Sunday, September 14, 2014

Of Lotteries Lost

Nature abhors a vacuum. That, in fact, is an understatement, for it is actually a law of Nature, as real as any of Newton's. And in this way each of is exposed. As a crime, exposure is sorely hated. Which entices you to greater anger: to hear your 17 year old daughter has been flashed by a middle-aged man or that she's been knocked up by her 17 year old boyfriend? With time and reason one will say the later, but most rage to the first with the honest initial blush. Of us this says much.

Many feel compelled to find the spotlight in the hunger for exposure (without using an open trench coat). To those (rare few) who choose to see, the lives of those who must be public are laid bare, aching for acceptance yet finding no comfort when falsely given. There are no shortcuts. Many are those who say they hold their nose while voting - but it is their own smell they wish to avoid. In the end, there's no place to hide.

Shawn was the inverse. For some, to walk down the street naked is life. For him, it is death. His intention is to remain dark with failings unseen. He sees a false profit in this. Just as politicians are exposed to be without principle in the light of day, Nature seeks out and finds those in the dark as well. Shawn has no intentions of engaging in public debate any more than he'd stroll nude in the park. And yet, he never realized life gives no quarter.

The plan was to outsmart the world, outsmart life and, ultimately, outsmart himself. Shawn needed only one tiny event for that to happen, to leave him untouchable in the universe, laughing at the fools around him. He needed to win the lottery. Such was his steadfast belief in that curing of his ills he'd anchored his life (and worth) around the possibility of this impossibility. Without understanding why, we instinctively know when someone is possessed by something, nature will never allow it to happen. Everyone knew in unspoken understanding of Shawn's futility but Shawn.

We tried explaining the math, of money better spent on food and shelter, but to Shawn lottery tickets were food for his soul, his eyes lighting up with each new chance. It's what he needed to be somebody and being somebody is "something everyone deserves. You'll never be able to convince me otherwise." In that sense, Shawn was very wise, and never found a soul - no matter how reviled - without worth. Maybe if he had followed that star he'd been a great humanitarian of some sort. One got that feeling.

But the stings of continual losses drove him to ragged despair. He cursed the God who gave him so much stalwart faith in Mankind yet denied him his proof. But it was his faith as much as his sins Shawn wished to hide. After he'd won, he'd come into the light. Before, never! On this point he was stubborn and irrationally ignorant, like a Congressman denying global warming. We all have policies whether we choose to debate them or not.

But Shawn refused to break. "Everybody is somebody," he'd repeat long after anyone claimed otherwise. So in a sense, he was making his way forward and it made even me start to wonder, "What if?" And I found it curious that my logical arguments against his winning sounded hollow and self-serving - as hollow and self-serving as Shawn's had been for it. Then, I think, it got to the point Shawn forgot why he even played; his true desire to empirically prove the worth of every soul - and the world's fatal treachery in its stewardship of such.

Reaching the limit, he withered. His house was an absolute mess, covered in old newspapers and lottery stubs and the general disorder of the despairing and hopeless. Why bother when you know you'll never come into the light? In the beginning, when he'd convinced himself winning was a "certainty", both Shawn and his house were kept pristine for the inevitable photographers and well-wishers. But as time passed, he physically eroded, his eyes looking passed the "fools" around him into nothingness. He'd been so sure!

The 6 lottery numbers had once come to Shawn in a dream. That only added fuel to the fire of his divine fate. In his mind, it all seemed to fit, making perfect sense. He knew he couldn't rationally defend it any more that any other dreamer. In a dreamless world, one can't help but sound delusional. So he kept this understanding to himself, hiding it away for his triumphant day of revelation celebration. Week after week he played the same six numbers as the years passed him by until his final open-mouthed state of confusion left him paralyzed, without will. And having reached this state of perfect freedom, he lost faith.

"There is no God! Not one who cares anyway. Earthlings are left to die and yet who weeps at the loss of a soul? But I ask you God: How can a soul be replaced when each and every one is precious and necessary? How can we ever be whole when we cast out when we should embrace? Where is the future? Where is salvation? I truly do not understand. I cannot help but think we are precious. It seems I am alone in this in all the universe."

That night was the most peaceful in years. It was the first time he'd skipped taking the time-worn trail down to the convenience store with the all too familiar clerk waiting on him, the sucker, he now knew. Shawn smiled in his bed imagining the clerk's fruitless waiting for him. No doubt he'd been mocked mercilessly the minute he walked out the door. "He was only pretending to share in my dream. Fucking traitor. He just wanted to make a sale." In that night, the faces of the day turned ugly in Shawn's sight. People were just shit after all, to wither and die in useless energy spent.

In the cold morning, a crushing hangover of shame almost drowned Shawn. His explanation: the fact he was finally realizing he'd been wasting his life. Nothing really means anything. "So this is why nobody fights for their rights. Why bother? There's no end game. God has it rigged and God always wins. What's our petty existence among the stars?" When his phone rang - unusual at that early hour - Shawn ripped it from the wall. "Fuckers! Can't fool me!" Then a short while later, incessant knocking at his apartment door. "I'm not letting those fuckers in." Besides, like Adam after biting the apple, he'd become aware of his nakedness and what his foul apartment state revealed.

In the ensuing silence, a few bitter tears. "How strange was all that? It was as if everyone else knew the same time I did what a fool I am. How can I face anyone? Everyone lives smarter than I." Morning passed to afternoon on this, the first day of the rest of his wasted life. Something was bugging him - bugging him hard! He wasn't the princess and the pea, he was the princess and the boulder. "But what the fuck could it be? Just shut the hell up! Only thing changed is I got smarter. Thank God, before it's too late."

Barring suicide, life must go on and so Shawn must get his weekly groceries. Hopefully no one would speak to him. But they did. And that's when Shawn's raging instincts were finally understood: when he'd given up, he'd won, all six numbers hitting on an 82 million dollar jackpot. In a blinding flash the horror came clear: he'd betrayed his faith on the final step of his journey.

Shawn never recovered from that, refusing to speak on even the smallest of matters and yet never speaking ill of another human being knowing he's the biggest fool of all.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness,
"how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything,
"except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

"I'd spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then 'Nowhere Man' came, words and music... the whole damn thing, as I lay down. So letting go is what the whole game is. You put your finger on it, it slips away, right? You know, you turn the lights on and the cockroaches run away. You can never grasp them."

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