The sun shone across my face in a diagonal fashion, rudely interrupting me from my nightmare. In this most recent one, I was required to go through a number of different obstacle courses, as if the Saw films combined with the 90’s kid game show Double Dare. At the end I would violently vomit while being forced to continue because my life was at stake. I’m not sure why I continued.
I began to stretch out my limbs and muscles, groaning at such a good pain. I looked at my phone, which was nonchalantly tossed on the ground. Three missed calls. They could only be from two people: my boss or my mother. I haven’t been to work in about two weeks with no reason or warning. I hoped they were all from my boss. I stood up, stretched one last time, and walked into my kitchen. There was coffee, I’m not sure when I made it or if it was even safe to drink. I lifted up the pot, looked at the black liquid, disregarded a few cobwebs and flies around the top, poured it into a cup and downed it. Bitter and cold. Actually, It was one of the most disgusting things I have ever drank, but I shrugged and headed to the shower. I turned the nozzle to the rusty H and cold water came out. I sighed and proceeded to bathe myself, for how long I’m not exactly sure. I walked out naked just to see how badly I let myself go. I passed a window and just from a glance I knew it was bad. I looked down to see nothing but hair and gut.
The doorbell rang and I quickly put a towel around my waist, out of common courtesy. I checked the peephole to see who would possibly come to my door; nobody aside from the mailman apparently. I opened the door. “Hey, how’re you doing?” I tried my best to sound chipper, but it obviously didn’t work. He didn’t seem to care though. “Fine, and you? Have a nice day.” That was the most social interaction I accepted on a daily basis. I forget how long it’s been since I’ve actually gone out with somebody. Not on a date or anything, just in general. “Let’s see what we got,” I mumbled carelessly to myself, “Bill…bill…bill…” something caught my eye. Looking closer I saw that it was just the electric bill. I scoffed and mumbled a few choice words under my breath as I dropped all of the day’s mail onto a table.
How did my life get like this? When did it get so difficult to remember a happy time in my life? Everything seems so hard now. Well, not necessarily hard but…meaningless? Shallow? Maybe a syllable of those two. Should I be grateful for what I do have, meaning my life? Probably. If I don’t act grateful, I’ll get the classic, ‘there are kids in insert-third-world-county-here who would die for what you have,’ meanwhile I just want to…not die, but not live.
Oh wait. I’m already not living.
Something stole my soul, my reasons for emotion to show across my face and through my actions. I don’t know where it is now, but I’m not sure if I care. Wait, I know I don’t care. I am nothing but a zombie. I am not the ones in the movies or comics; bloodthirsty and aching to kill. I am not “living dead”. I am just dead, without the honor of being ignited and becoming nothing but ash. I have been bad during my life and my punishment? Staying in this world. I walked to the refrigerator to see what food I did not have to eat today when my phone rang. I turned to look at it, the screen lighting up, a designated sound alerting me. I closed the door to the fridge and picked it up. Mom. I sighed and decided to answer.
“Why haven’t you been answering my calls? I’ve been worried sick about you! The least you could do is let your poor mother know you’re alive!”
Silence. She didn’t know I was dead. Even if I told her she wouldn’t believe me. Just like she never believed me when I tried to tell her things. I was always “overdramatic,” or “exaggerating”.
“Are you there? Dade? Dade, answer your mother!”
“Sorry, sorry, I was looking at something…”
“Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? Your father and I are cooking your favorite.”
She was lying. My favorite was the Beef ‘n Cheddar from Arby’s.
“It’s been so long since we last saw you!”
“Dade, we miss you. Your father misses you, your siblings-“
“Stop. Please stop this.”
“I can’t Dade! Please, just one dinner. Don’t be like this just stop by. Show us that you still are a part of this family and-“
She was tearing up. Her words became nothing but stifled sobs and deep breaths.
I hung up the phone and laid back down on the couch. I stared up at the crack in the ceiling. I turned and viewed the peeling wallpaper, the corners hanging down, threatening to fall and pull everything on the walls down with them. I sighed. The bills were already collecting dust, as were books I never read and albums I never listened to. I could not even see the screen of the television, there was so much dust on it. I don’t think it worked anyway. I looked at the time. 11:00 a.m. I did not know if that was accurate, but it didn’t matter I suppose. I went into my bedroom and put on some clothes. I didn’t know if they were clean, nor did I care.
I dropped the towel around my waist and it silently collapsed onto the floor. I picked up the first pair of boxers I found, looked for any noticeable stains, and pulled them on, and began the search for pants and a shirt. Everything on the floor was covered in dust, flies, stains, and didn’t fit me. ‘When was the last time I had clothes that fit?’ I thought to myself. Finally I found a pair of khakis and pulled them over my boxers. They were a little short, but I had some boots that made them look like they fit. I threw on a long sleeved band shirt, which was also a little short, but I had a jacket. Did I like the band? I don’t know. It had been so long since I last listened to music.
