely want too.”
“Amazon delivers everything I could possibly want right to my front door. I pay all my bills online. Sure, I quit my job yesterday, but as my now ex-girlfriend will tell you, I’m awfully tight with a buck- I’m debt free, more or less and have a hefty amount socked away to get me by for the next few months. I like to think I’m practical with what I spend my money on, but I’m sure someone can look at my finances and tell me otherwise. So, I quit my job. So what? There are jobs out there where you can work from home if you hustle hard enough to find out.”
“Yes, fine- I understand that it looks crazy. I understand that people think I’m having a nervous breakdown. But yesterday, I did absolutely nothing. I sat on my couch, watched the The Simpson and then when that got boring I hopped in a time machine, switched it over to Netflix and started to watch Cheers. And you know what? I was happy. Instead of driving twenty minutes to a job I hate to help me live in my house, I’m actually living in my house. How cool is that? The novelty of this might wear off after a few months, but right now, it feels damn good and not at all crazy.”
“I woke up this morning, go downstairs, make my coffee and do what I always do- sit down and turn on the news. Same shit, different day. Please don’t tell me that’s just the world. Please don’t tell me to be an adult and just deal with it.”
“Maybe it’s some stupid romanticization of youth that we all do, but am I crazy or did it not used to be this way? I feel like we were kinder to one another- at least I think we were. And manners- not even Emily Post level manners- but basic fucking things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and other important social skills like ‘tact’ and ‘what’s appropriate to say or do to another human being’ were also popular. Now, we’re all turning into the worst reality television show possible. I’m not a ‘let’s all go back to Leave It To Beaver’ kind of a guy, but holy shit, how did our culture become some coarse and cheap?”
“Our news used to be about stories that actually mattered. Now it’s tragedy porn and sick reality television they call news- the chief aim of which is to distract us all from the stories that actually matter. It’s a prison, a psych ward of our own creation. Y’all can keep it. I’m breaking out.”
Then, as before, he hit upload and, coffee in one hand and phone in the other went back into the living room and sat down, switching on Cheers again and once again feeling nothing but a great sense of contentment. A part of him knew it was fleeting, of course. He would need to look for a job at some point, but he pushed that out of his mind. He’d worry about that in a day or two. For right now, he was going to keep his doors shut, the world at bay and just relax and let it all the insanity and stress of modern life leech out of him.
It would have been a good day as well, but around 3:45 that afternoon, his doorbell rang and then, Alex remembered that Ben was coming over today. He heaved himself off of the couch, set his shoulders and walked over to his front door.
Alex and Ben had been friends since elementary school and followed distinct yet oddly parallel tracks in life as they had made their way through college and out into the struggles of the working world beyond. Alex had aimed for a foundation to build a life on: job, house, girlfriend- family and relative financial security to follow. Granted, he was down to just the house at this point, but he wasn’t out of the game entirely. Ben, on the other hand, floated from party to party throughout college before turning around, tripping and falling into a $80,000 a year investment banker job at one of the big national banks. By day, he wore immaculate suits, ties and was every inch the banker, hell bent on doing his part to ruin global capitalism and enrich himself along the way. By night, however-
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaat’s up?” Ben bellowed as Alex opened the door. He was clad in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, sandals, sunglasses and carrying a large handle of tequila. He caught Alex in a rough bear hug. “How’s my favorite shut in?”
“I’m good,” Alex said, pushing him off.
“You got any limes, brah?” Ben made a beeline for the kitchen and began rummaging around in the drawers. “We gotta do some shots.”
“Isn’t it a little early?” Alex said, following him into the kitchen.
“Sun’s past the yardarm, bro.”
“No, it’s not. It’s barely 4 o’clock,” Alex said. “Speaking of which, shouldn’t you be at work?”
“I took off early to party with you, brohemius.”
“We’re celebrating, broseph!” Ben said, opening the fridge. “Ah-ha! Success!” He bent down and opening a drawer in the bottom of the fridge, pulling out a bag of limes. “TIme for shots shots shots shots!”
