This is content. Consume it.
“A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife
And the wind, it cries Mary.
The traffic lights, they all turn blue tomorrow
And shine their emptiness down on my bed
The tiny island sags downstream
Cause the life that lived is, it’s dead
And the wind screams Mary.”
– Jimi Hendrix
The truth behind the matter was that there was no reason for the current state of affairs. Darkness permeated the stratosphere, casting a black cloak over the dead sky. Clouds glided silently across a shimmering veil. Stars cut jagged needlepoints in a somber cloth. She lazily dragged on a cigarette from her perch atop the skyline as her feet dangled listlessly below, slowly swaying over a desolate landscape.
She shivered and tightened up as a chill swept through the empty neighborhood. Barren winds sent spiraling gusts to sweep the remnants of the day down vacant street corners populated by deserted storefronts and absentee vendors.
Too often she found herself in this situation, she reflected, watching the sun begin its steady ascent as she draped her arms luxuriously across her folded, slender legs.
There was no discernible reason to let another night pass by in disappointment, another day melt into apathy.
They all agreed: life was a fleeting rollercoaster and adulthood a dreary, obligatory future dropoff. The only consensus was that there was no sense.
The darkness threatened.
A pounding controlled her thoughts, penetrated her skull. Between her ears, through her temples, radiating deep within, the beat drummed away. She felt a sudden anxiety take hold- seizing her stomach- crawling up her throat- clutching at her heart with frigid, groping tentacles. She trembled uncontrollably. The incessant pulse throbbed relentlessly. The cigarette dropped from her nerveless grasp, cascading embers piercing the veil until blackness engulfed the flickering flame.
It is 3:27 in the morning and the only ones still standing are either that special class of dedicated alcoholics or simply burnouts with nowhere else to go. Survival of the fittest. Or maybe the most experienced. Your head throbs in rhythm to the club’s music. How does one quantify the difference between social Darwinism and pragmatic human evolution anyways? Whatever. This club is no place for the weak. And so the question becomes…Why are you here? You don’t belong here at this time of night- if you ever belonged at all. You have never once felt comfortable under the steely, predatory gazes of the beautifully plastic women parading themselves about the venue like a goddamn street corner. As for the other guys? Fuck them. Douchebags pumped up on Jack Daniels and Creatine- popping Adderall and Dexedrine to overcome their perpetual apathy and subliminal social disorders, and MDMA, of course, to make it all worthwhile. If you knew the right people, well hell, maybe you could even score some Quualudes. Rich, disenchanted pretty boys blowing Daddy’s money. Not your scene. The consistent knock inside your head has gradually become a furious pounding.
You always fancied yourself a neo-Renaissance Man. A modern-day Leonardo da Vinci with a fatter bank account and a bigger dick. When did that perception change? It has recently become painfully clear- to you at least- that your success and self-esteem rely on your well-kept image rather than reality. The recollection of that exact instance of epiphany, however, eludes you. When did everything change?
The club lights cut jagged holes through your thoughts. Another obsequious pop hit dully drapes itself over the last- over the buzzing in your head and the growing, suddenly ravenous abyss in your stomach. It is imperative that you find something to fill the gaping emptiness. Why are you still here? Generic background music fades blissfully into a simple, rushing roar as the familiar warmth of dependence kicks in.
For all your complaints about drug culture, you have never been one to resist a good time. You came to the conclusion early on that partying is indeed possible to combine with- if not conducive to-success. Nevermind that your priorities may occasionally be supplanted by all-too justifiable drug and alcohol-fueled binges.
The fact is you and everyone else at the office are pre-determined kings, appointed upcoming prospective leaders of the free world. People like you are the upright, moral pillars of society, the future generation of benevolent stewards; enlightened Messiahs responsible for the Biblical flock. Inebriated members of high society stream out of the club doors as limousines and chauffeurs arrive to ferry their old money and delicate sensibilities back to whatever fucking summer manor these wealthy pricks owned. When did you become so bitter? And for God’s sake why the hell are you still here?? Sour grapes you guess. You stare blearily through half-lidded eyes at your long-empty drink. You have neither the money nor the motivation to consume another. Hushed murmurs are barely audible in the club. You are mildly shocked by the change in atmosphere a few simple hours can create. Epiphany still eludes.
“Fuck!” I spill coffee all over my favorite Italian-made paisley blue tie-the nice one from Harrods-as the Mercedes comes to a screeching halt inches behind a suddenly stationary Buick. Wonderful. Two choices: Show up looking like shit on the first day of earnings (not an option, CFO or not people would take notice), or show up late on the big day. I sigh as I wrench the car around and slam my foot through the pedal. Late again.
Three wives, six jobs, and eight cars later and I still need a drink every night- four or five but hey, who’s counting- and an extramarital affair every month (those I do count- a potent mix of vestigial conscience and persistent male ego keeps me at least that honest). The first one tried- nostalgic rose-colored glasses aside; the poor woman gave it everything she had. More than I can say for the other two. Current one especially. I never figured out exactly why it fell apart. At some point- I can’t remember when- I simply became incapable of returning her dumb, loving gaze.
The kids were supposed to make everything okay. They helped for a time- before I realized how quickly distraction turns to obligation. My son was born June 19, the same birthday as Lou Gehrig. The day he was born I felt like the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. The cracks began to show soon after. Kid had talent, like his old man (All-state back in high school), like Gehrig. Helluva first baseman like Lou too. But he never had the drive. No ambition. He was never the first to practice, certainly never the last to leave. The boy is an anachronism- a new age philosopher with more arrogant responses than insightful questions. That’s what happens when you grow up never wanting for anything, ya know? You never learn what’s worth fighting for.
We named my daughter Mary-the first wife was Catholic- foreseeing a sensible, religious young woman. She was born eight pounds, nine ounces with a penchant for crying. Somewhere along the line she replaced the crying with cigarettes. I wonder if that was organic, or just one of the myriad oddities inside her ‘brooding artiste’ starter pack. The girl is beautiful, sure, but distant and with a flair for the dramatic. Anti-establishment to a fault, even for a pussyass liberal. No keeping up with the Joneses for her.
The radio cuts to an old Jimi Hendrix song and I crank up the dial. Sound waves fill the emptiness inside the car as I hum along as best I can.