No Chance to Live

They live on the sides of highways eating dust. They can be found in alley cardboard castles taking hits of sewer steam. Their eyes are glass hits of acid and turpentine and they still see 10 colors of the rainbow; hearing in thermal frequencies and thinking in ultra-violet, a world hacking to pieces perceptions and ideas and the emotions they see in city smog. And they refuse it. And I drive past cardboard signs stapled to chests asking for freeze-dried fruits non-GMO and organic non-perishables only please, and the sweat caked dirt on my face and body, neuro-rigid hands can’t grip the steering-wheel. I am dying. My head and my chest are ripping open under $60,000 of blood-signed diploma spending 50 hours a week in sun sweat manual labor to feed the cradle. I am supposed to be writing a novel. I am making monthly payments to an insurance company I can’t afford to stop or it wastes gas I can’t afford new pants with a crotch hole already. I am no different.

Where did we go.

What killed gonzo? What shot the tail of the lizard king and burned the strawberry fields. What chopped off the highway thumbs and incestuated the rebellious romance.

Cardboard stapled to concrete walls keeps out the cold where they blow cock and bathsalts: fluorescent lights fuck the pupils prostrate in cubicles making payments on endless debt.

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How Synthetic We’ve Become

Samantha tells me I sweat too much and I know this is true, it’s August and when I walk to my car after work the drips run right down my sides, and if I wipe my brow my eyes sting. But there’s a fix for this, Johnson & Johnson makes a bodywash – for men – with aluminum zirconium tetrahydrochlorate, an antiperspirant that forms gel-like plugs in all of my sweat-ducts. My morning routine is shower, then brush my teeth with an electric toothbrush and use teeth-whitening mouthwash. I know there’s fluorosilicic acid in the water to keep our teeth white, but even so. I keep my appearance top-notch, because Samantha and I are moving up in the world.

We work out at the same gym. At different times though usually. I take creatine supplements infused with 4-hydroxy-isoleucine and another pre-workout supplement that dilate my cardiovascular system so that my muscles receive more oxygen and blood. Samantha has been taking the new ‘Viagra for women’, to match my own enhanced libido. I’ve elected to receive monthly testosterone treaments.

Samantha and I eat healthy. No McDonald’s. We buy enriched cereals containing almost all of the vitamins and minerals we need each day. We don’t worry much about folic acid though, because it’s required that all bread is already folic acid enhanced. We take Centrum as well, and go to Whole Foods for other more specific dietary supplements.

We save money where we can (we’re looking into flats downtown). When we purchase produce we look for the fruits and veggies with the thicker coatings of wax. The wax contains the presevatives and pesticides that keep our produce fresher, longer. When we’re home and have unpacked our groceries, we additionally spray our produce with Difenoconazole, a common agricultural fungicide, to further prevent decay.

On the weekends we scrub our townhouse with triclosan-based cleaners and Clorox, and use Lysol disinfectants to clean the air. We are expecting a baby soon in a month, and would like the baby not to get sick. We’ve even planned to accelerate the recommended vaccination plan – 128 shots by the time he (she?) is 18 months.

Samantha and I tan three times a week.

I’m prescribed a mixture of Aderol and Welbutrin to keep me focused at the job I love. These worked well when I was diagnosed with ADD in elementary school, and continue to do so. I take Oxycontin for my constant migraines, an incurable disorder caused by dilated blood-vessels near my brain – that, or because I’ve had the misfortune of twice (twice!) catching a ‘super-bug’, though I regularly take antibiotics so I don’t get the flu. I also eat lots of poultry.

I work in politics for a company called ConAgra. My job is to help make the food-supply more resistant to insects, diseases, drought, synthetic herbicides, and direct sunlight. The goal is to make food more affordable. I understand this a lot, because Samantha and I too are on a budget, which is why we’ve been using formaldehyde instead of skin lotion.

I’ve also been keeping up on the markets. I have a bluetooth I listen to financial news on. Siri reads the news to me, and when I don’t understand a word Siri explains the definition. I can’t say I’ve retained much. But I am looking forward to economic recoveries. The central bank is going to re-manipulate the interest-rates, the economy is finally going to be overhauled by Congress, and new incentives are going to encourage borrowing and spending and money-creation. I am hopeful these new things will get society back to its natural balance.