“What are we celebrating exactly?” Alex said, as Ben set the tequila down on the counter to prepare the shot glasses.
“Today,” he proclaimed, “we celebrate your independence day.”
Ben unscrewed the cap of the tequila bottle and poured out a measure into each of the shot glasses on the counter.
“Your little videos are going viral, man,” he said. “Everyone is either convinced you’re crazy or all about your little Paddy Chayefsky moment.”
“Dude wrote the film Network,” Ben said. He reached into a drawer and pulled out a knife and began slicing limes. “Not that I’ve seen that movie or anything. It’s old as hell.”
“So my videos are going viral?”
“In a big way,” Ben said, handing him a shot glass and a lime. “All kinds of opportunities could be coming your way if you play it right.”
“I’d settle for a job.”
“You can get one of those,” Ben said. “You were an English major in college, right? There are plenty of journals out there that need editors. You can work from home.”
“Dude, I’ve got to find one of those jobs first.”
“You got some financial cushion, right?” Ben said. “You got nothing but time, brah.”
“So we’re doing shots?”
“Hell yes, we’re doing shots,” Ben said. “Don’t you get it, man. You broke out. You said ‘fuck the man’ and you’re in a position to actually do something about it. You play things right and you’ll never have to go crawling back to another shitty job ever again.”
“Yeah, but I’m also lucky. Not everyone can do what I did,” Alex said. “It’s nice, but it’s not going to change the world.”
“Every avalanche starts with just a single snowflake, bro,” Ben replied.
“That’s not a good analogy,” Alex replied.
“Just shut up and take your shot, bro,” Ben said.
Shaking his head, Alex picked up the shot glass and then, in one fluid motion knocked back the shot and buried his lips in the lime, sucking desperately and trying to get the noxious taste of tequila out of his mouth before he became too nauseous. He slammed the glass down on the counter, smacking his lips.
“Tastes like… college.”
“Yeah, bro,” Ben said. “Let’s get our party on!”
“Just the two of us?”
“Nah, bro,” Ben said. “We can invite some other peeps.”
Alex sighed, surrendering to the inevitable. “All right,” he said. “Let’s have a party.”
Even if he was reluctant to admit it the next morning, Alex ended up having a good time that night, even if the hours that followed their conversation in the kitchen became a blur of pizza and increasing amounts of alcohol. Ben, despite his love of tequila had proven correct as well. His videos were becoming increasingly popular and Alex kept right on posting them, his audience getting bigger with every passing week. Ben was proven correct once again a month or two of fruitless searches and applications later when he landed a job as an assistant editor for an Anthropological Journal based out of Oregon State University of all places.
As the heat of the summer faded into the cool of the fall, Alex settled into a nice easy, routine. Wake up, go downstairs, watch the news, make a video, upload it and get to work. He purchased a treadmill around about the start of month number three of his little journey into freedom and began working out Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. He told himself it was to stay in shape, but by the end of the third month, the walls seemed a little closer than they had in the months prior. He assumed it was because the seasons were beginning to change and the light was fading. It was getting dark earlier. The weather was getting cooler.
By November, he was beginning to wonder if this was a good idea or not.
In early December, not long after Thanksgiving, his mother decided it would be a good idea to drive three hours east through a snowstorm on an interstate notorious for being lousy with traffic and full of accidents to stage an intervention.
Alex was in the middle of a journal article about the Culinary Culture of Cappadocia when the doorbell rang. He looked up in surprise as it was only just past two o’clock in the afternoon and he wasn’t expecting anyone. With a shrug, he pushed back from his desk, stood up and walked over to the front door. He opened it and-
“Let me in, Alex,” his mother looked cold and he noticed that there were three older looking men with her, one of whom seemed to be a Catholic Priest. “Well, yeah,” he said, not really knowing what was going on. He stood to one side and ushered them all in, noting that his mother seemed to have brought an Imam as well as Rabbi Goldfarb, their local Rabbi from back home.
