Four Years Ago

Four years ago today I was in Cupertino for the eve of what was supposed to be a small day of personal achievement. I was part of a special project for the fruit company that I can’t discuss. The kickoff was in the morning, November 4th. I scarcely contained my giddy excitement.

I spent the evening at a hotel nearby, watching the returns roll in. The fuck is all that red on the map. When denial turned into dawning realization, and dawning realization decayed into despair, I violently switched off the television. I needed a drink, and not to be alone.

The plan was simple: wander until I encountered a bar. Any bar. It didn’t take long to stumble into one. Cramped inside, a handful of patrons. The horror show glared at us from the TV hanging under a drop-tile ceiling. Inescapable. What’re you gonna do.

“Jack. Neat.”

One shot glass turned into two, then three. It wasn’t enough. I once got booted in the nuts with so much force that I was propelled into the air. This felt worse. It was like watching God die on live TV, a melancholy accident, a wave function collapsing the wrong direction.

I wasn’t alone. An assembly line of grief had gathered there, nursing our shared world-historical wound. Time slipped off on a conveyer belt of booze. The bar tender had stopped charging for drinks and was robotically refilling everyone’s shot glasses as soon as they’d emptied.

The hangover the next morning was like none before. The hazy California sky was corpse-blue and relentless. Our little fruit project group assembled and rolled into the parking lot at the mothership. Where was the joy I’d anticipated all these years?

Friendly corporate busy-bees escorted us through electronically sealed doors, through gray hallways, past giant portraits of products in brushed metal and curved glass, and into a windowless room. Not enough chairs, so I sat legs-crossed in the corner leaning against a couch.

The next four hours demanded more of me than any software project I’ve ever been on, not in itself, but in context. We weren’t even writing code that day, merely setting up accounts and emails and corporate network access. Mind-numbing work, but nearly impossible that morning.

The obscenity of the night before clouded my vision. The sensible pale walls and polite gray carpeted floors mixed with the mind-numbing dullness of awaiting two-factor authentication codes, all giving way to a pall of grief, every keystroke a miracle of survival instincts.

Four years later I’m girding myself for another boot to the nuts, tallying the liquor stocks in the house, keeping my mind’s eye on the shelf where the shot glass waits patiently for a call to arms. Let’s hope it remains there this time around.

(Originally a Twitter thread.)

|  3 Nov 2020