Today got off to a rough start with an early AM visit from Jerry the exterminator, who was here to follow up on another Incident.
I know Jerry pretty well from a (no doubt Peter-related) bug problem he helped me cope with a few years ago, so I knew he would dish on whatever’s going on next door in the dread bean drawer.
“So, Jerry,” I said. “Have you been next door yet?”
“You don’t even want to know what’s going on next door,” he said, launching into a detailed report of conditions that my father has since advised me to type up and send by certified mail to my landlord, cc: the Health Department.
Now, not to sound like an asshole, but Jerry is pretty much the most withered junkie you have ever seen in your life. Like, he probably died back in the 90s and someone reanimated his corpse by stuffing it in the tanning bed for a few days. All to say if Jerry says it’s bad over there, I believe him. He has seen some serious shit. I know, because he told me all about it, at length, during the Great Infestation of 2010.
The good news, I guess, is that I don’t really feel afraid anymore. I think at this point fear is physically impossible; my body no longer responds to adrenaline, so I’ve sunk into deep despondence.
This afternoon, I discussed the situation with my sister, who’s depressed about her own nightmare neighbors.
“I’m thinking about buying a book,” she said, “but I’m too embarrassed to tell you what it is.”
“I read Twilight,” I said. “I’m in no position to judge. My opinion officially doesn’t count.”
“Yeah, but this is a whole other category.”
After much cajoling, she finally admitted that the book under consideration is The Happiness Project. “I know it’s kind of stupid,” she said. “But I’m looking at her website now and it has all these little tips, like make your bed. I think that could make me happy!”
“Fuck it. Let’s do this,” I said. “I’m downloading it on my Kindle right now. Then I'm making my bed!”
“It’s like our own book club,” she said. “We’ll read it and then we’ll help each other with our own happiness projects!”
“Yes! Totally. I’m with you.”
Pretty sad, right? But you can’t really appreciate just how sad this scenario truly is until I confess that I have actually read the first chapter of The Happiness Project—a book my aunt was reading and asked me to peruse while I waited for her in a hotel lobby—and therefore know firsthand that it is EVEN MORE silly than you might imagine. We’re talking “sing more in the morning and read lots of Socrates”-level lameness. Back in the lobby, I was like, pah. Now, just a few months later, from the depths of my own personal hell, I’m like, yes! Sign me up! Happiness Projects 4ever.
But wait! It gets worse. Tonight, having decided that I might prefer a hard copy (instead of the digital version) for easy reference, I went to the used bookstore. After half an hour of faux browsing—lugging around not one, but two, art monographs as though to prove I am capable of reading real books—I worked up the nerve to ask the hipster behind the front desk where I could find the self-help section.
My friends, they did not have one—a new low in a day that was already full of new lows.
I mustered up the last of my dignity, put down the monographs, and went next door for a lemonade.