My autobiography will read: I am hired. But no: I am still here, in this little office, where
the fluorescent light surrounds me like cloacal fluid. The personnel manager’s eyes are dark
and dilated, without visible irises, whether from the peculiar quanta of the overhead light or
the cocaine of my need, I don’t know.
She is self-satisfied and content now, self-consciously busy, and she preens herself with
papers on her desk. She is almost ready to talk to me. I wait like a dog who has not been
walked for a long time.
Finally, she turns her attention to me. Why do you want this job? she asks.
I'm desperate, I reply. My unemployment checks ran out two weeks ago and I have no
money. I've been on unemployment a lot these last few years and I have no reserves; in all
senses of the word, I have no reserves left. You see, I have a manic-depressive illness, a
very severe one, not just a few moodswings here or there, or a common cold-type
depression, but grand mal mania with delusions, and I've lost a lot of jobs. I don't get
fired per se — they just eliminate my position and this way, they don’t get sued. But I did
sue one place, not for firing me because I was a manic-depressive, but because I was a
manic-depressive. Is there a difference? I don’t know.
I got unemployment that time, and then again when I danced over where the AIDS
orphans were buried. I was coming late because I had to dervish over their corpses, the
corpses of the unburied dead. I was dancing to mark the spot. Perhaps, I thought,
perhaps, they would see and understand, but they fired me. I was coming late a lot. They
eliminated my position — they were glad to give me unemployment. Really, they would
have done a lot more just to be rid of me, I was a disturbance after all.
I take medication now. It makes me slow, but I can still do this work. Not with any
enthusiasm — I am no longer sharp. I'm burnt out, as you can imagine, from so many
illnesses. Sometimes my thinking is fuzzy, and I simply don’t have the fire any more. I
used to be quite good, quite an overachiever. I worked long hours and slaved to make
everything perfect. Now, I just rewrite the old. It’s all old.
With supervision, I know I will be okay. I'm hoping for a boss who is indecisive and a
little lazy, and if we can pass letters back and forth for endless time-consuming corrections,
it wouldn’t bother me at all. That would be just fine. Bureaucracy and indecision used to
bother me; I worried about my brilliant career and how the slowness and incompetence and
stupidity of my boss would hold me back, but then I became a poet and didn’t give a shit
anymore. I once cared passionately about poetry, too, but now I don’t worry about that
much, either. I just want a paycheck and a place to go during the day so I don’t crawl into
bed and piss on the sheets. The only thing I have to keep me occupied right now is walking
my dog and interviews like these.
You know, a job like this one wasn’t good enough for me once, but now this really is the
best I can do. I would be delighted if I got this job. If I could do it. If I could show up. If
I don’t just crawl back into bed. But, you see, the alimony runs out soon. It's a shitty agreement but I was nuts, and signed, you see. Because then, I was confident. I was always so confident, confident in my ability to take care of myself, to come back from any disaster. That's gone now, you understand, completely, utterly gone ... I used to think I could change the world; now, I don’t think I can change my sheets.
But I'm pretty sure I can still do this job, as long as I don't have to create anything. If I can
copy a template, I know I’ll do fine. I was once creative; I was a bright, no, brilliant kid,
but I drank a lot, spent a lot of time on psych wards, and it started to catch up with me.
There’s only so many times you can get really manic before the permanent damage sets in.
Anyway, my psychiatrist says I need some structure, and I agree, and a job would really
Does that answer your question? You know, your pupils are so dilated. It’s an interview, a
two-way street. Have you seen into me? I can't see into you. Maybe you're a manic depressive,
too. Maybe you rush out from here every day to the office of a waiting shrink
to weep and scream your despair, to say, I can't go on, it hurts too much ....
I see your irises now, blue like mine, and know you have lived without sickness and without
despair, and your normal life of normal frustrations and no huge events looks at me without
a trace of pity. This interview and our interaction is the worst thing that will happen to you
this month. I know you've had your troubles, too. It’s just that I have to come back from a
place that doesn't even exist to sit here today, and I'm so tired I could just die.
If this were the thirties, you would give me a break. Back then, no one pretended that
things were just fine. People liked homeless people, called them hobos, gave them jobs. I
gave my diamond engagement ring to a homeless man last year, I gave all my clothes away
to the poor, because I was confident back then. Do you know what I would do for one
ounce of confidence today?
I stopped, and the fluorescence ate my words. The papers on her desk absorbed the
sounds, and around me like sewage my cheerful interview self returned, and I answered the
other questions as anybody would, and she pretended that she hadn’t heard a word of what
I had said.
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- Translation of Mayakovsky's last poem, edited
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