"everything will be ok in the end"
B. A. Bartsch
This morning I woke up and she was gone. Her place in the bed was empty and cold in all but the deepest folds of the quilt that she had made. I saw a note on her pillow: two words, "I'm leaving." It didn't seem real. I sat up in bed hoping to find some evidence of a practical joke; but there was none. I checked the date to make sure I hadn't slept through the winter to April fool's day… no. She had threatened to leave before and had even done so for brief periods of time, but this was different. As I sat on the edge of my bed, I realized that she wasn't coming back, not this time. There was no lie left lingering in the room, whatever presence she left spoke truthfulness from the shadows.
I wept like God when Darwin was born, staining the pillowcases with the excrement of my loneliness. She was all I had left, and although I wasn't shocked, I could have done with some real warning. She was the only one who still pretended to care about what I had to say. My friends had vanished long ago; my children, bless their hearts, were grown and had kids of their own. They didn't call me and they pretended to be out if I called. That is the blessing of caller ID, the ease with which one can ignore his or her own father. I had no one when she left.
After my ducts had cleansed themselves of every last salty drop I got out of bed. I tried to wash my face but my eyes still screamed sadness. So I showered. After I felt refreshed, I got dressed and was on my way to become integrated once more with the noise of life outside my walls.
On my way to the supermarket I stopped at the local Starbucks. The coffee there was all right, nothing you couldn't get down the street for half the price, but the people were what I came for. They all seemed so nice; whether they had a lineup out the door or were bored beyond recovery they always had a perfect smile. I thought about that as I walked through the door. Their grins usually didn't strike me as out of the ordinary, but today there was something robotic about them. As if they had been carved into their stone faces by a corporate sculptor. I'm sure that if their smile was less than perfect that the ground on which they stood would shake and a green siren would have devoured their souls if it hadn't already. The girls behind the counter gave me a standardized greeting, "Hi there, how are you doing today?" I didn't answer because it wouldn't have mattered. If I had said good, they would be good, if I had said terrible because my pig of a wife just left me, they would sympathize and take my money nonetheless. The question feigned interest but sincerity was not there, how could it? After all they say the same line a thousand times every day. Nobody, not even a 'barista' cares enough to keep track of how everyone is doing. They don't give a damn. I took my coffee, they sucked my soul. Fair trade. I couldn't bring myself to put my lips to that white plastic lid. Fornicating with the cheery red cup as if it were Valentines Day. The smell repulsed me.
These companies always claim to have the consumers' best interests in mind, but that's bullshit they feed to their employees to help them fool the customer. Keeps them coming back if they think they are cared about. Kinda like marriage. What keeps the rich Wall Street husband from fleeing the continent after a bad day at work? What prevents that man, worth so much to the economy from buying a one-way ticket to Bermuda in hopes that the triangle gets him? His wife, that's what. Even if the marriage is rocky, at least there's sex for him to come home to every night. That's why men cheat, because there's nothing at home better then a sack of potatoes. My wife was just like Starbucks. Every day I would bust my ass to make enough money to keep her around. I would walk through that door and be greeted politely with a fake smile and fake concern, followed by a dinner made with fake care and maybe once a month we'd make love but that would be fake too: like getting a turtle for Christmas when you asked for a dinosaur. If I asked for my latte to be made a little differently, she'd agree but the tension would grow. I stopped wanting the love, so I stopped giving it to her. She stopped kissing me when I walked through the door, my dinner would be laid out for me but she would be asleep. And the fake lovemaking withered away to a very real begging on my part. She became a disgruntled employee and she quit.
I was like the fleeing Wall Street husband, but without anywhere to run I just kept going back home, to the pain and the silent rooms.
I tried to go to those meet-n-greets for the elderly, but it felt like I was the smelly kid from grade school. I watched as the gray haired mess mingled, and heard as they laughed. If they saw me coming their way they would disappear like roaches so I stopped going. I stopped going to the supermarket and had my groceries delivered. My walks to get coffee came to a halt when one of the other customers complained about me. I soon became every generic old man in every old movie. I would sit on my porch and read the paper, occasionally taking a break to yell at the neighbors kids when they came onto my lawn. I read every bit of the paper. I read about some foreign leader killing his people, I read about popular kid's books and new movies. I read sports and entertainment and cooking, but the section I looked forward to reading every day was the obituary, situated beside the announcements and births, but usually after. I found it interesting how the paper would spoil something as good as a wedding engagement by listing all the old farts who died that week. I imagined them; lying in their caskets or urns, people crying all for them. No one had ever cared enough to cry for me, and they probably wouldn't unless I died. I would sit in my chair and envy every son of a bitch who was lucky enough to be cried over There were times when I even thought about doing myself in just so people would love me. Even if they said just one nice thing about me, I would know that I had harvested every last ounce of their love.
