Over the years, I’ve bought countless books at his suggestion. Never read a single one. He was a waste as much as any of us are but the only thing to do is move forward, torn, undone, unfulfilled. When you have plenty and you still want more, some people will call you greedy and some will call you ambitious but the thing is, why else are we even here? If we are creatures with minds, as some have suggested and some quite rightfully debate, why would anything ever be enough? Human nature is a kind of hunger which can never be sated. A thirst for art and entertainment, enlightenment and connection, love and freedom and all the rest of it.
I don’t trust him because he tells me things he isn’t even sure of himself. By firelight in early fall, we share whiskey and stories and some of his are almost good but before we can get into it on any kind of real level, his confidence turns into arrogance which turns into defensiveness and then he disappears. Not out of the ordinary these days, when people come on strong and then suddenly leave you feeling disillusioned just as fast. Everything happens in a flash and nothing much sticks around except that churning sick feeling in your stomach like you want it all to happen again and you dread it happening again all the same.
When comedy becomes tragedy and tragedy becomes a punch line, to grasp your own emotions in any given minute becomes an ever present and increasing challenge. It’s an empty world of empty promises and filled to the eyeballs with shallow souls.
As I open a breaking news alert on my phone, I see that the terrorists have all but taken over and innocent civilians are at their cruel mercy once again. The amount of sheer agony those poor humans must be soaked in is unbearable to even fathom. I feel only a fraction of it as I let the facts sink in and even from this far away, my bones ache for their helpless sorrow, their walking, running, panicked, starved and frightened grief. I feel fused with a kind of collective pain and trauma and wonder what any of us are supposed to do with ourselves on a mad planet like this, surrounded by such callousness as this, and what – if anything – would make any sort of difference at all.
Attached to the bottom of the news alert about the victorious savages is an ad for a push-up bra which comes with interchangeable straps in a variety of colors. If I buy one they will give me a pair of matching panties for free. And we are still creatures with minds. And we are still creatures with minds to be sucked on and distracted. And we are still creatures who can think for ourselves until they think of ways to make us think better of all of it. Until we can’t think straight and can’t remember how we ever did to begin with. Empathy and mind erasers. Gore and swim suit bodies. We are creatures with minds we’ve been shredding for decades.
As the rain begins to fall outside the window of my writing room, I take one of the books off the shelf, remembering how he had told me about it saying I should read it because the writing in it reminded him of mine. When I asked him why he thought it similar, he couldn’t come up with a single thing to say. And then it was months before I heard from him again. I slide my fingers across the sleek black cover, glide my thumb along the gleaming, unbroken spine. The bookmark is tucked inside page thirteen. I put it there years ago when I decided the book wasn’t any good at keeping my attention. It’s stayed there ever since.