Servitude Sine Qua Non Capitalism

The daily sweat burning August sun into the red of my neck, head bent day long placing pavers up a driveway to a three car garage. Exhaustion is when limbs get numb, dehydration underestimating the volume of a gallon water jug. When the lightpost by the cascading stoop comes on, lights an orb with edges dissipating into a night hiding the house’s upper-floors… there is something I’ve missed. I am supposed to be home and I am still laying bricks. The stars in the sky out-competed by the porch lights deck lights driveway lights garage lights lawn lights of the much-acheived sub-division. I stand up from the bricks and turn a confused circle. I am pushing a brick-loaded wheelbarrow back down to the pick-up, curb parked. The pick-up has accrued at some point several tickets beneath the wipers. The wheelbarrow catches an unevenly-laid brick and the weight is a moment tumbling free of my hands. I was supposed to be home. There is something I have missed. My kid is asleep and my wife on her one night off is waiting up for me. It wasn’t supposed to be this. Suburban lights have lawns glowing green, surreally, past the windows of the pick-up. I must have made a wrong turn. The GPS doesn’t plug in anywhere and my flip-phone isn’t receiving 2G. Somewhere in a cul-de-sac I have become lost. I am sweating needle-pricks from my goosebumps and I don’t know where I am. In the windshield are memory-versions of myself sitting in college classrooms, studying in the library, taking rum from my empty pockets sleeping nowhere, and in a mindless storm of impulse rocketing my future down a highway away from school, towards towns I’d yet to explore. And needed. And desired. A life not spent bent supplicating paychecks from the boss’s desk. I am on my own. And I am crushed. And my family has no future in a townhouse past the gentrified edge. And I am sinking in debt and insurance and credit scores I refuse to check. And I am told to hire a crew. If I’d just stayed in school a degree and then ten people working under me. I must have become confused. Or corrupted, with some sick ideal a dozen people shouldn’t work beneath me. I am a fuck up. The windshield a translucent reflection bloated to dimensions of pathetic ethics, face pallid stained with blood sinking into a gut that won’t climb itself a single capitalist rung. Idealistic refusal and the delusion my children will be better off. That I work for no one and I run no one, and I am confused. It is four in the morning in a cul-de-sac and the pick-up still a mile down the driveway. There is something I have missed. I am placing the bricks back in the wheelbarrow and this is the day beginning. I was supposed to be home.

Disengaged The World

College is three years behind down the road left lingering the paper-trail of an aborted degree. I have turned my facade into a quarry chipping away Doc Maartens and Oakley’s, peeling skin off TV screens and masturbating to Fox News anchors. Instead of two more years on an Art History major I am the animal-rights terrorist blowing open zoo cages I peer deep inside my self to see. I am the bathsalt nightmare flinging shit at alley walls; I am the molly nakedness supplicating gay bears at who brush across me; I am introverted by confusion not neatly parsing dreams from waking life. Wander into house parties stealing fridges for the day’s last meal. There are ghosts avoiding eye-contact on city streets and drug corners. Pallid skin cracks dehydration of bingeing month-long hangovers. There are childhood dreams folded into realistic goals, folded into consumer excess, folded into financial stability, folded into a college degree, into a part-time job, a decent apartment, into a shit-hole mattress on the floor. Repulsion and rejection folding further in, tear off the vapid and burn the social expectations burn and rot and burn and rot suburban sprawl wrapped in 10,000 count thread, ever further in. Gouged the eyes of every expectation indiscriminately, left dangling from the wire-strand lightbulb of this abandoned housing.

Too Stupid To Understand Carnival America

The woman on the phone is telling me the doctors’ bill is separate from the hospital bill, for the third time, we’re not the ones you sent the financial aid applications to. No, sir, I cannot transfer you to another company. No, I do not have their number.

I am stuck in a traffic circle’s inside lane, and nobody is letting me get over so I can stop circling. I am buying my groceries at a corner-store because Kroger keeps telling me their super-markets are staffed by my friendly neighbors who care. I am supine in a field during a thunderstorm.

