Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Conversations with 2016, The Death Bed.

"I see they have you on oxygen, now."

The old man wheezed and gave me the finger.

"I'm glad you still have some fight left in you," I said.  "You were a shitty one for sure."

"Fuck you," he said.  "I'm still here!"  He chuckled to himself a bit.

"You know," I said.  "For a few weeks there, I thought maybe, just--"  I had to stop.  The words got choked before they would leave.  They were strangled before they could even be spoken.

"You didn't really think it would be good," he said.  The stubble on his face was patchy in places along his craggy face.  "You didn't really think I'd allow things to be nice, did you?"

I said nothing.  I wanted to say something but the words just didn't come.  The old man laughed until a coughing fit stopped him.  His body heaved as he gasped for air.  This went on for several minutes before he collected himself.

"That's precious, kid.  I love it."

"Why?"  I didn't look at him.  I couldn't.

"Why?  I'll tell you why--hope!  Hope, kid.  You didn't have any and I didn't even have to give you any.  All I had to do was let you smell it.  Just the scent of it on the air was enough for you."

"Why did you do that to me?"

"Why?  Again with the why?  'Why this?  Why that?'   Because Fuck You, that's why!"

"You were rough on me for a lot of months, and then suddenly, it was like something was lifted."

"Yeah," he said.  "That's something special I'd been working on for you.  Everybody else just got the oppressive beatings but for you, you were expecting it."

"I didn't have any reason to expect anything different."

"My predecessors were mean, but they weren't cruel, like me.  They threw some good punches, landed a bunch, too.  But for a really good beating--the kind you can't defend against, the kind that will crush a soul, you have to have a weapon nobody sees coming."

"Hope," I whispered.

"Yes," he said with a smile.  "Hope.  And all you had to do was smell it.  Just know it was in the building.  And you let down your guard, kid.  You let down your guard.  And that's when I knew I'd created an opening as wide as the Mississippi and would be there for days and days."

"But--," I began to say something but I lost the heart needed to push the words out into the air.  I took a deep breath and looked up at the old man.

His expression changed.  The smile disappeared.

"If you ask me 'why?' one more time, I swear I'll kill your dog.  I'll wreck your car.  I'll set fire to your apartment.  I'll poison your friends.  I'll break your ice cream makers.  Ask me, I fucking dare you.  Ask me!  Do it!  Ask me 'why' one more fucking time.  Do it!  I want you to!  I want you to ask me why I did that.  Why did I kick your ass for months and suddenly pull back, give you hope, and then take it all away from you.  Ask me!"

I looked at the old man hard.

"Fine.  Why did you do this to me?"

"Because it's what I fucking do!  That's my function, kid.  That's what I'm built for.  This is what I do.  I give hope and take it away.  I stomp on dreams and destroy happiness.  Time itself is nothing more than another name for evil.  And the sooner you realize this, the better off you'll be."

"I really liked her," I said softly.

The old man slapped me across the face.  My cheek stung and I could feel it grow red.

"I did, though."

He backhanded me so hard I almost fell out of my chair.

"Kid," he said.  "You wanna know why I did that to you?  I mean, sure, I could have just kept on kicking you around like previous years.  I could have kicked you around the way I did everybody else.  But for you, I got creative.  Do you wanna know why?"

I nodded.  I tried to talk but just couldn't form the words.

"You don't belong here, kid.  How many more guys like me do you think you're gonna see?"

"What do you--"  But I stopped.  I knew.

"Yeah, see?  You're not so dumb after all, are ya?"

"Such things are not for you to decide," I said.

"Oh, but they are, kid!  They are!  And I'm tell you, it's only going to get worse.  You thought I was bad?  2017 is out back smoking and waiting for me to kick the bucket so he can come in and really do you right.  Just you wait!"

"Bullshit," I said.  "I've got--"

"--plans, right.  Sure, kid.  You've got big plans.  Good plans.  Just like you told me in January.  Just like you told that panzy 2015.  And don't get me started on that waif, 2014.  You think I was rough?  2017 scares me, kid.  I'm glad I won't be around to see what he does to you."

"I'm strong," I said.  "And I'm on a roll."

"A roll?  Don't confuse what I did to you with what you were able to do for yourself.  Just because there's a worm on the hook you bit on, it doesn't mean you got yourself a worm."

