I hadn't been reading very much lately. I was in the process of reading many books, all at once - about six or seven of them, each of which I was quite devoted to and determined to finish, in my own way - but I hadn't been reading very much. I was reading a few pages at a time, here and there. In fact the last thing I had really read was Geoff Dyer's Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do it, which is where I had read this:
"As I sat by the Mississippi one afternoon, a freight rumbled past on the railroad track behind me, moving very slowly. I'd always wanted to hop a freight, and I sprang up, trying to muster up the courage to leap aboard. The length of the train and its slow speed meant that I had a long time - too long - to contemplate hauling myself aboard, but I was frightened of getting into trouble or injuring myself, and I stood there for five minutes, watching the boxcars clank past, until finally there wer no more carriages and the train had passed...Instead of hopping the freight, I went back to my apartment on Esplanade and had the character in the novel I was working on do so. When you are lonely, writing can keep you company. It is also a form of self-compensation, a way of making up for things - as opposed to making things up - that did not quite happen."
Once, in Greece, I got on a ferry and then sat thinking about getting off the ferry again. I was 17 and it was my first time abroad without my parents, and it was hot and when the evening wind came up it sort of sucked all the sense out of you. So I thought it would be nice to get off the ferry; to stay on the island instead of going back to Athens and then the next day back to California. But, like Dyer, I had too much time to think, and by the time I realised I was actually quite serious about it, we had already pulled away from the island, it was already becoming something small and distant, so my own slowness of thought had saved me from doing something potentially very stupid.
Now I found myself in a similar situation, except that it wasn't at all similar. It was only similar in that I had to make a decision. Or I didn't have to make a decision, in which case I would carry on in the way that I had been, which was a decision of sorts.
Anyway eventually I made the decision to leave my job. Sort of. I guess I was just fed up with writing in the cracks between Work and Sleep, which were very tiny cracks. So I left my job to go freelance. Which is what I'm doing now. I've been doing it for three days, and so far it is going well, though probably three days isn't really long enough to tell how something will end up.
It's not really a very interesting thing to do. Lots of people do it, particularly lots of people my age, I think. But it's interesting for me because I'm very practical about things. I didn't get off the ferry. I wouldn't have hopped the freight. I would write about people doing these things, I would make up for the things that did not quite happen in all sorts of ways, but I would stay put.
People kept saying, well, at least you have a job! Which was true: at least I did, unlike all the many other people who didn't. And in fact I had a very good job, working with clever people that I liked and respected, being paid fairly (and regularly) and given the opportunity to learn things and take on new responsibilities. I suppose that five or six years ago, when I was in college and thinking about what would happen after, this situation would have looked very appealing to me. In some ways it still does look appealing. But so does the view from my study, overlooking the overgrown garden.
So in a way I did finally hop a freight.