Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Have A Potted Plant - And Die!"

Nobody understood: I didn't want to die.

They said at the employment agency they'd give me one more week, out of pity. But no more. Then I was going to be at the end of my rope. That was the longest week of my life. It was like a countdown to a execution.

That Monday morning I entered the building with pleading eyes but they all turned away. I was just a temp worker anyway. Disposable. I was like the green recruits in 'Nam. You didn't want to know them, not expected to survive.

But in my case I was targeted for termination. Them work people didn't hear my conversation at the agency. I told them I had no place else to go. I had to have this job. I'd do anything: work all the hours they want, take the lowest pay, do what no one else wanted to do. Just don't throw me out into the street, please. I don't want to die!!!!

She said she'd like to help me like she was reading from a script. I was just an actor in a play, my plight not real. She'd turn off her TV of bad life and I'd be gone, telling herself I'd be sure to turn up somewhere somehow on another episode. I knew how she felt. I couldn't believe this was real either. Yet here it was Monday morning and I'm walking these linoleum floors a condemned man.

You can't understand how I alone I was. Or if you can, you sure didn't show it. As everyone else was watching the clock tick for the day to end, I was praying for time to stand still. To get myself through the day I kept telling myself a miracle reprieve would come through. That any moment they would call me into the office, telling me how much they need me, saved from the gallows.

But that second hand kept moving mercilessly around the dial. I felt like a rope had been tied around me, dragging me closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. I could see that edge, it was Friday at 5 o'clock when I was expected to turn in my badge and die a crucifixion on the streets, my week's pay to grant me a final meal.

I had no real friends and even so hard to imagine anyone could let me live with them. Family was far and rural in dead and jobless towns, places of even less hope. I came to the city and failed. Monday night I sat in the corporate park after work, still hoping someone would rush out to tell me it'd had all been a mistake. But soon, even the sun abandoned me.

Tuesday was a blur, I was very busy with no time to think and it was glorious. Yes, that really was just a bad dream before. Now I had woken up to find out everything was fine: my life had value after all. At lunch I happily chatted with the real employees, not feeling so much the stranger on their land. What a blessing to find out I was a real person! Thank you! All I needed was a chance.

But 5 o'clock came again and my bubble popped as I watch the truly real people get in their cars and drive away as I waited at the bus stop. They were headed off to distant planets where I could not go: to homes, to families, to lives, to a future. I had all the hope of a lottery ticket of ever seeing a life like that. My car had shot an engine rod. I had to take a chance on a eleven hundred dollar piece of junk and the dice turned up snake eyes. Some guy gave me 75 bucks for it to so he could fix it up for his brother.

Tuesday night I decided to defy the gods and go back to the feeling I had during the day. I bought a new toilet seat to replace the cracked one in my apartment. Walking through the store was a surreal trip of pain as I pretended normalcy, that I was one of the lucky ones, that I had a brother who was fixing up a car for me and everything was alright. After all, only a man with a future buys a new toilet seat, right?

I only felt more isolated posing as a man of success. The girl who checked me out smiled at me and the effort to feign one in return felt the same as emptying my bank account. What would she say if she knew of my coming doom? Would she turn away her face like the people at work? Who wants to see the decaying leper? Please be convenient and die unseen. But that's what I was doing, obliging them. No one thanked me.

Wednesday morning they were making hump day jokes on the radio. I could hear it in someone's cubicle. I truly envied those little cubicle havens. To me they seemed palaces of the gods. People put up family photos and funny sayings and were allowed to create their own little world any way they liked! Who gets to do that? How can anyone get into that position? Many were unhappy but didn't they realize they were life's winners? I was in awe as I went around emptying the trash, peering into lives God actually loved.

Thursday I had a hard time keeping it together. Didn't they realize time was running out? Save me, please! Where's the call from the governor to stay my execution? I can't live on the streets! I've had all I can take already. Why does no one believe me? I'm not making this up, you fuckers! That bitch receptionist said I had "scary eyes". It's a goddam scary world, you cunt! You try living in it! You don't care with your fancy desk and husband and Mexico vacations. Eat dirt!