I am being told that I do not understand that Ohio State University does not own my debt, nor does the Department of Education, sir, you need to get in touch with the debt-collection agency that has purchased your debt.

I am at the carnival and the politicians have arrived for their speeches. Britain left the EU because racists are taking over. I am eating wild onions from the Ferris wheel’s overgrown lot because these are the only produce not treated with caustic pesticides. I think about drinking water from the pond to escape wondering why the government cares so much about my teeth, but on fourth thought the pond is definitely artificially green because it’s also a great idea to dump copper into water, for aesthetics.

I am being told I don’t understand. My professor is smug and telling me I don’t understand and the Young Republicans are snickering. The liberal in the Lexus, with the Hillary sticker, is visibly pissed at me for confusing his blinker with the intention of turning.

I am being told I don’t understand how the world works. I am told I need to finish my degree. I am told I need to stop drinking. Why have you moved five times in that many years? Don’t you want some stability? You need a job. You need health insurance.

I have submerged myself and I am holding my head under water with both hands. There is a taste of paper-clips in my mouth. I am holding my head under green water and every time I give up the Ferris wheel is still there, and the only thing I can’t understand is why everybody thinks these things are understandable.

Melancholy and Newton’s First Law Of Motion

I am in a computer lab for Multi-national Communications 105. The professor is speaking about something and I am watching the mouse cursor make a Ouija board drift across the screen. If I focus on my nostrils I smell the tropical scent bodywash of the porcelain legs in the seat beside me. I don’t know her name. What I do know is an image in my head of those legs forming a fleshy crescent with her pout buttcheeks. I hold the image in my head but it has no meaning or tumescent effects – an anhedonic thought. I try not to look at people because of the constant sensation of being judged. I wish it weren’t a gorgeous Spring day because then I could put on my sweater, cross my arms and enjoy the warm fabric of this computer lab swivel chair.

I am in Metronomic Psychology 101 and the desk is too small, caricature of over-grown adult in kindergarten. I am trying to take notes but the professor’s voice has decompressed into Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice and the chalkboard is too far away to see the hieroglyphs.

At night in bed my heart is a percussive staccato. I am excited to do something but there is nothing to do because it is 1 2 3 4 in the morning and the excitement is vapid. It is a wasted load. I want to be doing something but I have nothing to be doing and these are the eager maggots crawling beneath the scalp of vague dreams. I spend the hours between my classes appeasing exhaustion. Daylight vituperative in my bedroom windows but I have my TV off, no more Reality TV I am reading because I have life goals and two pages in is when my eyelids become lead curtains I can’t hold open – sleep is an irreality of dreams indiscernible from life; I am daily restarting conversations I’ve never begun, apologizing for injustices I haven’t committed.

I am spending increasing amounts of class time sitting in bathroom stalls wondering why the proximity of other human beings feels like judgemental penetration of my fleshy inner-self.

I waste time between Micromanaging 203 and Consumer Success 501. I take the long way thrice around campus. I am staring at a bulletin board on the campus green and the fliers and notices are posted thus:

Lost Cat. Lost Dog. The Bachelorette Season Finale Party. Guitar For Sale. Easel For Sale. Melancholics Anonymous. Nihilist Support Group – Help Us Find Ourselves. Childhood Dream Curbside Sale – Take Everything You Can. Help Save Indigenous Possums In Sao Paolo.

There are meaty crows in the tree overhead and they are eating the baby birds that didn’t fly in time. I know nothing of their experiences. Campus is empty because the 3:15 classes began 10 minutes ago. I am gilded by the decadence of afternoon sleep.

I have been a Geology Major. A Philosophy Major. A Journalism Major with a focus on Photography. I am a Marketing Major.

I have been dumped from the high school conveyor belt into the collegiate funnel and I was even allowed to decide my major. I will in ten years be making $80,000 annually because I wisely chose Marketing instead of Journalism. My conveyor belt is set to deposit new Acuras and a fully furnished starter-home in an upscale sub-division by the time I’m 27. All I have to do is sit at my desk. Sit at my desk. Sit at my desk. Sit at my desk.

