He had to get out. That thought came through louder than what he had done last night, louder than the anxiety over another day in the office with a hangover, louder than the uncertainty over whether he had been smart enough to use a condom with the girl that lay next to him. Chop. Louder than the rain pelting down on a grey Brooklyn day, louder than the ambulance outside his window, louder than the sound of his roommates busting each other’s balls over who was most fucked up last night. Chop. It hacked through it all. Because he was done: flip page, next chapter.
It didn’t feel like escapism. It felt like he finally had the answer to the puzzle. It was time. He was going to quit his life as an overpaid, underworked internet marketer and go chop wood in Vermont. Underpaid and overworked it would be – if it got him out of this hellhole. Forget being farted on in subways, forget hangovers brought on by drinking to forget you had sold your soul, forget all the narcissistic ambition in this god forsaken city. Middle finger to the wimps of men and the girls with waxed lady parts. He wanted calluses on his hands. He wanted bush in the backyard and on his women.
He’d heard that happiness comes from within rather than your surroundings. Sure, maybe for a full-time Buddhist (as opposed to the white girl snoring next to him with the lotus flower tattoo), but surroundings mattered. Anyone who told you otherwise was making excuses for staying in their own abusive relationship with this city. He wanted to live in a place where police sirens were a cause for concern, not a twisted version of a Sleep Easy Sound Machine. He wanted to feel a cool wind that wasn’t produced by an approaching subway car. And, not to sound like a total hippie, but he really needed some goddamn nature.
An awkward hung over goodbye, an exchange of numbers they’d never use and the girl left. Her eye makeup smudged, her breath rank with Jameson. She had told him her name, but he had made an effort to tune it out. His mind felt clear. He didn’t need any more information.
On her way out the door, he heard her respond to the frat boy cheers with a flirty how-drunk-was-I response, and he hated her. He hated all of them. Chop. In his mind, off went their heads.
He’d had six-pack abs, once. Sitting on his ass all day and drinking craft beers had melted that away, along with his dignity. This was it. He had to get out and get out now. He briefly considered writing to let his boss know he wouldn’t be in today (or ever) and his roommates know that they’d need to find someone to take over his part of the lease; but figured Instagramming some mountains with the caption “I’m never coming back” would suffice.
His aunt lived north in Vermont. She was the type to make you garlic tea when you were sick. She had taught him that garlic was great for the heart and the blood system, which was good, because he was certain that even one more day here would have cemented a fate of premature death via heart attack.
The main thing that he missed, no, needed – was the trees. Which was ironic as he’d be chopping them down. He’d read in The Wall Street Journal that being a lumberjack was one of the worst, not to mention the most dangerous, jobs in America. As a child he had been taught how to swing an axe, at his aunt’s, by his father. His little twig arms hadn’t had the force, but he got the motion down. After a few attempts his father took over and distracted by putting so much energy into vocal instructions, he forgot to move his left hand out of the axe’s way. Chop. He whacked his middle finger right to the bone. His father had refused a trip to the emergency room and lay on the couch the rest of the day with his hand heavily bandaged, sipping a whiskey and giving the middle finger to the world. That was 20 years ago.
His aunt’s boyfriend owned a small logging company a few miles north of her cabin. Foreign to problems such as your ex-girlfriend blogging about your break-up, they were always going on about how he had a job with them anytime he wanted. He’d mostly be doing landscaping and thinning out backyards, but, sure as hell, he was still going to call himself a lumberjack. Seriously, she had blogged about their break-up and his sexual preferences. Blogs… As soon as the last roommate left for work, he pranced around with a pair of red wire cutters – ceremoniously cutting every Wi-Fi chord in the place. Chop! No more gossiping about blogs for the frat boys.
In a frenzy, he grabbed handfuls of his belongings and dashed out. He was one of the few people to know someone who had a garage in Williamsburg and in it he kept the old yellow jeep his father had given him when he turned 16. He flung his possessions into the back. They hadn’t spoken in years. As soon as he had left for college, his father, a teacher, had left his mother for a colleague at his school.
Clearing his lofted bedroom took less than 90 minutes. In exhaustion he sat down cross-legged on the naked dusty floor, among the freshly exposed beer caps and condom wrappers, and decided he should maybe meditate for a minute. It occurred to him that he might still be drunk and that perhaps he should sleep on this decision. He quit meditating and ran out the door to the jeep. Chop away the doubts – it was time. Almost six hours later, as he crossed the state border and passed the ‘Welcome to Vermont” sign, he took out his iPhone. But instead of Instagramming his entrance, he gave his mother a call.
Illustration by Daniel David Freeman