I got my doctor to write me a prescription for my depression; he was reluctant but eventually gave in. He told me that I would have to go to a psychiatrist to get any more. That way, he knew I was getting treatment as well as drugs. For a few months I did, but my shrink hated me, she didn't care like the Starbuckers didn't care. She was really good at hiding her boredom with my life, but I could see it beneath her skin. Like worms burrowing through mud. I knew that she wouldn't give me any more meds, so I stopped going and believe it or not I began to get better. At home I would lead myself in some meditation, picturing happy times in my life and things that made me smile. I even managed to get in touch with my oldest: he and his wife sent me a Christmas card with a picture of their whole family. 2 kids, I was a grandpa. The card said that they were going somewhere tropical for the holidays and wouldn't be able to see me, but wished me the best. That was nice. It felt real.
Christmas was tough to get through, I couldn't stand to be alone, but the thought of being with anyone only reminded me of how alone I was. So it happened that on Christmas Eve I was watching a TV special documenting Christmas all over the world. It flashed from celebrations in different time zones and regions. I was beginning to fall asleep when I heard the voice of an angel; I forced my eyes open and saw my wife on the TV holding two small children, her grandchildren! There was my family, enjoying a warm Christmas in Nassau, Bahamas while I sat alone on my couch, melting away from the burning warmth of the fire. Cheated may be too tame of a word to describe how I felt, but it is close. Stabbed in the back also covers a similar range of emotions. But most of all I felt betrayed, not only by my family, but by myself. I sat back and let that festering postcard from hell ease me into a sense of calm whilst those I cared about tore my world out from under me. I didn't know what to believe, what could I trust if not my… own… intuition...
Spinning, head afloat in a tumultuous sea of rage. Sinking, sinking…sink…
I must have fainted, when I came to the TV was playing another fucking Christmas movie. One of the ones where a little plastic Santa and a little nylon Rudolf save Christmas from a green ape or something, I don't know. I couldn't focus; all I could see was my abandonment, alone and scared as they pranced around the Bahamian coastline enjoying life. I couldn't let them do that.
I had spent many sleepless nights thinking about the best way to go. To make it look like an accident, I had decided on a car wreck cause if you make it bad look enough and there is no way anyone will consider it a suicide. You're just that poor fool who fell asleep at the wheel without wearing a seatbelt. I was all set, in my car about to open the garage door when I decided to make it look good. Upstairs I found my good suit and a nice tie. I made the bed and cleaned up the empty pizza boxes that littered the hallway. I went to the trash and got out the Christmas card, it didn't have any stains and the creases were minimal. I lay that nicely out on the table next to my bible. I turned off the TV and fixed the cushions on the couch. One final look around satisfied me that nobody would think I had lived the life I had for these months.
I headed to the interstate. I figured that in order to ensure my end I should do more then just crash. Where the north/south crossed the east/west there was a forest of overpasses and under roads, as if a giant had built a ladder to heaven. If you didn't know your way around, you could get lost on ramps for hours. I went to the top level, picked a gap in the barrier and gunned it full speed. The car hit the rail on the passenger side, sending glass like dust into the car. I could feel it hit my face but I kept my foot on the petal. It didn't matter though. I looked out the windowless gap in the door and saw the horizon grow higher as I fell. The car had left the overpass on an angle and therefore was tiling ever so slightly on my side. I saw another road come up and dreaded landing there when there was so much more falling to do. The nose hit it but that only succeeded in sending the crumpled car into a barrel role. Slow motion. Gravity seemed to have left my part of the world as the contents of the cab floated by me. Some change, a dirty magazine. Some parking tickets still unpaid. Then a picture of my family, it seemed to taunt me. It had been taken some years ago, at my daughter's prom. We were all smiling, but I was faking.
Tears came to my eyes and a grin to my face. This time tomorrow, none of them would be smiling and I took pleasure in that. When I died, I was truly content for the first time in my life.