How Is The Easy-Way-Out The Hardest

Solid metal is cold. In my palm it has heft. This is, by far, the second scariest moment of my life. And I am brave enough to look this decision in its quarter-inch pupil.

The scariest moment of my life has been 22 years. Maybe 20 of them I’ve been old enough to remember; subtract a few additional years for copious substance abuse. This is okay, though, it was a coping mechanism, and every night in a dilapidated drunk was every morning decent enough to go to work.

I drive a ’95 Grand Marquis held together with after-market welds and duct-tape. It runs well enough, and the Audi’s and Lexus’s are shiny smudges every morning on my ten-minute commute on the outer-belt, capsules of brightly-reflected light that zap past me and leave wakes of space-time distortion, wondering what I am worth.

The radio station is telling me that Giant Eagle super-markets are staffed by my neighbors who know my name and are there to make my community a better place. I change the radio station. The radio is telling me, from a rewind of a similar commercial, that Giant Eagle super-markets bring neighbors together. I change the station.

Giant Eagle super-markets are providing my community with in-store pharmacies, optometrists, banking, psychiatric evaluations.

I will forever shop at farmers’ markets. I will only buy my rum from the only immigrant-owned corner-store in the county. Which just sold its liquor license to Giant Eagle.

I will only ever drink beer from the corner store every night to forget the fact that I will always be Federally recognized as poor. I will wake up every morning without remembering my nightmares and I will sweat ten hours in the August heat-stroke reseeding the lawns of 4,000 sq. ft. houses because the owners didn’t like their previous lawns. But at least I have a job.

At least my toddler eats well and I know he’ll grow up to resent me because he isn’t going to get his own car to celebrate his driving permit. He will never have his own laptop or Xbox. Because I’m going to spend that money instead buying inflation-priced produce from farmers’ markets and only food from Giant Eagle that hasn’t been basted in glyphosate and the Agent Orange chemical known only as 2,4-D.

But my wife grew up on the Disney Channel and so of course my kid is going to. Grow up watching kids living on ostentatious cruise-liners, in luxurious hotels, in NYC flats geared with the latest high-tech iterations of entertainment. All of the Disney kids gaudily dressed. What is that? A Prada dinner-jacket on a twelve-year-old?

What happened to Pete and Pete? When did Hey Arnold stop living in the inner-city with his poor working-class grandparents?

How many square feet did Clarissa live in?

My wife resents our lack of vacation-time. Why are all of the lights on in the house? Why is the AC on 61? The Kia has four extremely bald tires and monthly payments and we both know we aren’t getting anything on the tax return because I can’t afford an extra $350/month to keep paying my own health insurance.

Because I refuse to work in an office. Because I refuse to have four different bosses complaining I am not properly dressed. Because I do not pride myself on commercial success… I will always be a dead-beat.

We share a garage with the neighbors and the Grand Marquis has enough gas to idle for a few hours. But I don’t want to offend the neighbors.

This is the second scariest moment of my life.

The first scariest has been this entire existence of disorientation.

If you do not understand the direction called Up, you will forever be falling down.

It is a dread that scales your skin. Helplessness, unable to ward-off the head-long rushing familial death of unavoidable debt. There is nowhere to go.

I don’t understand why I should want a five-bedroom house with a three-car garage in a sub-division. I don’t want to wear suits. I can’t find any pride in owning a $90,000 car. I would hate my wife if she got fake tits. I can’t stand television. I don’t know what a 401k is or what dividends means or why the radio talks about ways to get the most money from Social Security.

For this I am known as weak.

What I do know is that by not understanding any of this, by not understanding why I should want annual vacations at the shore and the newest obsolescence-engineered tablet, smart-phone, laptop – I will forever be categorized as poor.

I will be the unsuccessful loser. I will not be able to save myself. Or my family. My wife spends too much time at the bar, after work, with her boss. Who owns four other Giant Eagles.

What I do know is that being strong means moving up in the world. It means climbing the corporate-cliff; success is determined by how many people are beneath you.

I do not want to be over people.

What is weak is not succeeding.

But what I don’t get is how many people can sit here and slip .45 caliber bullets into a revolver that is pointing at their skull. Show me courage.

What does it mean.

Put your thumb on the trigger. You’re looking into a small diameter and you aren’t pissing yourself.

Tell me how strong you are. I don’t own a Porsche SUV.

Show me strength.

Show me courage.

High-speed crash your Ferrari.

You don’t have the balls.

Lord over others.

Show me how strong you are.

Left is Right and Right and Right and Right is Left.

I am not unstrung.

I am capable of ending.

Show me your courage.

 

You Will Graduate, You Will Buy Health Insurance, You Will Mortgage Your Home, You Will Climb The Corporate Ladder, You Will Die

I am the college graduate who leases a new Volkswagon Jetta. I admire the summer days I can detail and wax my silver four-door in front of my carport. I am the young business professional with the townhouse ten blocks from the office tower. I proposed on one knee and purchased honeymoon tickets to the Virgin Islands. I masturbate to the brochures.

I am the college graduate who dreams of investing. Stock Market For Dummies is my easy-reading. I look forward to turning 26, when my stay on parents’ health insurance ends. I have been in contact with Aetna representatives, and have secured a deal on their Gold Plan.

I am the college graduate who dreams of Fourth of July cul-de-sacs. I will grill ostentatious meat platters while my children play in the yard. They will have thousands of dollars worth of sporting equipment and a trampoline with a safety net. I will work long hours at the office – my wife will suspect me of cheating again and develop, in due recourse, an expensive pill habit.

I will trade in my old phones for the newest Android. My laptop, desktop, and tablets will be the latest models with the latest software, always. My children will immerse long hours in life-like videogames, and wear the same distant, glossy videogame gaze at the dinner table. My wife will be too intoxicated to handle sharp knives and hot pots. We will order Indian instead of Mexican.

