“Someday, I’m going to be somebody.” The simple phrase unspoken in actual words by a thirty-five year old Gino Zinovia over all the years that had seen him shoulder the rock of success and start up the hill to a new adventure. But then found him in cheap unpromising circumstance every morning at waking. Had he been a drunk he would have had an empty bottle as an excuse. The surroundings about him seemed both a comfort and burden that insulated him from the pain of any greater form of unexpected failure. Old items of long familiarity that for him seemed to speak a sort of voiceless affirmation that wherever he might fail this time there would be a fall back to land into. The day was uncustomary cold and he rubbed his face slowly with both his cold hands. The tactile nature of them simulating for a moment the fact that he was embodied in flesh and bone. The apartment was quiet. The neighbors were taking some time off from driving him crazy today. The quality of tenants in this place had slipped dramatically till he was beginning to wonder if he was living in the midst of a barrio in some backwater Mexican town. It was a terrible thing to start feeling like a stranger in a place that you had lived for nearly twenty years.
The bookshelves that took up two of the otherwise empty walls of his place around him were fill to the brim mostly with their namesakes but peppered equally with knickknacks that if he set his memory to the task he could establish some sort connection with the item and the experience surrounding its presence. Many of the books on those shelves remained a mystery only having been half started in a time now long out of recollection. Some of them had never been opened since their original purchase. A few had scraps of paper and an occasional dollar bill or two nested inside. A sort of fertile field of archeology waiting for some future owner to marvel at the mystery of their presence and possibly speculate as to the reason for it. That is what his life had deferred to at the juncture balanced just shy of the sharp edged drop of seventy years. Artifacts barely recognized partly out of failing memory and rapidly degenerating eyesight. No matter how he tied to set it down in his mind it came out like a petty tragedy of mundane proportions. Something that was to be expected for the crowd but overlooked in a personal sense of a habitual type of anonymity that he had embraced over the last decade. A once meticulous sandcastle waiting for the evening wind and waves to come and erase it.
The days as of late had been marked by an urgent sort of restlessness one would expect of someone who was booked for a flight out of town in the next hour but was still fast asleep in his motel room. He recalled that he had experienced just that same sort of scenario in a dream years past. Yet in this case whatever detail that Gino was missing and not picking up upon was beyond him. Maybe someone was about to die? Someone he might miss the opportunity to meet one last time? “Spaghetti, spaghetti, skagnetti!”, whatever that meant, it has spontaneously come to mind. He like the freshness of its impromptu rhyme. Urban life over time had emasculated his wild animal nature. He felt as if a gelding at the thought of bonding with females. The notion of prolonged personal contact seemed to appall him for some reason. Something that probably would have been healthy for him socially that seemed like an anathema. Dreams at this point a place where his past and his unspoken waking fears flowed into each other producing a confused narrative. It made little rational sense to try to decipher what seemed its and pieces of disorganized reminiscences. There was no glue that would keep things from breaking apart as if the whole muddle was a series of ice flows breaking apart with the coming of Spring. At least spontaneous rhymes of the waking mind had structure. As of late he had felt a building sense of urgency as if no matter where he was he was vulnerable in a way that he didn’t wish to be.
To frustrate someone’s struggle to carry on life is to condemn them to contemplate death. That is the worst part of urban existence. Compressed shoulder to should behind intervening plasterboard barriers like cattle unable to roam about like buffalo grazing upon the once great plains. Such a thing is impossible to believe in now. Those times replaced with a silent wish that everything could come to an end and people could get some peace. The withdrawal of hope that something could change to remove one from the status of herd animal leaving the opened soda bottle in the fridge found to be flat. There was some sort of hubbub going on just north of the downtown area. A small neighborhood festival promoting the areas smaller merchants. The affair almost spontaneous where a number of models traipsed about with small silver keys handing them out in celebration of the twenty-fifth year of something that was obscure to those outside the area. A semi-attractive sort pressed one of these keys into Gino’s hand which half way down the block he dropped upon the sidewalk. Another girl running up from the other direction by the corner picking it up and studiously addressing him with the key in plain view between her fingers with a cheerfully bright admonishment that he had dropped his key. The demeanor of her late adolescence struck him with an impression of a pleasant sort of naivete on her part. So many years of once in a lifetime offers and sweepstakes had left him jaded with the awareness that they were designed more for the ceding of one’s finances than any unexpected beneficial addition to them.