It is 2pm and I am in bed reading Techniques of Modern Photography to feel productive. I have read two pages and the sentences blur again into the irreality of deep, irresistible sleep.

Stay at my desk and happiness will be delivered.

I am back-sprawled on my bed. I am naked. It is Thurs or Fri or Sat and there hasn’t been hunger or thirst or lust or exhaustion in 2 or 3 or 4 days. I am staring at my ceiling. Stare at a single point long enough and the patterns take new forms – I am staring at a large Newton’s Cradle, four big silver balls clinking one off of the right, one off of the left. It is sometime between sunrise and sunset.

It is dark in my room but in my peripheries I can make out the darker forms of my desk, flat screen, laptop, PS3, dresser, closet full of clothes, shoe rack. And for some time now these darker forms have been evaporating with a slow, frothy hiss, evaporating up into the walls, depressurizing, the shadows of my material possessions creeping up the walls and as this evaporation spreads it leaves behind a pristine darkness, immaculate and speckled with a million points of shimmering blue.

There is nothing but the vastness and the stars. I feel only the heaviness of my own body – there is no pressure, no thing to act against and I cannot be sure if I am moving or in any meaningful way exist. The stars are too far to give perspective. There is nothing horrible about this. I can exist here in perpetuity and never physically suffer because I know that all I have to do is reach out to take a handful of stars, and what is so profoundly wrecking is the knowledge that it would all be pointless, because my mouth is already full.

 

Irreconcilable Desires

Out of the apartment window I see down into the street, tree-lined, sun-streamed verdant, quiet. There’s a family getting into their SUV/minivan, an immigrant family from some East Asian country – abandoned the crowded oriental casbahs and sweat shops for American opportunity. The husband’s getting their 9yr old into the Volvo, new and shiny and probably capable of autonomous parking. His wife’s in the passenger seat on her smartphone, talking through the open window to her parents who are watching the youngest kids for the day, walking them down the sidewalk on tricycles and plastic foot-pedal cars. This man and his wife have Made It, and brought over their parents, and they all live together in the townhouse next-door to ours.

My wife and I live 800 miles from our families. There is no generational-continuity. We left, abandoned, ditched, forgot. Our toddler’s seen his grandparents and his aunts and uncles exactly three times. We are alone here, in this bustling city we made our frontier. Except it’s already been settled. What are we doing here? What are we doing? What am I doing? I am at my typewriter drunk at 2pm and there is nothing to produce, just wringing my heart into the bathroom sink and wash it down with Draino to make sure the waste doesn’t clog.

We are in the cheapest townhouse in an expensive suburb 10 minutes from downtown. Together the wife and I, 80 hour work weeks. And I hate our neighbors. I hate our decor and I can’t stand the New Car smell of the faux-leather in the used Mazda I just bought to replace the dead chunk of metal and oil that’d been stuck along the curb for four months. Monthly payments.

The family out the window is happy. They’ve Made It. They’ve made themselves successful and happy and when I put myself in that man’s car with my own happy kids in Nike’s and name-brand clothes I resent myself. I want what he has: a good job and a comfortable income and plenty of food and a nice big HDTV and plush furniture and a wife who doesn’t have to work every night. I want a new car my own car and clothes that match and the financial ability to take week-long vacations at the shore, and I want a smartphone and a tablet and a laptop that doesn’t freeze every time I open Google Chrome.

And I hate all of it. My heart strangles thinking of having a closet and a dresser both full of my own clothes. I cringe thinking of having a $300 razor to stylishly cultivate my facial hair and who the hell actually spends $400 on a digital watch that monitors your footsteps?

I want to be happy and comfortable. I don’t want to dread bills. I want to be able to afford a doctor because my ear (infection? pierced ear-drum?) has now throbbed for two weeks.

To attain these things I must sit in an office. I must take orders with obeisance. I must make monthly payments to an insurance corporation. I must enjoy high-tech entertainment and pride myself on the luminosity of my detailed BMW.

To be happy I must become everything I despise.

I shut the blinds and the happy Made It family disappears. I drink from the bottle because it kills me quicker and when I begin to type I am banging my forehead on the typewriter.

 

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.

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.