“Rabbi Goldfarb,” Alex greeted him.
“Alex,” the Rabbi replied. “It’s been awhile.”
“Yes it has,” Alex agreed. “Can I take your coats, gentlemen? I’ve got a handy dandy coat closet right here.”
They all agreed and after the coats had been hung up in the closet, Alex lead them into the living room and they all sat down. Alex saw that outside, it had begun to snow, just as the weather forecast that morning had promised. He was also beginning to realize that his mother might have finally gone completely round the bend and was going to try and stage what Alex guessed would be an intervention.
“Can I get anybody something to drink? Coffee? Tea?” No one said anything and the silence began to stretch out further and further until-
“Alex,” his mother began.
“So, a Rabbi, a Priest and an Imam, Ma? Please tell me you’re taking these guys to a bar after this.”
“Well the hotel reportedly has a very nice bar,” his mother replied.
“Oh Ma,” Alex said. “You put them up in a hotel?”
“Well, what with the storm and all,” Rabbi Goldfarb said. “Plus, there’s a peaknuckle tournament in town. Gave me an excuse to go.”
“Alex, you didn’t come home for Thanksgiving,” his mother said. “We’re all very worried about you.”
“Ah,” Alex said. “So this is an intervention. Or more precisely, an imposition.”
“Alex,” the Priest said, “I’m Father Flanagan from Saint Bonaventure’s just down the road from Holy Family Elementary School. Your mother is obviously very concerned about you.”
“Father,” Alex said. “I’m sorry you’ve come all this way. But I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine!” His mother shouted. “You’re not fine!” She modulated her voice a little. “You’re not leaving the house! This little breakdown of yours has gone on long enough. It’s time to plug back in.”
“I’m fine,” Alex said. “I’ve got a job, I’m paying my bills, what more do you want?”
“I wanted you to get married and give me some grandbabies, Alex!” His mother protested. She began to tear up and pulled out a handkerchief from her purse while Rabbi Goldfarb and Father Flanagan took turns awkwardly trying to comfort her. “I don’t understand why you and Laura couldn’t patch things up!”
“Because she’s dating Jeff from Men’s Wear, Ma.” Alex said. “She moved on really, really quickly.”
“All because you didn’t give her the ring she wanted,” his mother said. “Why couldn’t you have just given her a nice ring?”
“I didn’t have $13,000 to spend on one!” Alex said. “I was going to get her a nice ring. One I picked. Not one she picked that I would have been paying off for the next two years.”
“We would have helped out!”
“I didn’t want your help,” Alex said. “And it’s pretty obvious that Laura wasn’t all that happy with me to begin with, Ma. The ring was just her excuse to get out.”
“Well, have you tried-”
“Ma, it’s over,” Alex said. “I’m working out, I’m paying my bills, I’ve got a job. What more do you want?”
“You don’t think isolating yourself from the world is unhealthy?” This question came from the Imam, who spoke for the first time.
Alex shrugged. “Not really. I won’t lie, I’m going a little stir crazy now and again, but there’s also a certain amount of peace here as well.”
“Peace?” The Imam asked.
“Yes,” Alex replied. “I’m content. I get some space with the noise of society on the outside for once.”
The conversation went nowhere after that, but after an hour or so of talking to them, even his mother was convinced, however reluctantly, that he was of sound mind and body, as she insisted on calling it. He agreed to let his parents come up for Christmas and then his mother was gone again, her trio of religious leaders in her wake, despite Alex’s offer of the guest bedroom for the night and then he was alone with the snow.
January was when things got really rough. The jet stream dipped and brought with it bitter cold that settled into the air and seemed to last for weeks. The temperatures outside never got into double digits. The sun rose each morning looking like a distant star on an alien planet, an incandescent band of fire reaching up into the sky every morning until, finally, it became a sundog. Then, the media started calling.