The key on inspection was a tin plated affair with an aluminum electroplate simulating shiny chrome. The sort of item that one expected coming attached with the cheapest of smaller padlocks. He could almost feel the fact that hundreds of its exact cousins were currently in the same vicinity in pockets and purses about him. Some of those having solved the mystery of their good fortune by finding that treasure in their cases was a cheap knickknack in the form of a pen imprinted with the date and name of this particular ad promotion in tenuous gold ink. Others like himself carrying them back and forth without the slightest intention of finding out what they might open up to. The large sign at the absurdly small urban park ahead announcing the fact that the home base to these promotional keys was waiting just ahead in a series of lockers stacked upon the other. The configuration of each a different size promising the conundrum to the wealth seeker of relative value of the prize. Something small might be dramatically more valuable than the contents of what lurked mysteriously sequestered under lock needing a key in another bin. Or it might be the other way around? A roped cordon attended by female security staff assisting the wealth seeker making sure that they only attempted one bin only before being politely ushered out of range of temptation to open any of the rest of the other lockers. The lure of a potential prize without risk of any commitment snaring Gino’s curiosity.
It was true that temptation seems the most effective when one is faced with a decision in he face of too many choices. The possibility that first came into Gino’s mind was that it was another scam. Just another local area chamber of congress brainchild to drum up some extra attention by handing out addressed pens or gift certificate for twenty percent off at some local merchant down the street. But then nothing, could come of just a try beyond having one of those things to toss in the trash barrel when he arrived home. But then again, the fates might slip up and hand him a pinch of good fortune? But which one? Big, small, or medium? There was no telling if they were holding a gag prize? He knew of course that the ration of valuable to dirt cheap was at least hundred to one, maybe more. Still in all that moment of doubt as to one’s semi-psychic ability to fathom that first impulse bordering on divinely insider intuition seemed both fleeting yet exhilarating. He also knew that momentary exhilaration would instantly collapse the instant one of the locker doors opened and revealed another mundane booby prize. But, “Oh Well, here goes nothing!”, he muttered beside the female attendant that was beginning to loose patience with his delaying. He walked up and down the line and settled on one of the medium sized containers in the stack just left of center.
At first the key seemed wrong for the lock. His attendant’s mouth scrootching up into a quizzical expression for a moment as if taken off guard by the key possibly being jammed. She politely edged him back her hands softly displacing his as she transferred his grip of the key to her own. Very gently she jiggled it back out of the look and held it up to eye level to study it for an possible flaws. Satisfied, she carefully placed it back into the lock and then turned to him with a cheerful smile while playfully cocking her head signing him silently to try again. This time a mechanical snap sending out a tiny hollow echo rang forth verifying that the locker was now open. He swung the door open and peered inside the darkness to see a tiny car staring back at him. Out of the blue a man in a pinstripe suit had suddenly advanced, microphone in hand, and loudly announced over a small network of hidden loudspeakers, “We’ve got a big winner!” Gino pulled his head out of the locker to see who the voice was directed at oblivious that the announcer was standing directly behind him fielding a bit inauthentic professional smile. As Gino sensed someone crowding his space he turned about to the man perplexed, the stranger’s microphone catching the first part of a “What the Fuck!”, trailing off into an abrupt halted sinking volume. “Sir, sir!”, the suited man continued as he plied Gino’s attention while trying to orchestrate all players into a more fitting arrangement in relation to the microphone. A small group of cameras now focused at the two men. The big prize award process had now begun!
