Louie has been doing this thing lately where he groans any time my alarm goes off in the morning. It's not a growl. It's not a yawn. Just an annoyed exhausted groan.

Here's the thing about Louie: He sleeps 23 hours and 51 minutes per day. He sleeps so much I think this is technically considered a coma. He sleeps so much he's aging in reverse.

Is Louie depressed? I don't think so. He certainly has no reason to be. He lives an adversity-less existence. He's the subject of daily household worship. We base furniture purchase decisions on whether they will be the most comfortable option for him and his brother.

So yes, my alarm going off at any time of day is likely to traumatize a creature who has never known trial. But to make matters worse, the alarm these days is going off at 6:00 AM in the morning-time early o'clock.

I know. Some of the good people of It Just Gets Stranger Dot Com don't think that's early. You get up at 3:00 AM and clean your houses and file your taxes and change your furnace filters and teach your children Latin before sunrise. You're better than me, Man Who Stopped Trying In March 2020.

I work from home. And by "work" I mean "wander my house in the clothes I slept in munching on handfuls of grated cheese and refusing to turn on the camera for my occasional zoom meeting because I'm pretty sure that would constitute legal assault."

My work schedule is pretty flexible, which is 95% an incredible privilege and I'm aware of that and you don't have to send me any emails about how I'm ungrateful and don't deserve happiness. But it's also 5% depressing because I've basically only seen like six people in the last three years and one of those was Skylar when he dyed his hair red and another one was Skylar when he grew that mustache. I counted those as different people than my husband because I refused to believe I was married to him during those phases.

Because there's no impetus for me to leave my humble abode, I have fallen into an habitual state of emotional squalor. I've never related so hard to a 1950s housewife who cleans all day and then dutifully awaits her patriarchal dragon-slayer's return from world labors. Except, I don't clean. Or await.

"Why don't you go work at a coffee shop or a coworking space or a friend's house?" Skylar will sometimes suggest as a proverbial salve for my unquenched extraversion.

"Great idea," I tell him before not doing any of those things ever because it turns out the path of least resistance does not involve any action and it appears I no longer like resistant paths.

All of this to say, my dear friend Brandt recently manipulated me into joining him and another friend three mornings per week at a nearby gym to see a personal trainer who was born in like 2017 and doesn't even remember the pandemic.

Brandt, also a Man Who Works From Home, told me he had been going to this trainer for a while and that having this on the calendar had proved to be an effective way to force him out of the house to interact with other humans on a regular basis.

What Brandt did not tell me before I made a long-term commitment and emptied the bank account I had set up to send you all to college one day was that these scheduled athletic outings would require me to get up at 6:00 AM in the morning-time early o'clock three days per week, hours after you've all filed your taxes. By the way, you guys know you only need to file your taxes like once a year, right?

You should sleep in more.

Louie made that groaning sound the first time my alarm went off for this a few months ago.

"See?" I said to Skylar. "I told you this is unreasonably early."

Skylar had acted as an unsympathetic repository for my preemptive complaints only the night before when I told him I did not believe it was physically possible for me to wake up at that ungodly hour. I made a mental note next time to whine to a lazy person and not a medical resident who arises so early most days that you have to use a different planet's time measurements to even document it.

Minutes later Brandt picked me up. His car smelled like he had used a firehose to spray the interior down with coffee because he wasn't sure drinking it would be powerful enough.

I said a profanity to him as I climbed in—one which I won't write on this website because my mother monitors it and I'm not sure if she still has the power to ground me. Actually, being grounded would be very helpful in this situation now that I think about it. I said "shit." "Shit" is the word I said. "Shit shit shit shit shit."


Brandt agreed. "Yeah," he said. "I've been doing this for like a year and it still sucks every time."

We arrived at the gym and I met our trainer. Let me tell you about this trainer.

This trainer has so much muscle mass there's a measurable gravitational force around him. And his skin? Look. I can't prove it. But I think he's drinking the blood of babies. He looks immortal. He looks like he sleeps in a cocoon made of crème brulée. He looks like the kind of person who files his taxes every day.

He's also one of the nicest people I've ever met.

But his most important characteristic? He thinks the three of us gay flamboyant out-of-shape men who are old enough to be his father are funny. And as hard as it is, I'm frankly willing to get up at 6:00 AM in the morning-time early o'clock for that kind of audience.

Over the next hour he instructed us to engage in a number of activities that each made me look like a giraffe trying to take its first steps. I was so uncoordinated they took away an Olympic gold medal from an athlete at random to account for it. I felt like a white family in a 90s infomercial. At one point I literally fell off a machine. This was not a complicated machine. There was no reason for me to have fallen off this machine.

Eventually the workout ended and the trainer fist-bumped us so confidently that I was straight for the rest of the day. It made me want to go to Chili's or place empty alcohol bottles on top of my fridge.

We retreated to Brandt's car. I drank enough water on the drive back home that it started a new drought in nine counties.

He dropped me off and I walked up my driveway—slumped, really—like a battered soldier previously listed as MIA, returning to the homestead to surprise his family who had already grieved his loss.

I opened the door and found Skylar, whistling, and tying his shoes, ready to head off to work for the day.

"That was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," I said, in a tone I hoped would play for sympathy.

"You are so brave," he told me as he walked by and kissed me on the forehead. "I'm so proud of you and your incredible sacrifice."

Skylar departed and I went into the dark bedroom where Duncan and Louie were still fast asleep.

I collapsed onto the bed, which moderately shook.

Louie opened one eye, glared at me, and then shut it.

A few seconds later, he groaned.

~It Just Gets Stranger