"Does she love him? ...Does she really love him?"
Almost no day passed without that thought passing through his head. A commercial, a movie, a couple in a book store - almost anything could trigger it despite the fact the breakup happened years and years ago. He'd only fallen apart since that time: incriminating proof for her decision to leave him high and dry.
He was a dreamer lost in the fog of life, afraid to make his move. Dreams un-faced can be anything you imagine, safe from cruel reality. You've written the greatest book, envisioned the greatest movie, the greatest life awaits you. In the beginning, she too was swept up in the possibilities of life. But like a child frozen at the edge of a high rise diving board, her mate couldn't make the jump. So she jumped ship.
An irrational panic gripped her as she felt the cold chill of ghosts of a life wasted chasing her. What a fool to have ever believed! Having determined the dream was false she wondered just what was real. Anything? Nothing? Time to grow up. Time to die.
Marrying a banker at one point in her life would have horrified her. The idea of numbing numbers ruling her life was something she mocked mercilessly in teenage rejection. Let the dead bury the dead, she said. There was a time when she knew the brass ring awaited her, she only need let it happen to come true. Well, what rubbish that turned out to be!
Still, a secret hurt remained, unable to stab with her steely knife. Just as he was haunted by his question she was haunted by hers: "Am I being useful or am I being used?" She never passed on a chance to badmouth dreamers of the world (though she was particularly stung if they became successful). Every bitter and broken life she crossed only affirmed her decision. "Am I not supposed to eat?"
A competition of lifestyles entered her head in haughty contempt. She'd be leading the winner's life! She'd disdain money on one hand while counting it with the other. Who could possibly see through her private game? Of this, she'd never breathe a word. Charitable donations would provide the perfect cover for this upstanding citizen of the world who cared not for material possessions but just "happened" to have so many.
But the hurt drove her as mercilessly as she'd once mocked the life she now lived. What direction could she go? Certainly not towards the truth! But she couldn't be seen greedily grabbing her way to the top, either. She was above all that having chosen the true and correct path in life. But while the banking life may have filled the couple's bank accounts, the Hole That Cannot Be Filled pushed them ever closer to revelation.
As if standing on a frying pan, to stay in one spot too long became unbearable agony. You have to move or die! So they became vagabonds, addicted to the greener grass just around the corner. No more wishing and waiting on silly dreams that cannot come true, she huffed. The Greener Grass Theory was real. At one point they had become self-conscious of the constant moving, gritting their teeth for what seemed like ages to prove they could put down roots like any other allegedly normal couple. But then came a visit to the golden bay in the west.
He kept vicarious tabs on her progress. As their fortunes amassed, his dwindled. No matter how remote, he lived in fear of her finding him in poverty. "If only I could know what's real!" But to know that meant to jump off that dreaded high dive - from which he had climbed down long ago. Without her, the idea of jumping was unthinkable, a physical reality of the mind. He could have no delusions on who is the weaker sex.
For him too it became all about the show - only without the funding. "If I could just get the money, I could beat her!" Massive money was beyond his means but he'd always felt he'd kept a piece of his soul she'd lost. To have that and the big bucks - he'd show her then, loser bitch! He pondered renting an exotic car for their mutual class reunion, letting her get a curious glance at him as he drove by, leaving her mired in mystery having to question on what exactly she had given up. But the prices for that were ridiculous on his budget.
Finally, he broke. Life really is about lifestyle, she'd proven that. She'd gotten a mate and a million dollar house. She had made all the right decisions, untouchable in a world of inequality's ruthless dichotomy - a world at which he publicly railed against while she privately praised. Would he have the strength to reject the world were he in her shoes? Probably not. His rants were as empty as his life.
"If God wants to bless liars like that then I guess nothing has any point after all." Betrayed on his dreams, betrayed in the world, he had no place left to turn as her lifestyle skyrocketed. "The whore by the shore has won the war." His life was over, sitting in a room with a muted TV to give the appearance to the outside world he was still engaged. But he was only waiting to die. Goodbye, cruel world.
Needing proof of the futility of life in this universe he'd by lottery tickets just to lose. "Fuck you, nigger God and the goddam horse you rode in on! This shitty ticket proves you've doomed me to fail!" So even if he was going to die a loser he took (very slight) solace in being right about something, dammit. God: just another assassin.
But then he won, netting 46 million after taxes. He was speechless and confused. Surely he'd die on the way to collecting it. There had to be a catch somewhere! "Only I could be fucked by success," he muttered. He remembered stories of the shockingly high number of lottery winners who's lost everything. A special hate he reserved for them - but now he understood the weight of it. Still, he had an old hurt to avenge. Let war resume!
"Howdy neighbor!" crowed the bouquet of flowers delivered to her door. The return address was a six million dollar dream home on the bay (no doubt from pursuing his creative endeavors), less than three miles from her house. As he'd hoped, every worst nightmare she'd dreaded for trading in her dreams came true in a fatal, sinking instant. She'd given away her life for nothing, a sanctioned prostitute of the world rejected by heaven. She dare not even cry lest the tears drown her. "I thought I had it all figured out!" Suicide suddenly seemed not so unreasonable a thing.
He knew what he could make the world - and her - believe. He also knew what he lived. The house was a living void of harrowing hollowness, more disconnected from his dreams than ever, the world went dark. Now he didn't even have misery to push him the right direction. "Oh, this can't be! I'm going to go out of my mind!" As if his head were in an inescapable vice, he felt himself being unstoppably crushed. "I thought I had it all figured out!" Suicide suddenly seemed not so unreasonable a thing.
Only the banker man - whose heart was already dead with a winking smirk - knew the truth of the coincidence of the deaths of he and she. "Those two were fools." A practical man, the banker had long ago faced up there's no room for romance or sentiment in this world. He'd furiously chained her for years to that perverse ideology, daring her to leave him if he be wrong. The money man was the last man standing - as always. Paradise lost, again.
CODA: "Don't let them substitute their morality for yours. That's how you end up loading Jews into ovens." Rich banker man scoffed at her every proclamation of this silly sentiment. He thought her naive, stupid, and weak. (He was only projecting himself, of course.) She had no understanding of business or the outside world. Idiocies like that were holdovers from her previous mistake marriage.
But greedy banks do treasure their greed and especially relish the damage they do to lives around them - even to their own! Banker boy's way in this world had been to unquestioningly be their bitch. That's what kept him on the inside, one of the club. Who needs respect? He'll take the cash instead. But then his boss set up him up to fail, giving him tasks outside his job scope - tasks he knew the bitch would not refuse. Throw out the bitch boy and there's more for the rest of us!
It was complete and total humiliation when called into the head office for his firing. His immediate boss was there too, laying into bitch boy with righteous fury. Even the bitch began to believe he should be fired, so little moral fight left inside him. In the twinkling of an eye, his career, his home, and identity vanished forever. "I thought I had it all figured out!" Suicide suddenly seemed not so unreasonable a thing.
P.S. The land, as if seeking to purify itself, tremored beneath the once mighty house, ground zero for an angry earthquake, leaving only rubble. What had engendered such wrath from the gods? What gifts had the previous owners thrown away to so infuriate Nature herself?