Apathy is Contagious

by Nic Olson

Apathy is an undercover leader. When you first saw it, you were revolted by it. Its lazy gut poking out of its stained t-shirt, soaking in the selfish UV waves of a television screen, hand cupping testicles, focusing on its next step for personal survival. Its breath was like fish and cheese puffs.

You avoided it at all costs. Avoided being near it, avoided even thinking of it. Then, after a few drinks, your friend introduced you at the pub. You shared a few beer and found that you related to it on many levels. It hated the government as a youth. It didn’t like conversations with strangers. It figured recycling was a load of crock. It wasn’t as disgusting as you remembered it being—it had neat hair, was sharp-dressed, smelled like Old Spice. It was someone you could hang around with occasionally, still hold onto your own interests and passions, and not have to worry about what your friends thought.

After meeting Apathy you continued on your path of work. You tormented yourself with productivity to the point that you couldn’t sit comfortably at home on a day off without feeling like you were wasting time. Your energy was depleted, your enthusiasm was spent. People and their oddities and selfishness made you want to be alone at all times. You had a difficult time finding joy in anything because it took you away from work. Work is your life and you do it until you hate it. Then you need a beer.

Apathy is persuasive. Always there to say, “I told you so.”

You invited Apathy home once or twice after work. You just wanted the company. Someone to vent to. Apathy brought the beer. It told you about a great documentary on Netflix, about a great place to order take-out. It remained intelligent—talked knowledgeably of current events and how it found they weren’t worth running your life. It threw a blanket over you, unbuttoned your pants for you, turned up the volume. It was helpful. It helped you forget about your exhausting life trying to make a difference in some pathetic way.

The next day, when you woke up on the couch in your stained ill-fitting t-shirt, Apathy came over without asking, booze on its breath, stinking of cigarettes, tired from a long night of coercing people at the watering hole. Apathy is an alcoholic. Its face was dark and lined and it pushed you over on the couch, ate a cheeseburger hotdog, and scowled at you. You were again revolted. You felt how you originally did. But now you were on the couch, under a blanket, runny nose, no energy, and you figured you’d deal with it later. You had gotten sick.

Apathy is contagious. Apathy begins to set in like a hot fever. It makes your body ache until you lay down and think about nothing. Do nothing.

Apathy is heavy. It sits on top of you, and even when you return to your thoughts of passion and productivity that once made you feel alive, you can’t seem to push yourself off your stomach when it is sitting cross-legged on your back.

Apathy frightens. It tells you that you can’t have balance. You can’t have passions and ideals and hobbies while being happy, relaxed. It tells you that if you aren’t wailing on the castle doors, rallying the troops, changing policy, protesting wars, then you’re useless. And if you are doing these things, then you are a delirious.

In the near future when Apathy has its foot on your neck, about to heave and permanently end thought, you will remember people. People who once drove you to madness, who drove you into the arms of Apathy, but people who made life worth living. People who, with their idiosyncrasies, more often disappointed than amazed. But when they amazed, work and Apathy and survival and food disappeared. People gave you conviction, and conviction is communal. Conviction is strong. Conviction is communicable. The sharp pressure of Apathy’s foot will release, and Apathy will walk away to rekindle its love affair with your neighbour. And you will remember the one reason that we live, the one reason that life continues, is caring for and surrounding yourself, with people.