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.
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.