I just worked for thirty-six hours straight. No break. No sleep. Triple vision switching to quadruple vision on my way home. Veering into the other lane. Almost colliding with the other vehicles head-on. If only the morning commuters knew who they were driving against. The front axle is loose. It’s vibrating through the bottoms of my feet. The brake pads are wearing away. Metal grinding against metal underneath me. Dozing off. Nodding off. Blink. Stay in the lane. Carbon dioxide. Gasoline fumes. My head is killing me and I’m almost out of pills. I’m stuck on the fast track and there ain’t no coming off. Hour after hour crashing into me from behind. Getting T-boned by a fleet of responsibilities travelling at the speed of a suicidal comet. Fueled by stress and burning out fast. Just another member of a captive audience. Only I’m the one who has to perform to the leaders occupying the world stage. Having to incessantly answer to the powers that be. To Big Brother. To “the man.” Getting pushed forward by a workaholic system. Railroading me. Pushing me over the edge. Ready or not, here I come. As if I ever had a choice in the matter. Money talks and bullshit takes the bus. A conveyor belt of dollar bills. Ceaselessly chasing that paycheck at the end of the week. Working to climb out of the pit. Falling further down. Into the negative. Student loans. Credit card bills. Getting deeper into debt to pay off prior debts. Taxes cutting into my check. Dividends divided by dividends in percentages that leave me with less than what I had when I had nothing. Yes, I agree to the terms and conditions even though I have no idea what they are. Too exhausted to complain. To read the fine print. To differentiate between junk mail and real mail. To take the survey. To keep up on current events. To be informed as to what is and isn’t considered politically correct nowadays. To navigate this automated system. To give a shit about anything. Too overwhelmed to hit the brakes. Running on empty. Car payments. Car insurance. Medical bills. Medical insurance. To pay the hospital bills when I fall asleep at the wheel and crash my car on my way home from my job. Paper chase. Rat race. Breakneck pace. Resting bitch face. I never see my kids because I’m too busy working to pay for daycare for my kids whom I never see because I’m always at work. Video games are their babysitters and processed meals sustain them. These days I’m too run down to truly raise them. I feel as if I’ve betrayed them because I’m little more than a warden in their presence most of the time. Impatiently monitoring them when it’s finally time for them to get ready for bed. So that I might have one or two hours to myself with my weed and my nighttime meds. Washed down with a few snifters of liqueur. I’m resentfully identifying my offspring as no more than obligations by the time the clock hits eight-thirty. Guilt-inducing burdens. Constant sources of annoyance. I hadn’t foreseen how much these children would deprive me of my most basic individual freedoms. I took my time for granted as a single woman. The world was my backyard in college. That same independent student is now an overweight bureaucrat. I hate who I’ve become. What I represent to society at large. My life is no longer my own. My life is nothing but a job. Inundating me with a barrage of demands from the time the alarm goes off in the morning to the time I collapse into bed at the end of the night. Even sleeping has taken on an obligatory quality. A six-hour block of time in which I must flick my switch to ‘standby’ for the sake of organizing data in my subconscious. While my conscious awareness quietly replenishes its resources to serve its purpose accordingly the next day. I bicker with my staff daily. Then rush home to finish the second half of my routine. Both environments are equally aggravating. Just packaged differently. In flimsy gift boxes and tacky wrapping. The irritating grind of motherhood. The inescapable servitude of raising kids. I’m the bad guy under my own roof. Barking out orders to my boys as if they were my subordinates. I have to always make sure they’re following the rules. I yell at their teachers if they act out in school. I can’t bear to consider that the energy depleted from my sanity in policing them has been completely ineffective. I tell everyone I live for my kids. But if all I do is work than what am I really living for? It makes no sense. No cents. Buying time by working. Working away all my time. My stomach is growling but I don’t care. I’ll eat a banana when I get home. Do we have bananas? I’m not stopping anywhere to get anything. No matter what. The kids will manage. They can wait a couple hours for mom to get some sleep. They’re not going to starve. They’re used to it. Listen to me. I’m such a shitty parent. I just need a few hours to get myself together. To get some rest. To fix myself up. Once I get some