The squat overweight black woman was clutching the McDonald’s bag tightly on her chest as she absentmindedly crossed the ‘T‘ of the overburdened unemployment line of unfortunates restlessly awaiting their turn at the front desk. Every possible configuration of humanity was represented from any corner of the Earth. The only visible proviso being that the outfits were distinctly American influenced in design and cut. Something in many cases unflattering to the occasionally outlandish proportions of the supplicant. Murphy stood patiently in line.At first at the extreme end of the large hall off in a corner where the active snake of humanity’s tail incrementally grew longer and longer as more people arrived. A sad menagerie of former promise gone awry. Dead dreams out of fashion like the mismatch of Salvation Army suitable attire that serves as their regular fare. Hobbling around on failing limbs helped along by male companions that they would have never dreamed to have consorted with in decades past. Humiliated and shamed by the vagaries of age and growing infirmity. Fall weather’s fading glow handing off it’s melancholy presence to the doldrums of withering cold and extended darkness. Every emotional knickknack and physical slight still manifest in suspended animation scheduled to arise once again at existence’s end. To fade back into nothingness from whence one came. A slow easy surrender and violation to one’s simple sense of eternity. A violation of the self. He knew himself to be a man of excess and obsession. Pathologically so! All to show for his failings being an oversupply of material objects. Each one in an outmoded sense of present market value in atrophy amidst the society that surrounds him. His chase for golden apples of notoriety seemingly eternal. Ever ripe for the brass of the moment where a synthesis with that single diaphanous proposition of possible potential success translated into a temporal form of reality of wishing to be found ahead of all others. The most dangerous of notions! It may have been that somewhere along the way upon the path that was forged by oneself the sight of what seemed so long familiar and easily brought to mind was now in the past totally lost. One’s own name long forgotten by the world outside? Tall grass growing high before one’s front doorstep that lay ever unkempt. Impatient expectations tamed only by the largesse of too many passing seasons of waiting. Converted into dead stalks long blown over by old forgotten winds. Crumbling in one’s grasp too far desiccated to be recognizable. Spent an useless before another season’s reciprocation. The line before him had now advanced several more empty souls.
The dance had always been central to his thoughts. Movement and its potential being forever analyzed in the back of his mind. Every action of the hand and arm measured step by step. Perhaps too much TV? A cartoon level of cartoon existence emulating that child-like two-dimensional universe of ‘shake and bake‘ behavior. The mental progress of posture to posture trying to feel when to break free and let what happens occur without hesitation. What part of his focus was flawed? His usual partner was critical? It seemed that there was a power struggle between their egos. Her’s versus his! His other occasional male partner seemed much more amenable. His own steps seemed naturally simpatico with his male partner. Was it a man woman gulf in-between thing? Was he secretly Gay? Step for step his male partner’s movements echoed his own. The audiences did not understand it either way. Most were Philistines. The line ahead to the desk didn’t seem to be shortening. Why did they like to see others move? Were they all just voyeurs he wondered? “All we have in this larger fishbowl is ourselves and accumulation of our own follies to confront?”, he mused. Every car runs out of gas unless that part is replenished. But what if the emotional sustenance can no longer be found? The line lost a couple more applicants redirected to the gallery of chairs that had been cordoned off far to the left. Most of them now filled. His time seems to be fading quickly. His physicality not what it once was. He looked at the children racing about the legs of those in line. Many would start their lives as fully grown individuals when he was dead. He closed his eyes and a vision of little glowing candles sailing off in paper boats disappearing into dark night congealed. Humanity together and yet alone but to what end? “My own end!”, he thought. Now withdrawn from society with a class of humanity specifically demoted to simply a passing phase. A solitary granule in a half full box of stale aging Cream of Wheat. The extravaganzas of performance linked to so many great novels lodged like great sailing ships in his head. Now barren of sails and sunk in the middle of the harbor. Great ballets remaining un-acted and with scores for same partially submerged serving as carrion for the derelict ship’s worms. Age not responsible for destructing the habit of hope and plans for the future. If not here than in off in some other realm still not yet imagined.
