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West in the Head

westinthead


“Remember how it felt to return after many years to the high school of your youth: how small the halls were; how tattered the blinds; how grim the lockers—a greasy green, and dented without design. Reality and memory were out of tune then, and now they are again.” –William Gass (Best American Essays 1992)


 
 

Don’t think of a pink elephant. Drive your car along the road and try not to think about anything else, especially not that stupid remark you made last night at the party. Or the piece of spinach in your teeth that your friends didn’t bother to tell you about. Don’t try to figure out how long it was there. It was there when you got into your car to go home, when you quickly checked your reflection in the rearview mirror. Useless to wonder why no one told you. Yes, they noticed it. Who cares? You care. Better stop caring right now, because it’s done. It’s the next morning already. You’ve brushed your teeth twice since then. Just grip your steering wheel lightly and take a deep breath and drive your damn car to work. Be in the present. And don’t think too much about the act of driving, either, or you’ll freak yourself out. My foot is pressing the gas. My foot is moving over to the brake. Pretty soon you’ll start thinking about how easy it would be to kill someone, or yourself, with your car. What if you had to spend the rest of your life in jail? Stop it. Focus. But not on your feet. What is going on, right now, in the very present moment? In reality?

You are driving past the new Sleepy’s mattress store next to the new Bank of America on busy Route 40. Good god, why are there so many mattress stores? You like your mattress, which is good, because it’s awkward to shop for one. You go into a brightly lit showroom and lie down fully dressed, then you try to imagine yourself asleep. You close your eyes, but immediately feel unsafe and vulnerable, like the salesman is going to jump on top of you. But he would never . . . still, better keep your eyes open. And stop thinking about the Sleepy’s mattress salesman with the nose hair and the missing buttons. Don’t think about a pot-bellied pig. Just be in the moment. Why is that so terrifying? Don’t worry. Don’t care. Don’t be scared, You’re going west. Drive.

 
 
 

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