“Hey, this is Alex,” he said one morning after waking up later than he wanted too.
“Hi, this is Justin Withers from KCLD downtown, we were wondering if we could interview maybe?”
“Well, you’re the guy that won’t leave his house, right?”
“No comment.” The he hung up. But the calls kept coming and then the stories began appearing on television. Alex could only roll his eyes. Of course, they weren’t interested in him. They were interested in spinning their tales and grabbing for their ratings. After KLMO ran a particularly amusing report, Alex couldn’t take it anymore. The next morning, he walked downstairs, sat on the couch and before he even made his coffee, grabbed his phone, selected his camera and hit record.
“Hi gang,” Alex began. “So, I guess the media wants to talk to me. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to talk to them. They’re not interested in stories, they’re interested in narratives. They’re interested in ratings. Facts, they insist, are whatever they want them to bo. What kind of a messed up world is this where you can pick your own facts?”
“Truth. Honesty. Integrity. Those might not mean anything anymore, but they mean something to me. Except, let’s throw away the idealism for a second and get down to brass tacks: I just want to watch the news and not feel like someone is trying to bullshit me.”
“It’s been hard, gang. Winter sucks. The walls seems like they’re starting to close in on me, and I’ll be honest: I’ve been tempted. Oh, I’ve been oh so tempted, at a certain point you just have to ask yourself what you’re doing some days, but then I remember: I have everything I need right here. And everything out there still sucks.”
“Being a recluse isn’t all that bad, actually.”
Then, he hit the stop button, uploaded the video and stared out of the window for a long moment. The world outside looked like the barren surface of an alien planet. The snow lay on the ground, soft and powdery, whipping around as the wind caught it. The winter could get no deeper than today. Soon, the world would turn, the sun would creep back north again and winter would, as it always did, give way to spring. But for today, right now, Alex could feel how cold it was outside. Technically, he should do more work on the journal article he was supposed to be editing, but that could wait until tomorrow. Today called for hot chocolate, peppermint schnaps and a warm blanket on the couch. He chuckled to himself. “Time for a mental health day!”
It was late afternoon when his phone buzzed indicating that he had received a text message. He picked up his phone and saw that it was from one of his fellow editors, Hannah. “Hope you’re doing okay.”
He texted back. “I’m doing fine. Just get tired of people, sometimes you know.”
Before he could get another text from Hannah, he received another one, this time from John, another one of the editorial associates. “Are you okay, dude?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he texted back to John.
Together, Hannah, John and Alex formed the core team that helped to edit the Anthropological Journal at Oregon State University. Hannah actually lived in Corvallis, while John was down in Irvine, California. It had taken a few months, but the three of them had developed first a professional friendship and then a loose, digital friendship- the way people these days often seemed to do. Random tweet conversations, comment threads on Facebook that seemed to go on forever- it was nice.
His phone buzzed again. It was another text from Hannah. “You need a vacation. You should come out to Oregon in the summer for the conference.” Both Hannah and John had been dropping subtle hints that they thought it would be a good idea. Alex, they both insisted, seemed like a pretty interesting guy that they’d like sit down and have a beer with. Alex was tempted- and it had become especially tempting the colder the winter had gotten. But then another short shower of superficial bullshit and tragedy porn would force the temptation away and he would stubbornly settle back into his routine.
January gave way to February and before Alex knew it was March and spring appeared. It took a few weeks for spring to persuade winter that it was time to go home and sleep it off, but after one last snowstorm in early April that blanketed the town in six inches of wet, heavy snow, it melted away, the temperatures began to warm and everything began to turn green.
April flashed by and turned to May, with Hannah and John still asking him if he was going to come out to Oregon for their conference in August. He had the money to do it. All he really needed to do was buy the plane tickets- and- he reminded himself, decide to leave the house, which he wasn’t really ready to do yet. Then, one morning in mid-July, it happened.
