"Is this all there is?"
Ronnie was morose, which was unusual for him but then again I hadn't come across him in ages. I never have any place to go so I wander to various parks or sit by White Rock Lake and dream of the riches it would take to build a Japanese house on its shores. And that's where I saw Ronnie, a former co-worker with whom I once shared the pits of hell. They say war is bonding but that's nothing compared to janitorial work. At least you know a war is going to end at some point.
"Is this all my life is going to be? Endless drudgery until I die? You tell me, Harry. I always used to believe there was more. I thought it was a fact."
Part of me was laughing on the inside as I thought of the Scarface dinner speech that starts out the same way. But Ronnie had always been a happy-go-lucky guy. Granted, I had my concerns he might one day get burned on that because the world was not the place he thought it to be, but I had hoped for the best. Turns out that burn must have come as his life eventually emptied out in the struggle to survive.
"I guess I was waiting on something. I figured it was there just around the corner, then life would be complete. But it's not. It's just the same old shit, day after day, your body starts breaking down, the hell you go through is only rewarded by even more pain and suffering."
I suppressed another inward smile as I listened to a discovery I had made long ago. I have no idea how to make love work so I had nothing to say. Looking out over the soothing waters at the carefree birds made for a very contrasting backdrop for our sad souls.
Back in the day, Ronnie and I shared the same train home in the wee hours of the morning after work. Ronnie on occasion could really crack me up like when he did his best Springsteen impersonation of Bruce's flying elbows dancing. "Look at me! I'm dancing in the DART!" [Dallas Area Rapid Transit]. That's how I always wanted to remember him, was in that moment. And now he's another broken toy on the scrap heap of life.
"God really hates poor people. He's just like everyone else. All He cares about is the rent. Don't have it? Then go fuck yourself, you don't have anything to offer as a person."
Ronnie is one of the invisible people, the kind you only see as a punchline in a movie at most. We don't know how people like him survive nor do we want to face the nightmarish quagmire of the working poor whom we shaft with relentless fury and conviction. Don't feel sorry for the suffering to come, dear ones, know that you've earned it a thousand times over, that the people you made invisible were not invisible to their Maker.
I only had a lame joke to offer. "Don't worry. I know Jesus was kidding when he said blessed are the poor."
All I could really say was my life is no better, that he wasn't alone. But I know what empty solace that is. We were both waiting to die while yuppie joggers passed by with their purebred dogs and high dollar strollers, ringed by nine figure houses destined to be swept away by the tsunami of human misery that rises every day.
"Well," I sighed. "If you find an answer, be sure to let me know!" On that I wasn't joking.
As one who's always lived in the cracks of society, in the back alleys and hidden corners from which to spy, you naturally find others on the run for various reasons (though the one most offered is relationships gone sour). I am constantly searching for rest. Anything good in my life I destroy because I cling to it too hard.
I thought about Ronnie in the ensuing days. I knew he was on the tipping point, his frustration boiling over for a meaningful life. Is meaning even possible in the here and now on a dying planet? The amount of misplaced faith is so staggering that it's become the norm. And what of true faith? It's more maligned and persecuted every day. That adds up to oblivion - yet we're still obligated to do the right thing.
The election of Nero has lowered us a great step downward. Don't be fooled by protests to close the barn door after the horse is out. All those victories will be pyrrhic. The descent remains the same. The election's true destructive nature is in how it leads people out of the everyday flow of their lives as a madman fiddles after starting fires for others to put out. But fighting Nero won't solve any problems because Nero is not the solution. There's a reason why dishonest people are in charge.
After finding an object in Nero in which he could direct his anger and energy, Ronnie cracked, at last. He's all into the "resistance" and other political activities that can give his life direction without having to look at himself - the perpetual holy grail of mankind. Deeper and deeper he went, wallowing in it, immersing himself until no light could get in.
Saving the environment
One doesn't want to suspect the worst or believe one has to live with those who are so out of control their mess could overflow into one's own life. But not facing that means you get into a Smart car with Ronnie even though all your instincts tell you not to. He's all excited now that his life has "meaning", telling me about hypermiling (as part of his "new heightened awareness") as I joke about all the extra weight his anti-Nero stickers are adding to the car.
Then it happens. The true level of his disconnection to reality is revealed right there under the morning winter sun. It pains me even to recount it.
We're heading down a long hill. "I always try to take this hill. You can coast past that light at the bottom all the way to the next one. Just have to time it."
"Dude, that light's turned red!"
"I know. But we're hypermiling, just have to time it." Like that's any sort of fucking explanation!
And sure enough we clip a pickup. The redneck driver is incensed to say the least.
"What the hell you doin'? Have you lost your ever-lovin' mind!" Even under ordinary circumstances I could see Ronnie and this fellow would not get along.
"I'm hypermiling. It saves gas and the environment. And see that pink license plate holder? That means I'm curing cancer!" Oh, boy.
"That don't give you the right to wreck my truck, you imbecile!"
"Saving the environment is important! I'm part of the resistance!" I literally debate if I should start running away even though I'm a direct witness to the accident. Ronnie has disconnected far more than I wanted to realize. This is my punishment for not facing that.
"Well, can you resist being an idiot! Because that's what you are!"
"Your big truck using up gas is an idiot! Where do you think that's gonna get us when all the gas is gone?"
"None of your damn business. You're one of them libtards screwing up the world and I gotta pay for it!"
"No, you are screwing up the world because you can't see anything past your own personal interests!"
I have to let go. If someone gets killed, so be it. I don't have the strength to step in between those two. Each person played into the other's stereotype of what they believed the world to be. Eventually the cops showed up and I had to grimace my way through a statement. But my mind is a thousand miles away as I watch the cop draw on his intersection diagram of how the cars collided. I wonder how much Ronnie is in me, how much have I gone over the edge. It scares the hell out of me.