rest I can reconvene. I need to attend to myself before I can help anyone else. Like what stewardesses announce to their passengers on the plane. Before liftoff. Before they take off. When the masks come down from the top. From the ceiling. You have to put the oxygen on yourself first. Then you can focus on the little ones. You’re of no use to anyone if you’re not strong yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself. That’s what I have to do. To take better care of myself. To do something for myself for a change. To treat myself the way I deserve to be treated. Which is good. I deserve to be treated well. No more long shifts. Not this long. Not so many hours. It’s inhuman. I don’t care how badly my boss needs me to come in. How bad I need the money. I’m not a machine. I have to look out for numero uno. I’m too hard on myself. My ex-boyfriend once said to me that he no longer felt like a human being. He felt like a human “doing.” I love that pun. That’s me. Dan wasn’t the sharpest tool in the utility belt, but I must admit… that was pretty clever. He sure was great in the sack. Really knew how to drive it home. Rough but firm at the same time. Gentle but kept me in my place. No need to instruct him. No need to awkwardly point out that, for me, he’d have to finish his box lunch if he wanted dessert. With him, I needn’t be the boss for a change. But I can’t even think about sex right now. I can’t afford to miss him. Can’t allow myself to feel love for anyone. I’ll express it to my kids. Say it to them flatly. Peck them on their cheeks. But I can’t feel it when I say it. I have nothing to spare emotionally. They can see that I’m exhausted. But the selfish brats continue to insist on my attention. Are mothers allowed to hate their kids? Only for a little while. So long as they keep it to themselves. It’s not their fault. I just hate my life. And I dragged them into it. Kicking and screaming from out of my used-up womb. And now we’re stuck with each other. They look up at me. I can’t look back down at them. They don’t want to know what mommy’s thinking right now. Energy sponges. Little leeches. I don’t hate them. I just wish I had aborted them sometimes. I’m a total wreck. Bad perm. Split ends at wit’s end. Greasy hair and dandruff on the shoulder pads of this gaudy dress. The tin clasp of my bra strap digging into my back. A pimple has formed and then ruptured from the constant friction. The base from where my shoulder blades extends is sore. Infected oil glands have given birth to more acne. Three of these pimples have the yellow shafts and milky tips characteristic of the suffusion of color you see on candy corn. Frumpy jewelry. The bitter taste of yesterday’s lipstick. Thinning mascara accentuating the bags under my eyes. Mottled foundation. Amalgamation of artifices. An aerosol cloud of faded perfume. Dehydration. Old coffee in a styrofoam cup. Ashtray palette. The tart smell of saliva and the proliferation of bacteria between my gums and teeth. A tingling pocket of halitosis sealed inside the prison of my scorched mouth by weary jaws. Misfiring axons hanging from fried dendrites like defective dreamcatchers. Cognitive dissonance. Technicolor yawn. This system has short-circuited. There’s a speck on the grid. A glitch in the matrix. Barely functioning. Half baked. Burnt out. Fried. At least I made money. Got to make money. Do the locomotion. Feed the “need machine.” Constant vigilance. Perpetually in motion. Places to go. People to screw over. Apathy in action. Indifference on the go. I’d smoke a joint right now if it was in my hand. I just want that first pull. That first spark. That first shot of brandy to jumpstart the engine. To slap me across the face. To pull my hair like Dan used to. To ride me like he did. To kick it into overdrive. Just enough to make it to my destination. When I get home I’m going to sleep like the dead. Then the whole house can burn down with me and the kids inside it for all I care. Just got to keep moving. Stay in the lane. Stay awake. For one more minute. One more second. I’m almost there. Nodding off. Keep alert. Look alive. Don’t crash. Blink. Dozing off. Stay awake. To go to sleep. To wake up. To pick up the kids. To bring them to school. To go to work. To project the image of an actress from a romantic comedy to all my co-workers at my fake, thankless job. To strive for perfection while settling for mediocrity. To hate my life but keep a stiff upper lip for the sake of my family. To cover for the bitch who called in sick ten minutes before the end of my shift. To work another triple. To beg my mom to watch the kids again. To deal with the stress. To have no choice. To pop more pills. To figure out how to get to the bank when I’m stuck at work. To be at ten different places at once. To find other sources of income. To increase my credit line. To make a down payment. To gas up the tank. To make ends meet.