Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Sitting With Sad Sam Sitting (Confidence Games)
Cowardice and self-pity are my two main attributes. I cling to them as a desperate child to a parent. People are the problem, not the solution. Natural disasters and plane crashes I cannot applaud enough. The fewer the fuckers the better. But on my return trip walking past Sad Sam sitting in the burned out wreckage of his home, something snapped. I did the unthinkable and went over to him to see what's what, violating my no-guard-dropping policy. Smart or not?
"Hey, man." I barely recognized my voice being friendly. But that faraway look on Sam's round face led me in. "Been a while, Sam."
I also almost never address a person by their Christian name. It feels too personal (Emily the one exception). So here I was completely out of character, doing the role reversal of trying to get someone else to open up instead being the stubborn mule myself. I kicked at some debris.
"Can't believe this place is still standing. Still, it's probably better than the shelter."
Sam had made an affirmative sound. Breakthrough! I knew who he was in the eyes of the world. In the goddam eyes of the preachers he was a commodity to be converted; a rent producing object to the landlords who falsely rule us; just another piece of debris in the landscape to those rushing by in a mad rush to oblivion. But in the anti-world of the shelter, Sam was a star. His act of self-sabotage was notorious and unforgettable, a blaze of shining pain across the night sky.
My biggest fear was to come off as being critical. I mean, it's my natural demeanor and I hate the vicious do-gooding assholes who try to run peoples' lives under the guise of "helping". I had genuine curiosity and concern. I had to show a commitment. I sat down in a clear spot on the floor as tension's pitchforks poked me.
I wanted to say, "She's not coming back!" Instead, I said, "OK if I sit here?" No answer, as expected. "Started walking this route to avoid the masses. Life hasn't changed for me. Guess it never will at this point. I look out and I see nothing. I mean, I'm completely outside of everything. I can't breathe in that fucking shelter but I've no place else to go."
"Is this where you stay?"
"More or less." Sam didn't look at me when speaking. The burned out wreckage around us bespoke the burned out wreckage within.
"I'm sorry." Another thing I never say. I was just letting the river take me where it will for once.
"Don't be. It just is..."
"You don't want a house, a regular place to live?"
"If I take a house I die."
Whoa! Damn, he is in a bad spot. A thousand questions. Was this his last connection to his ex? Did the pain make him feel alive? What a high price to pay! Sam only saw his reflection when sticking his face in the flames of hell. As someone who's longed for a house his entire life, Sam's statement was tough to wrap my head around. How close to suicide is he, living devoid of self-trust?
"That's rough, man." I was feeling really uneasy at this point. I couldn't just disappear like a Cheshire cat. "I can hear the echoes here. For me, it's songs I remember." Don't always bring things back to yourself, jerkwad! "I hear them and I go straight back in time, like a bullet." I gave out a wry smile.
"I haven't heard the radio in a long time. 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress'. I can't hear that anymore. It used to hurt to hear it. Then it got to be like someone I never knew. Sitting here is about the only safe place left to be."
"I gotta ask, man. How are you getting by? I can't get out of crap job hell."
"Oh, I'm dying. Don't kid yourself."
"Just not making ends meet...?"
"I do stuff. But it's killing me."
"Oh - know that feeling!"
"The lie keeps getting bigger and bigger. I'm not really making it at all. Where does it end? It can't end good. I always end up here alone."
"Maybe everyone died in '09," I ventured (2009 being the year Sam burned down his house, causing his wife and life to run off).
"How the fuck can that be? How the hell is anyone as stupid as I am? Do you know anyone who's burned down their own home? Who does that? I'm the only one..."
His voice was sharper, long held venom coming out.
"We're in a confidence game on this planet. You can read about it all the time. Our unworthy leaders preach on and on about "trust." No matter how rotten the shit they've done, in their minds it's OK to lie like maniacs 'in order to maintain the public trust.' Cocksuckers."
"They are lying? What for? No one has done what I've done..."
"Dude, they melted down the whole fucking economy! You're small time, you just burned down one house! These assholes burned down a nation's."
"That can't be! That's like saying nobody can make a marriage work. Somebody has to be able to."
"Nobody who can do that burns down their house."
Oh, shit! He could read that as an accusation. I was just speaking observationally, not in judgment. Fuck. This diplomacy shit is hard as hell. Thank God he took no offense. His eyes registered a momentary flicker of hope, that maybe he wasn't seeing the whole picture.
"So you're saying everyone's living a bigger and bigger lie? Doesn't seem right. I thought I was all alone in this..."
"Confidence games are the one thing I know. This one started in '09 too. These clowns think it's some sort of act of morality not to admit their crimes. They know they haven't resolved anything - in their lives or anyone else's. But everyone wants so fucking badly to believe we're fine they completely swallow the lies these guys hand out. I'm pretending I'm fine too - but I know I'm dying."
"A world pretending. That just blows my mind. What a scam. Can that really be true?"
"I guess if you're looking down on us from on high it must look like some sort of sick communal dance. You're not alone in your sin, Sam. I understand why you can't leave. Nothing anyone else does can make it any easier. Worst part is she doesn't know. She won't know if you live or die. We scream in silence. We rack up debt as a plea for help. No one's saying anything."
"I don't know how to go forward. I'm just treading water, selling my tomorrows today. I live on the moon and air is running out. If she thinks I'm actually surviving that's the worst death of all. I can't take it."
"Hey, man, ever stop to think I'm stuck in a shelter because I burned down my own house?" That got his head to turn around. "Maybe I didn't use lighter fluid and a match but it's been destroyed. When I saw you sitting here, I thought maybe you'd found a way out of this hell. I want to know the way out...if there is a way."
"I just wish I had a time machine."
Oh, Christ, time machine talk. There's no way back, dude. I came here hoping - I see now - to find deliverance from my own notorious act of self-sabotage. But Sam hadn't found one. In fact, he was determined to die here as if he were still one with her. He's secretly hoping she'll pass by, see him there in his suffering woe, and not think him such a cad. However false, it was the last shred of hope to which he could cling. In reality, Sam was playing a confidence game on himself. The forced march of time is plucking our souls, waiting for the day nothing is left.