The dipole of mixed emotions equally susceptible to being drawn back and forth in and out of angst and euphoria only to be repelled What after all did one have to lose but one’s self? The infrequency of familiar relations a rarity with others casting one immediately as the stranger. Perhaps novel for a time, but never at home. Only that now far distant era that was spent under the rule of ones barely recalled. The ones that had brought him into the world? A fit bow to have loosed such an errant arrow. Enforced anonymity a matter of patent non-specificity in a reckless adherence to the daily rule of inflexible routine. Like liquid bleach spilled haphazardly creating an irreparable pale spot expanding beyond reasonable to be erased. High pressure to low pressure. The quality of the landscape having been dragged over across so roughly. Too many rocks having bruised one’s thighs! All the damage too problematic to reasonably recall! Can one really have the presence of mind to be able to precisely recall the disapproval their own mother visited upon her face? Those keepers of the circus cannons that one used to recklessly shoot themselves from into space. A bump across to land roughly in more distant foreign climes. Then to be locked up and imprisoned in more personal solitude. A facsimile of that brainless idea that propelled one forth somewhere nondescript within new yet equally abandoned fairgrounds. The underlying concept suddenly found to have been long ago disapproved of yet never heeded. Those fatal and inescapable persistent words, “I am alone.” “Next.“, an impatient voice rang out! “Next!”, it almost shouted with redoubled volume as Murphy realized that its indifferent ire was focused directly at him. To his surprise he was now at the head of the line.
The sound had been deafening! A mixture of the screams of two children and several meters worth of Chinese fireworks going off at the same time. Two angry looking cops had the ‘gravy train‘. The worse beat in the city. A rat infested concrete square of rundown tenement flats that might have better graced some bombed out city more like Beirut or WW2 Berlin at its worst. Those two kids in question seemed superhuman in their ability to quickly escape into the hinterlands wending their way through tunneled debris into aging concrete sewers Infrastructure that reminded one of a gap beneath a gigantic mattress of concrete. A place where the need for a Maglight was inevitable. That was if you wanted to seek out any clue as to those doings below that subterranean space far beneath one’s Oxfords. The sheer level of surrounding detritus meeting one’s gaze staggered the imagination. A sight that one was hesitant to embrace lest one find items so detestable that the gut within might unexpectedly suffer shell shock and hurl forth the half-forgotten contents of breakfast splattered by a wino at one’s wingtips. Those two kids hiding out of sight unfazed. there was nothing there that could phase them. Various piles of stinking trash that might have produced a migraine in any normal living soul was to them the familiar warren that offered discovery and cover from the prying eyes of outsiders. It was rare for any outsider to spy children there. For no outsider as one soon learned in this stated of miserable existence was to be trusted. Perhaps not even those from the neighborhood who may have once taken you under their wing and showed you how to survive? The two cops now padding off maybe by a station call concerning another truant child up to their usual tricks currently involved in a petty theft or some minor acts of random vandalism. The typical minor in this part of town having a way of converting to their future status to ‘career criminal‘.