Gino looked down from his wind into the street at his old junker twenty year old Plymouth sedan down by the curb. It’s chrome grill barring its teeth looking particularly miffed at being displaced from its usual comfy resting place in the old brick garage behind the apartment house that came at an extra eighty bucks a month. Now what had seemed a waste of money for housing that rusty old antique had been retested with a more noble purpose of protecting a seventy-thousand dollar luxury sedan. The whole process had been one of mixed blessings. He had gone through the gauntlet of being the bug under public scrutiny of the local media who, along with the event’s promoters, tried to mold the experience to one that would promise the maximum of coverage all along the way. The moment of truth caught on camera, the instant of his awareness of the gravity of the prize’s worth, and the coronation of being the typical everyman now crowned the winner of the event’s grand prize. Each segment abbreviated and Scotch taped together into a convenient fifteen second video byte for continuous news play non-stop for a day and a half. A plus for his relatives and would be car thieves. The sudden Tsunami of a publicity unwanted by its recipient being the bonus prize that was inevitable with such unexpected good fortune. Equally unwanted was the fact that he would not have to come up with a percentage of the car’s value by April fifteenth to satisfy the tax man. To the contrary of all these headaches Gino could only counter both on and off camera that, “The car drives nice!”
Several months past and his temporal status as the guy with the expensive fancy car seemed to wane. He had driven it for a month or two. The vehicle having been marked by ‘the nails of the gypsy‘, picking up a couple scratches and a ding where someone had bounced something off the hood. The old Plymouth, now jealous, having become cantankerous when trying to start. The added impending financial burden of excessive taxation had made Gino list the car for sale. Sure it ‘drove nice’, but he couldn’t withstand the cost of maintaining it in near pristine condition. His paucity of dollar bound income would not bear up for long. The subsequent attempts to sell it for anything near to its blue book value seemed fruitless. The few that came out to view it shook their heads at every bump and scratch both real and imagined and then offered him no more than fifty cents on the dollar of its value. Finally he was forced to accede to the offer of a local car broker who gave him a few percentage points more in cash. The lion’s share of which would have to go to the tax man. Still it was enough to go on a vacation. A cruise perhaps?
The idea of cruising as the veterans of the same was something novel to Gino. Not one comfortable to shelling out big sums of money out of pocket, he had decided that a travel agent booking a journey every step of the way was the way to go. The cruise thing in general seemed a bit effeminate in some respects. A small floating hotel where bouts of heavy drinking were often interrupted with motion sickness from heavy seas. The social element a bit challenging in whatever the up to date protocols of encountering others in a friendly manner had degenerated down to these days. Still the prospect of the old blue skies and sandy beaches thing was so ingrained in the head that it might be worth exploring at least once in his life. Something out of the ordinary that would get his engines going so to speak. On the other side of it, at his age this might be the last circuit around the track. Not that that unspoken cruising promise of a fast paced pickup scene in his case would yield results. A feisty lady of fifty with a good sense of humor and an ability to hold her liquor was just fine for him. Maybe a little polite heavy petting as an unexpected perk to revive his long deflated ego?
He was on the Internet contacting travel agencies, looking up sites with the do’s and don’ts But, then it struck him. The key that he had so unexpectedly been provided with earlier that year was in fact to a door that could only serve to bring on a sense of lingering disaster within himself. That same key opening the way to his own avarice had indeed given him a temporal sense of fame. One that he now contemplated that he could only shake loose by burying himself in the thickest density possible of humanity within the confines of a glorified sardine can sequestered far in the middle of nowhere in the midst of an ocean. Absurd how the human mind had a way of getting entangled within itself so naturally? What could one do, but smile quietly at one’s folly to believe in such empty illusions as fame and the cardboard movie poster construction of a universe that didn’t exist, save for the lesser elements of one’s own foolishness. He had never married nor every gave thought to a future of raising a family and have a couple of kids to carry on his name. Maybe that might be a better path to follow down to its ultimate conclusion to get some recognition that had real worth?