If you’ve never gone six months or so without a good night’s sleep, I doubt I can adequately describe to you how deeply tired I was toward the end of the speed era. Sex, food, money, fame — all these were as nothing to me compared to the prospect of a nap. But I kept taking the pills, so there was no sleep for me.

Finally, one morning, my body served notice that it was not going to take this anymore. It was going to sleep right now, and I could go to hell. So I stayed in bed throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. The phone rang; I ignored it and let the machine handle it. The phone rang again; I ignored it again. The third time around, I forced myself to roll over and pick up.

It was my boss. I told him I wasn’t feeling well, which was the truth. With a cold edge in his voice, he said, “Hector, I need you to come into the office right now.” So I willed myself to a vertical position, shocked myself with scalding hot water, and drove downtown.

It was a gray and gloomy day. When I walked into the office, it seemed abandoned. Nobody was around and there was an unsettling absence of noise. The buzzing of the flourescent lights was audible, but the light felt dimmer than usual. I walked down the hallway, turned one corner, then another.

My boss’s door was open; his overhead light was off, but a lamp glowed orange in the corner. He was sitting behind his desk and looked up as I entered. “Have a seat, Hector,” he said, grimacing.

I sat.

“I’ll cut to the chase. We’re gonna have to let you go, Hector. Your work’s been slipping, your attitude sucks, and you never seem to be around when I look for you.”

I nodded. What was there to say? I deserved to be fired. The only surprising thing was that it had taken this long. A complex mix of emotions washed over me, but the one that welled up from underneath and came to dominate the others was an immense sense of relief. I was, I realized, free to go.

I stood up and turned toward the door.

“And Hector? Get some rest. You look like shit.”