Phil Lane’s poems and stories have been lost in cyberspace and yellowing in small journals and zines for the past decade. He lives in New Jersey.
It’s funny because anytime I’m not cross-referencing, I get this guilty feeling: an inconsolable ennui tinged with remorse. I know I should be highlighting in one of the tomes that looms menacingly on my desk, analyzing the rows and columns, pouring over the information like an automaton. It’s funnier because anytime I’m cross-referencing, I wish I was masturbating instead. After all, masturbation is a form of cross-referencing, a way of mixing the beautiful and the profane, a Picasso streaked with shit stains. The only problem is that once you start masturbating, you know you should be working instead. So you stop abruptly and it stings but not as bad as the burning you feel in your stomach for having wasted the last three minutes.
I don’t know where it comes from, this obsessive need to be busy, to prove to the world that I am productive. It’s probably some deep-seeded psychological shit. My mother suffers from the same affliction. She sits at the kitchen table all day clipping coupons, cutting out newspaper articles, shifting magazines from the to-read pile to the recycle pile.
Sometimes I just sit at my desk and stare at the wall. I do this for hours. The idleness turns me on, the thrill of doing the opposite of what I know I should be doing. Maybe rapists or people who fuck donkeys get a similar rush. Afterwards, however, I am almost prostrate with regret. I hunch over my books all night until my spine is the same shape as the gooseneck lamp. I put on very somber music, usually Dvorak. I repent. When I get bored, I find other productive things to do. I move the knickknacks around on the shelf, I arrange my papers into neat little stacks, I finger the dust on the leaves of the aspidistra. When I get tired, I force myself to bed. Lying there, I make mental lists of the industrious things I will do tomorrow. I count flocks of sheep, goats and geese. I listen to the mice chewing through the drywall, anything to fill the empty, unholy hours when I am unable to cross-reference.