I looked out the window and recoiled in pain. The sun was so bright. I inhaled overdramatically and brought my knuckles up to the corners of my eyes to wipe away the sleep and whatever else was still lingering there. I walked out my door, but didn’t bother to lock it. Why should I? There’s nothing to steal. Everything that was available to steal has already been stolen. I walked down two flights of stairs before reaching the main door to the apartment complex in which I lived. I stared at the street, which looked empty to me but to the world was full of bumper-to-bumper traffic. I stepped off the curb to try and feel some sort of rush; adrenaline, fear, danger. I felt nothing. I stepped back onto the sidewalk. My feet began to move, not in a stepping motion, but it felt more like they were gliding, gliding over the cement. “Hey there.” I looked to the side, saw nothing, looked up, saw nothing, looked down and saw a man. A homeless man actually. “Spare some change?” He had the brightest smile on his face, although the only thing he owned was probably the cup in his hand, which was rattling from few coins that he managed to collect, and some tattered blanket that looked like it was from a nuclear waste plant.
“What’s wrong, son?”
“It’s a term of endearment. You look like you’re not there. Sad almost. A handsome guy like you shouldn’t be sad. If anybody should be sad, it should be me. I picked up this shit-stained cup from the trash and I sit here trying to scrounge up a dollar in change every day. But I’m not sad.”
“Life lesson from a bum. A master fuck-up. Perfect.”
“Alright, you want to know something? You think you’ve got it good son, don’t you? You got a roof over your head, correct?”
I nodded, not phased by anything he was saying.
“You got yourself a damn roof that might leak every once in a while. You got a shower, a kitchen, a bed or a couch, yeah? Well maybe we should just switch our goddamn places because you obviously don’t know the meaning of gratefulness.”
“Right now I only have forty-three goddamn cents in this goddamn shit cup. Forty-three goddamn cents. What can you get for forty-three goddamn cents? Nothin’! I ain’t lookin’ to go buy some fancy Mercedes or some fancy loft in some fancy apartment complex. I ain’t even tryin’ to buy new clothes! You know what this forty-three goddamn cents is goin’ to? The homeless shelter.”
“Why don’t you just go there?”
“I can make it on my own. Always have. I feel better like this. I get my exercise when I walk all over town, I always manage to find a decent meal or some water or somethin’ to thrive off of, and other people can’t do that. But I can. So why should I be the selfish sonofabitch, who’s able to survive on his own, take that from other people? I shouldn’t. It’s called bein’ goddamn selfless.”
I stared. He spit everywhere.
“Nothin’ but a goddamn selfish bastard, you are.”
I stared. He stared back.
“Here.” I dropped the key to my apartment in his cup.
“The hell is this shit?”
“Here,” I gave him my jacket and shoes, “Go to 4th avenue and Pine street. There’s an apartment complex there. This is the key to apartment 2C. It’s yours now. I don’t deserve it. I’m not trying to help you out so don’t get on your damn high horse I’m just trying to give myself what I deserve. Take this too.” I handed him my wallet and gave him all the information about my bank account. “I don’t know how much I have in there. It might be not be a lot but you can probably figure something out on how to get by. You can live there for the rest of my lease and forever I guess.”
“What in the hell-“
“Shutup. Just take it and go.”
He stood up and left. Just like that.
I sat down on the cold ground. A shiver ran up my spine. “Christ,” I mumbled to myself. I sighed and looked around. I looked at all the people walking by. I looked at the Prada, Gucci, Fendi, and other designer bags that swung in my face. I saw the iPhones, the Blackberries, and the Androids all being tapped and yelled into furiously, for their owners obviously had important messages to send to the recipients. I saw the girls hanging all over the boys babbling nonsense in their ears. I saw the animals trotting about and trying to urinate, and their owners just dragging them along, yelling. I saw everything. I saw everything that people lived for and I felt alive.
I was no longer corrupted by the world’s constant need to be up-to-date with the latest and greatest trends, whether it was electronic, fashion, or slang. I sat and watched for days, months, years, watching as everything advanced except for people. People never advanced. People stopped advancing a long time ago.
I watched as everybody avoided me. I heard mothers whisper under their breath, telling their children to stay away from me, as if I was some sort of monster. I saw the disgusted and confused looks I got, I heard the names I was called; bum, junkie, deadbeat. I had no reason to defend myself. I had no reason to defend myself from a world consumed by consumerism. I had no reason to defend myself from the people who had all of their defenses up. I was free. Free of my mothers expectations, and society’s expectations. Free of the life path I was born into. Free of the stresses of trying to become the very best. Free of the media who yells at me, saying I’m not good enough without whatever shit is selling. Free of the rules that had once held me down. I had given everything to a man I hadn’t known for more than five minutes. I had ruined his life. I didn’t care.
I was free.