If I Lost My Mind
By Josh Goller
But I haven’t lost my mind, so I obsess about fixing errant strands of hair in place with product. I lament the occasional pimple. I remove lint from my nicer clothing with a band of masking tape turned inside out around my hand.
If I lost my mind, I would wrench off my bedroom mini-blinds. I would punch through the window panes and rip holes in the walls with a claw hammer. I would glut my lungs on the newfound breeze and bask in the halo of settling drywall dust.
But I haven’t lost my mind, so I sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, tucked away in the dim corner of an office, surrounded by stacks of paper. I return home to search for the elusive job that will promise a larger workspace, taking breaks to stare at a television screen and watch commercials I now know by heart.
If I lost my mind, I would greet everyone on the morning train. I would shake every hand as I walked down the street. I would pat the backs of passersby and offer unsolicited words of encouragement. I would assign concocted names to each stranger and greet them as such. “Hello, Walter Kensington.” “Top of the morning to you, Charles Pittman.” “Looking well today, Abigail Peppercorn.”
But I haven’t lost my mind, so I avoid eye contact even when it takes considerable effort to do so. I do not engage in candor or camaraderie. In the instances where polite greetings are unavoidable, I take care not to call people by name for fear of using the wrong one.
If I lost my mind, I would run through the park, limbs flailing, face red. I would find a moist spot and rip clumps of sod. I would shower my head with soil. I would overturn the largest rock I could manage and stuff beetles down my shirt.
But I haven’t lost my mind, so I trudge up three flights of stairs to my apartment. I squash centipedes on my wall with Kleenex. I slump onto the sofa and watch a man on television get dunked upside down into a tank of cockroaches and win a million dollars.
If I lost my mind, I’d hit the streets with a pack of cigarettes, case of cheap beer, and pocketful of one-dollar bills. I would comb the city for all the panhandlers and hobos I could find. I would gather the old woman singing badly through broken teeth. I would collect the man who thinks he’s Jesus and hasn’t washed his feet in months. I would grab the man shaped like an eggplant in a lime green polyester suit who talks to himself under the bridge. I would gather them all. We would each have a drink and a smoke. We would talk loudly all at once. We would each buy a single lottery ticket and beg for a penny to scratch it. If nobody won the jackpot, I would invite them back to my place to use the toilet and play Twister.
But I haven’t lost my mind, so when I pass the homeless I clutch my spare change in my pocket to stop its jingling. I scowl. “They’ll just use it for booze.” I pick up a six-pack and some Parliaments at the Safeway and cross the street to avoid passing a man in a sleeping bag. Once I return home, I use my toilet without joy.