I tried to watch TV Thursday night but all I could think about was how I could get jobs like them. Could I host a TV show? Now they're making fun of a guy doing poorly at his job. Don't they know his life is on the line? Help him! It's not fucking funny, you assholes. No wonder no one watches this shit. They never have anyone you care about die on TV. I'm the guy in the off-colored shirt with Kirk and Spock as we beam down to a hostile planet. Guess who's not going to survive the commercial break?

Friday came. As I listened to excited plans for the weekend by untouchable girls I could not muster a smile. I had masturbated Thursday in a last fit of protest. How was I going to jack off living on the streets? Do it now while still poaching indoors. If I could just have one of those girls I don't think I'd even care about dying after that. But the janitor man didn't dare ask and I didn't have a hope of pleasing the likes of them anyway.

I didn't eat lunch that day, my stomach too tight. I fantasized if this was how a condemned man felt on his final day. How the fuck you get a appetite for a final fucking meal? This is horrible, this is hell. The walls are closing in. I didn't get any sleep the night before, I kept waking up, my chest pounding in terror. A knife was in my heart and I couldn't pull it out all day. Please stop the pain! Please let me live! Somebody hear me!

But like grains of sand in an hourglass time slipped away and the world turned dead and cold. I didn't see colors anymore, just shades of grey and deep black. The bomb really dropped, I was shell shocked. As some final futile gesture they'd given me a potted plant as a going away gift. I think they wanted to throw it out anyway. I was supposed to be too stupid to know better so I obliged their guilt but still they wouldn't extend my contract. Felt like living with my parents all over again.

Nothing real happened after that. I decided my fellow man wouldn't really do this to me. All this shit was just in me head and I knew just how to prove it. I went back around to the bushes where I had stashed my gun earlier. The magazine was full which I thought was a good thing, every bullet a chance for redemption I remember thinking. When I walked back in the last thing I clearly remember was that bitch receptionist had already gone home. I thought that curious because surely God hated her as much as I did and wanted me to execute justice.

Had even God abandoned me? I ignored the sign and started patrolling the office for any workers still there. They're goddam lottery winners. Don't tell me they think they really deserve to live!

That's when I heard the first shriek. It was the most wonderful sound I'd heard in years. Then another and another! They were pleading with me, begging for me to let them live! I wanted to kiss them in their horror. Feels like shit doesn't it, begging for your life! But guns have no ears! I fired a shot over their heads and there was no mistaking the hell I heard in their voices then. Welcome to my world, folks!

They hid under their desks in hopeless pretense. God, do I know that feeling! If I could have listened to them sniveling and sobbing for eternity I'd of died a happy man. The feeling of power and exhilaration was godlike as I watched them muster up the courage to look at me as I passed by. Yes! Yes! Now you have the look on your face I've had to hide for a fucking week! I fired more shots to ripple through their souls but whenever someone cried to me I just told them, "Sorry! Nothing I can do! Have a potted plant!"

When the police came I finally knew relief, almost collapsing in the handcuffs, drained of all life. They went around making sure everyone was OK. Since the receptionist was gone I took that as a sign God didn't want me to kill anybody. They don't know how close they came. The cops yelled like crazy and threw me to the floor when they came blowing in. What are they so mad at me for? Ain't done nothing that hadn't been done to me. You gonna arrest them fuckers too? Why the fuck not!

Life is good here in the psyche ward. They fucking feed you here no matter what! I watched the janitors clean up the place - serving me! - and I feel like king of the world. They keep asking me what my problem is and I keep telling them I just want to live. But I'm still not reaching them and I don't know why. Except when them folks was screaming at the office no one has ever heard me. I can't breathe in this world you made, folks. Why doesn't anyone believe me??

CODA: I hear they got no more funding for me, state got no money. Knew this was too good to be true. When I get out this time, I'm gonna kill somebody for sure. That way they gotta take care of me. I wonder who I'll kill? Maybe it'll be you.

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