1% decided to have a drink and kick its feet up. It took residence in my frontal lobe and all the other lobes as well.
I spent the next few days deliberating with it, like a man who understood how to budget talking to the world’s shadiest car salesman.
His pitch was convincing.
I mentally tracked the details. A to B. B to C. C to D. Therefore and vis a vis. Ipso facto. I followed the threads between actions and events like they were pins on a cluttered wall and I was buying in to being a serial killer detective.
I actually put together a wall of pins and threads. I walked through it while 1% turned to 11% turned to 43% turned to 71% turned to 99% with a smug smile and a too-firm handshake.
I walked through my mugging and the woman who I saw standing there while I was being mugged.
I thought about the assholes who mugged me and how I’d spent the night before, my brain filling in sections of a color-by-number drawing, wondering why I found it so easy to omit such obvious sections.
I thought about how I’d wanted more than anything to not have to go back to work, and how now…I had it. Bereavement time for everyone. Nevermind that the guy went through cars like wives and wives like bottles of whiskey. Nevermind that he probably didn’t know the names of half the people who worked there unless he thought he had a chance with them in a supply closet or after a late night office party when morals were low and inhibitions were dull.
As a company, we clearly needed to mourn.
I thought about that picture. That big fucking sombrero and that margarita that should have been served with a DWI and the side of Brad’s face giving her a kiss on her cheek. And of course, I was there. My face only partially in frame.
It had felt so terribly apt: never quite in frame, never quite in focus.
And I thought about how pettiness wins. Cruelty wins. Darkness wins.
We win the lottery of life and we find ourselves ready to lord it over others. Ready to either show them what they were missing or else show off what they can never have.
It’s how I ended up here, I suppose, with a picture in my hand.
Because 1% told me I won the lottery of life. It said it until it was Mr. 99% and I facts and reasons moved aside like he was a bright light in a room of roaches. And when I saw the deck of life sitting before me saying, “Your deal…”
I didn’t shuffle.
We never really do.
Because we know, I suppose. We know deep down that we can’t buy our way out. Not really. We see our question of “Why him? Why not me? What was so wrong?” And we want to believe it can be something simple. Something we can fix. An answer we can buy.
But the truth is terrible, and simple, and cruel.
While I meandered through a world where it seemed like everyone prepared sad eyes for me in the lament of who I loved, and she seemed somehow oblivious, I was given the mantra of “Maybe she just doesn’t know.”
But the truth is dark, and brutal, and so concise.
She didn’t love me, and if I was honest, I knew the reason why: because she didn’t.
The whole, cohesive element that was me was not a blip on her emotional radar. I was an empty sky and unblemished ocean. I was something that did not disturb her senses in the way that mattered.
But then, pettiness wins. Cruelty wins.
So when I thought about what I’d done that night and how the next day it seemed that, “well, how about that?” the muggers suddenly got a dose of what they gave. And when I thought about how I thought my boss’s boss was an asshat, and I just wanted to be home, alone, in the dark – fold into myself and let my mind rattle around like a quill in a nearly-empty inkwell only to find that he’d died…
Autoerotic asphyxiation. Happy birthday, indeed, El Presidente.
I thought about how I was trying to stifle pain with pain. Treating the cut by adding a burn. Filling whatever part of me with enough venom and poison that I could hurt in a way that could numb the pain that I was just so tired of feeling.
I found myself looking at my lottery ticket. The one that 1% told me was a winner. “Just check the numbers and you’ll see!” And I knew deep down that the answers I wanted were made for questions that no one was asking, and the questions I had were meant for answers I didn’t want…
Well…I guess pettiness wins, doesn’t it?
And that’s how I wound up here, holding a picture of her. A picture of just her. An older one. One from before. From when I was just me and she was just her and I hadn’t decided that her answer to the question I never asked was no…and that it always would be.
She was the last thing I saw because I suppose that’s how it works.
Pull the petals of she-loves-me-nots and let the wind take them to their destination. Let my metaphorical butterfly flap its wings and cause a storm in China.
If 1% was right, a cut on my hand would find its way to someone else’s. A punch in the face would do the same.
So when the light flooded my eyes, leaving me standing there like the world’s dumbest deer, I think I almost smiled.
I cried, of course. Jesus, I cried.
While the sound came roaring at me, that doppler effect of noise as it barrels toward you was like a storm of horns and trumpets forged in hell.
The sound of metal on metal screamed while the tracks fought against wheels.
The conductor was about to have a really bad day.
And as the train came forward to take the one kiss that I’d never had a chance to give her, I whispered. Even had I yelled, no one could have heard me. I don’t even think I could have, but it didn’t matter.
I whispered all the same.
I whispered, “Give her my regards…”