The morning began like any other. His phone began to buzz as it always did at six a.m sharp and Alex groaned and rolled over, reaching out his hand, unseeing, trying to grab for his phone and missing once, twice and then finding it on the third time. He grabbed it and silenced it and stared at his ceiling for a long moment before sitting up in bed and running his hand through his hair. He yawned and swung his feet over the edge of the bed. Time to start another day.
He headed downstairs and into the kitchen, where he began to go through the mechanics of preparing his morning coffee. Grab the pot, get water. Fill the machine. Reach up into the cupboard, find a filter. Then, coffee. He flipped open the bag and glanced inside. With a shrug, he upended the remaining contents into the filter and turned the machine on.
He waited for a minute or so, as the coffee machine began to gurgle and bubble until it began to spit out it’s ambrosia. Another minute or so and finally, there was enough for a cup. Alex grabbed a mug off of his mug tree and poured himself a measure. He headed into the living room and sat down on the couch, taking a sip of the black coffee and savoring the aroma and the bitter taste as he always did in the morning. Then, he leaned forward and, setting his mug down on the coffee table, grabbed the remote and turned on the television.
“This morning on Good Morning America! It’s the return of our summer concert series! And then we head to Washington D.C. to cover the signing of a major new education reform!”
“Later, we’re heading into the kitchen to learn about the latest hot trend in food: kimchee!”
“Plus, a heart-warming story out of Tennessee about a little girl who started her own charity to help disaster victims, not just in America, but around the world.”
“All this and more on Good Morning America!”
Alex picked up his coffee and leaned back into the couch, not wanting to believe it was possible. For the next half an hour, he didn’t move. He just sat and watched the news. Then, he got up and went into the kitchen and got another cup of coffee. This time he added milk and sugar. He went back into the living room and sat down on the couch and kept watching. That was how Alex spent the next three hours. Watching the television, getting up for coffee. Then, just as quickly as it had begun, Good Morning America was over. Then it was time for The View.
Alex got up and went to the bathroom, still kind of in a daze. Was it possible? Had it really happened? Had he just woken up to a day without, you know, bad news? Finishing in the bathroom, he flushed the toilet and walked upstairs to his office. He logged into his computer, checked his bank account and thought for a moment. Then, he came to a decision. Finding the right travel website was the work of a few moments and then he booked a flight to Oregon.
Then, he walked downstairs and grabbed his phone. Opening up his camera, he flipped it over to video and hit record.
“I just noticed today that it’s been about a year since I decided that I was done with the world outside. Everything seemed like it was going to hell in a handbasket. People seemed more interesting in shouting and screaming at each other instead of talking to each other. A lot of people thought I was crazy when I started this journey. A lot of people thought it made sense and told me so. They told me they wished they could do it. They wished they had the money and the ability to say ‘fuck you’ to the world and just push it away for a day, a week, a month or even a year.”
“The winter was long. It was hard. But every time I thought that perhaps I really was crazy and should give it all up, the news would always convince me that it was just the same old shit on a different day.”
“I got comfortable. I settled into my routine. I dodged calls from the media more interested in their ratings and making me seem crazy than asking why I was shutting myself away from the world.”
“But a funny thing happened this morning,” Alex said. “I sat down and watched Good Morning America, and you know what? It was good news. Simple news. Real news. About an educational bill being signed in Washington D.C. And a little girl in Tennessee who was so inspired and motivated to help people that she started a charity that’s helping people around the world. There was even fluffy bullshit like a pop concert and something about kimchee. It was amazing.”
“Maybe there’s hope. And I don’t know if every day is going to be a good day but I know that a year is long enough. Break’s over, gang. It’s been real this past year, but today, right now, I wanted you to see this.”
Alex reached up and pressed the button on the camera that would flip the camera around to face outward. He stood up, phone still in hand and walked out of his living room and into his front hallway. He walked up to his front door, reached out, grabbed the handle and opened the door. Then he stepped outside and walked down his front path and onto the sidewalk. He panned the camera to the left, then to the right and then, he turned around to face his house and hit stop.