Murphy staggered down the adjoining boulevard past the edge of this urban Hell. That dipole of his mixed emotions now equally susceptible to being wrenched back and forth in and out of angst and then euphoria. No check would be forthcoming the woman had said! Only after which to be repelled What after all did one have to lose but one’s self? The infrequency of familiar relations a rarity with others casting one immediately as the stranger. Perhaps novel for a time, but never at home. Only that now far distant era that was spent under the rule of ones barely recalled. Those ones that had brought him into the world? A fit bow to have loosed such an errant arrow. Enforced anonymity a matter of patent non-specificity in a reckless adherence to the daily rule of inflexible routine. Like liquid bleach spilled haphazardly creating an irreparable spot expanding beyond reasonable to be erased. High pressure to low pressure. The quality of the landscape having been dragged over across so roughly. Too many rocks having bruised one’s thighs! All the damage too problematic to reasonably recall! Can one really have the presence of mind to be able to precisely recall that constant disapproval from the now dim memory of their own mother’s wrinkled face? Those keepers of the circus cannons that used one as ammunition. Ones too recklessly compliant to allow themselves to be shot into space. A bump across the intervening lands roughly left in more distant foreign climes. Then to be locked up and imprisoned in cells of a more personal form of solitude. A facsimile of that same brainless idea that propelled them forth to this ‘somewhere‘ nondescript within a new yet equally abandoned fairground. The underlying concept suddenly found to have been long ago disapproved of. Yet never heeded. Those fatal and inescapable persistent words, “I am alone.”
That sonorous quality of all things familiar that drives one to create and summon expectations of what approximately ‘once was‘. To find that same nest of unbroken eggshells once again that was once known as one’s ‘home‘? How close to that vine this thought persistently clung to? Especially when fear and frenzy of an inevitable end was fast approaching! Trying as hard as possible to divert the conscious mind and to summon some form of reliable surety instead. As if one confidently knows of something unique and eternal. Opposed, of course, to simply repeating those same old answers to reverently unasked questions. “The path of life only leads in one direction.“, he mumbled, “And there is no possibility of a return!” The great tragedy of one day finding a fool’s cap resting upon one’s own head! As if they are suddenly informed that it had always rested there unnoticed. “What wisdom could you have ever expected to carry with you to the grave?” So many he knew would have wanted someone to tell a a safe comforting familiar story! One to recount some magical place of wonder that was safe from perpetual want or annoying responsibilities.A genie to take them somewhere familiar enough to never challenge them. But delight in the exploration of a step or two past droll conventionality. Not simply lost in the bush. “Is that right?“, he caught himself. “How do robins so selflessly mind their young and yet expect them to fly off one day on their own never to return? ” All we have in this large fishbowl that is ourselves and that long accumulation of our own folly to confront! “Yes! Every automobile eventually runs out of gas and breaks down without some measure of replenishment.”, he mouthed quietly to himself. But what if it can no longer be found? When one is too far lost somewhere in that undefined desert of the self? The past quickly fade into rust.
His street was empty and abandoned to the reigning solitude of night. Banished to other people’s children who would soon start their own lives independent of any judgment by his generation. “All distant unfathomable individuals and adults far in the future when I am dead?” he thought again. My generation is now simply a smaller community of little candles caught in those paper boats sailing off into empty limbo, all together, all alone. The eras they had known all withdrawn from what was now known as society and permanently demoted to another unimportant much mistaken passing phase of the march of humanity. Inconvenient, irritating and annoying to the young and vital. The condition of advancing age laughably destructive to one’s perpetual habit of remaining hope. Murphy thought of a story he had once read.
“We kissed while driving along in two separate cars running parallel down the road. All was fine until she remembered that she was picking up her cleaning. That was more important to her than continuing with me. The gym had grandstands where fellow female teachers sat eyeing naked pictures of young women. Little girls on field trip from that same gym walking by just above them. There friend below calling them back to floor below where two wagons stood at rest waiting to take them back to their school. On way back my friend and I running into one of the same horses with two little girls riding bareback upon it, Two that were following us? We picked the gravel off the bottom of their horses’ hooves and bid them goodbye. Leaving them both with their animal back behind on the sidewalk at the far end of that block.”
Murphy stood transfixed by the strangeness of his own situation. His diatribes seemed to have come from other lips than his own. Something that he felt did not belong to him but someone else. “Every time I meet a new girl.“, he said, “Another one shows up that thinks she and I have a relationship that is ongoing?” “But of course, she has appeared as if by magic to destroy any current relationship that may have threatened to get started?” He stared up at his own vacant window. “Who then is to blame?” A ghost??