I am the college graduate who will climb the corporate ladder. My office will be in the corner. I will mortgage my home for an additional 2,000 sq. ft., and vacation in Orlando and Bermuda. There will be luxury cruise liners upon retirement.

I am the college graduate with $50,000 in debt. I am the college graduate who hates his bosses, and his desk, and his Dockers, and his fiance’s expensive diamond. I am the college graduate making payments on a Jetta, and a Gold Plan, and a townhouse, and a washer-drier unit.

I am the college graduate who is following the correct plan. My future is an uphill climb of shit, and the peak is an empty wasted hulk, a body of subverted dreams and no purpose.

I am the college graduate who is following the plan:

The grocery store is just outside the city-limits, in a neighboring suburb. The road is paved black with deep yellow lines, and I am the first car waiting at the stoplight. The stoplight is red. This is an intersection where a side road can turn either right or left onto this main road, where I am waiting for the light. But the side road is closed for construction. I am the first car at a red light that doesn’t need to be here. Of the twenty cars waiting behind me, not one honks.

I am the college graduate who is waiting, pointlessly and against all decent reason, for the traffic light to change.

Where Is The Void

If we only perceive of a thing in opposition to another thing, if there is only joy because there is sorrow, if we can only define light because it is the opposite of dark, than what do we make of this: the Multiverse is infinite.

Human perception depends on contradiction, opposition. If we do not know the absence of a thing, we cannot know the thing.

Where, in a Multiverse of unending existence, is The Void? Where is The Nothingness? Where lies Death?

Human perception depends on opposition; if there is no Void, no such thing as Life and Death… we will create opposition to define the thing.

Patient Lost In Aisle Five of the ER

 

For two days the inside of my ribcage has been sore. A dull throb, even, on the left side. I am looking at myself in the mirror. The night it began I felt lightheaded and my left arm had a pulsating throb, dull, numbing in heartbeats right down the nerves and veins to the fingertips. That was two nights ago and the soreness beneath my ribcage has not waned. This has now become disconcerting. I shout downstairs for my wife.

There are ten hospitals within a two-hour drive. The hospitals nearest the city have the highest average ER-costs. There are websites dedicated to comparing hospital costs, for the consumer’s benefit. There are five levels of ER care depending on how much you’re dying. If you’re a Level 5 dying, the costs are highest. I understand from a business perspective this makes sense. But I don’t know what kind of heart attack this might be, hopefully a minor, not near-death one. People can have minor attacks without even knowing. I am hoping for this.

90-minute drive to the next county, rural hospital, cheapest ER. We’ve brought the credit card to prepare for Level I Might Die.

The ER waiting room has bandages, gauze, Neosporin, crutches, braces, IV bags, in vending machines along the wall. I take my family through the security checkpoint and am greeted my a polite hostess who walks us to an empty bank of seats. I fill out forms and pass along my information. No, I do not have health insurance (pangs of guilt). I am handed a financial assistance form. I am an asshole bilking the insurance pool.

We are led down a cozily-lit hallway, in the patient rooms we pass are flickers of candlelight and soothing audio of nature. There are shiny metal carts draped with white cloth, clean china and those ornate metal domes that keep meals hot until the butlers can serve. The end of the hall we make a left, antiseptically pungent white fluorescent light. We wait in the financial assistance room. My vitals are read, EKG, awaiting the results. Everything appears fine. This is great. I’m not at risk of a heart-attack, I don’t drink copiously or smoke or do hard drugs, I’m not over 60 and I’m not morbidly obese. But the EKG doesn’t always pick up everything. If I’d like to, they can take an X-ray to look for obstructions or swelling, the only heart-attack signs the EKG won’t pick up. How much extra? About a grand. This is okay, I filled out the financial assistance form, I have a credit card, my chest hurts. What aisle for the X-ray? We’ll take you to the Radiology Department.

It probably wasn’t a heart-attack, is the verdict. Probably pulled a muscle or a tendon or a ligament in my chest. I work manual labor, this sounds plausible. I am given the bill for services rendered and sent home with Ohio Health System key-chain, bumper sticker, and t-shirt Made In Taiwan.

My wife is asking about the bills. It’s okay, see this one right here, the hospital gave us 75% financial assistance, the $800 is only the original charge, before the sliding-scale discount. Yeah, says wife, but then these other two bills. This one for $400 is for the ER doctors, and this one for $1,200 is for the Radiology doctors. This warrants several hours of phone calls: elevator On-Hold music, transfers between departments, telephone line dead-ends. It is explained: the ER doctors and the Radiology doctors don’t actually work for the hospital, just in the hospital, they have their own companies they work for and you have to call their respective billing departments for questions concerning your payments. Can you transfer me? No, sir, I can’t transfer your call to a different company. Have a nice month.

I’m an idiot. My illusions of how the world works are the puerile impressions of Sim City. As a kid, at the computer, building fake digital cities and you always had to build a police station, a fire department, and a hospital. Zoom in to the Sim City streets, see the little cop cars, fire trucks, ambulances racing to save the dying Sims. You had to raise taxes and allocate funds. It was a computer game for kids, of course it was simple.

Sim City is not real life. It is time to grow up. Be a good citizen, follow the law, make your monthly payments to an insurance corporation.

Someone was breaking into our car last week. Wife the insomniac saw through the window, stranger with a coat hanger crammed down car door window slit, trying to disengage the door lock. She called the police. We were standing in the street beside our ravaged Nissan, the police officer taking our information, filling out clip-board forms. He tore off the yellow carbon copy and handed it over, a bill for $800, make all checks payable to Riverside United Security Services.

Yes, this makes sense, this isn’t Sim City.