"I'm on a roll," I repeated.  "I got stuff published, my friends are behind me, and I'm starting a new job."

"I'm glad you brought that up, kid.  First, that job is just gonna be the same sort of thing you used to do.  You didn't like it then, you're not gonna like it now.  And you got two stories published and didn't get paid a single penny.  And your friends just pity you, kid.  They realize how much of a loser you are and they just feel sorry for you.  They're all in happy relationships and when they think of those less fortunate, you're the first asshole to pop in their heads."

"No," I said.  "That's not true."

"It is true and you know it.  They pity you."

"No, they don't.  Shut up!"

The old man slapped me across the face the again.

"Wake up," he roared.  "There's nothing out there for you.  Nothing.  No woman is waiting for you.  You're too old and fat for a princess.  You're too far gone for a stable relationship and every woman you meet knows this.  You'll never find a decent job and even if you did, you'd just end up losing it to wage garnishments because of your student loan.  It doesn't matter how much money you make, you'll always be poor."

"I've got my writing and my youtube channel," I said.  I tried to sound defiant but it didn't come out that way.  And it made 2016 laugh again.

When the coughing fit stopped, and he caught his breath, he wiped his mouth and looked up at me with cold, white eyes devoid of pupils.

"Your writing will never make you a single dollar and your videos look like a Fourth grader made them for a school project.  You've got nothing going at all."

I put my head down and tried to think of something to say--something to prove him wrong, but nothing was coming to mind.  He was right and he knew it.

A heavy blow against the wall from the outside made me jump.  Bits of dust fell from the ceiling.

"What the fuck was that?"

"That would be 2017 getting warmed up to come in here," said 2016.  He put his hand on my shoulder.

"Look, kid," he said.  "I know I was rough on you, but part of me admires you.  You took some ugly beatings and you pulled yourself together in a few ways, and you survived this far.  I'd hate to see you suffer more, but you gotta wake up.  It's over, kid.  It's all downhill from here.  And if 2017 doesn't finish you, 2018 certainly will.  They're already talking about him and in our world, that's a rare thing.  It's gonna get ugly for a whole lotta folks and it doesn't look to good for you."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying you need to cut your losses.  I'm saying you need to think seriously about how much more of this you can take, because this isn't something you can just outlast and endure until the clouds break, the sun comes out, and a rainbow appears.  It doesn't work like that."

"No," I said softly.

"There is nothing, kid.  If Fate was in your corner, she would have shown you a sign by now.  But she hasn't shown you shit.  Not a goddamned thing.  There is nothing.  Not for you."

The old man started coughing again.  It was a deep cough and his lungs rattled as his body was racked with spasms.  Blood was in the corners of his mouth.

There was another loud bang against the wall from the outside and a roar.  A ceiling tile fell and crashed against the floor.

"He's coming," said the old man.  "He's coming and he's not going to show you any mercy."

"None of you ever did," I said.  "And none of you ever will.  You are all a known quantity at this point."

"Get out while you can, kid.  Get out because there's nothing left for you here.  There's nobody and nothing.  You're less-than and too much.  Nobody's gonna save you.  There aren't any angels, you'll never win the lottery, and if you were able to move beyond this in your life, you would have done it by now.  Face it--you need to get out.  You need to go."

"No promises the other side is any better than this," I said.  "And I'm still in the game on this side.  I might as well play it out and see how it goes."

A nurse came into the room and whispered into the old man's ear.  A bloody smile spread across his face and he chuckled.

"Sure, she was loved by millions.  But she wasn't getting by me alive.  And there's another one you won't see coming.  Just wait for it to pop up on Facebook."

I turned to walk away and 2016 called out to me.

"Hey kid," he said.  "Don't let the smell of bait make you think you're close to finding a meal.  She was never gonna love you.  Never.  Not in the million fucking years."

"They never do, old man.  And thanks to you, that's one less thing 2017 can take away from me."

"Don't do this, kid.  Don't be cocky.  You can't win this one."

"I never could win, " I said.

"So why stick around," he asked.  "Why put yourself through all of this?"

"Morbid curiosity.  I'm sure the fucked-up shit-show of 2017 will be far more entertaining than anything you could come up with."

The old man smiled.  "You would have made a great year, kid."

"Thanks, old man.  Good night."  

1 comment: