No one had ever confirmed it, but he knew it was true: You are as exactly lame as who you end up in bed with. And here he was: alone and caressing his Foreclosure Notice like it was some lover who’s mind he could still change. He was amazed that it actually said “Foreclosure Notice” on it, three separate times. It wasn’t breaking it to him slowly. But harshly, over and over—which is the worst because it works. Arguing just makes you a sore loser. Weak.
Maybe he should frame it? It was that important, but printed on thin, see-thru white paper. Light enough to be sent with one stamp. No wicked banker had to take the morning to deliver it. No knowing, evil laughs tucked inside. Nothing but facts. They’d even spelled his middle name right. The facts. He’d fucked up. Bad. And this wasn’t the result of any conspiracy except the daily conspiracy of nonsense that guides and confounds anyone who doesn’t have money. Real money. This was the natural conclusion to an endless series of fuck-ups he accumulated effortlessly in such a rapid manner that he had to stop talking to close friends or anyone who gave a fuck. You can’t ask people to feel that bad for you.
Not unless they married you.
He dropped the Notice and let it drift to the floor, gracefully. His life was over. The last good thing he had. Gone. What if he didn’t give up? I mean, how many times did everyone he’d ever met NOT have to rally around him in his time of need before he realized that it wasn’t a wonderful life?
He packed some pillows at the small of his back and sat up. Maybe if it were something interesting like drugs that ruined his life, then maybe he could sleep or find some boring enabler to help him. Fiending at least had a logic. But car repairs? The stupid desire to buy a house when he shouldn’t? A stagnant income with no chance of growth for the next ten to one million years? These were the kind of things that should ruin weekends, bachelor parties, not lives. It all sat on his shoulders, feeling like a hawk’s talons tearing into his muscles. But both shoulders. Strange it was balanced. Maybe it was his drinking. He did drink consistently. If he didn’t have that one DUI from six years ago, his insurance would be cheaper, half the price. He could have bought a newer car. Saved that two-three hundred he was spending a month to band-aid the radiator to the whateverthefuckitwas. Built up an emergency fund. Taken a vacation once in the new millennium. Been happy. Gotten a better job. Met a wife who he didn’t secretly hate precisely from the moment they married.
I don’t do, he should have said—despite every social pressure in the known world forcing him to do it. No. I don’t do. Then the Priest should have looked up and said, “Thank, God.”
After? Maybe a real marriage. Maybe a kid, a family. Something worth working for; unlike attorney’s fees, alimony. Imagine him then: he would have cared about his neighbors, smiled at them. Done nice things. Lent them anything. Won their trust, love, support. Improbably completed some extremely noble and faceless task one midnight in the midst of blinding pouring acid rain. Such a resonant good deed that it coincidentally saved the entire city from being washed away by fear, debt, evil foreigners. Man, how easy would it be—knowing what a good guy he was down deep below the decade of mistakes—to earn the community’s belief in him as a person and an investment? What if everyone in his zip code gave him a dollar?
If only he’d done any of that: They would be marching into his living room right now with fish bowls and punch bowls and salad bowls filled with impossibly crumpled money. Crumpled with haste, not filth. Bills over bills given substance by change. Pennies. Dimes. Quarters from the kids. The kids who could just tell that that he was the kind of man you trust just based on his posture. I’ll skip ice cream at the baseball game, they’d think as they emptied their piggy banks into a giant bowl, all so nice Mr. Nobody doesn’t have to move his Barcalounger, or worse sell it for twenty bucks because he doesn’t want to have to lug that piece of shit to his new third-floor apartment in a part of town where the only feeling of community came from the fact that the local Pioneer Chicken wasn’t a franchise. It was family owned and operated. Every time he’d go in there to get mashed potatoes and fried chicken hours past dinnertime, he’d be dumping bills into their bowl. They could have the kind life that he’d been denied. Keep the change. Put it in the bank with whatever the fuck coleslaw is.
This was just the beginning of the next episode of his life.
Call it: Alone, Divorced, Foreclosed.
Highlights to include: Eating a fried-chicken drumstick as he walked down the street alone, praying he’d be in bed within 124 minutes so he could sleep slightly more than six hours before he had to be up and out again. A young girl would pass—eyes averted like he could molest her gaze— and he’d smile at her between bites. Somehow thick grease drips down across his one nice shirt. The only good thing his ex had ever given him.
That was the future, except probably even worse. What was the future now but a painful space of seemingly perpetual time, like fingernails across a black board. He lied down and reached up his arm so his hand could kill the light.
There was no way to lie that didn’t hurt his neck, that made his shoulders feel right. Maybe he had one last phone call. Maybe that’s why he was awake. And he wasn’t going to use it. Who could he call that would just say the truth: You suck.
Except the ex and he didn’t have her number.
Suicide would be nobler than what he planned, he was sure. He was going to go on sucking, suck harder every single day of his life. Then one day it would be over. But whenever that was, he knew it wasn’t up to him. Maybe to some that was like not giving up? But he knew it wasn’t even close.
He tossed and he turned. Even tried to sleep with his head the opposite way. It didn’t feel like a human body was meant to lie down. He tried the floor. Tried the lounger. Tried Tylenol PMs, which actually made him more wired, ready to drywall hundreds of rooms or fight demons made of insulation. Fuck you, tiny pieces of fiberglass, asbestos. I ain’t afraid of you.
And when he was almost asleep, the thought, “I’m almost asleep,” woke him up. He sat at the edge of the bed, the approaching daylight giving the night a break and him some impossible bravery. He paced around the rooms, surveying everything he owned. Not the house anymore, but the crap inside.
He picked up his baseball bat, took half-swings at the TV, the couch, the wedding album and decided against the drama of breaking things. At his center—where he should have been a community hero, a fireman, a doctor with a Harley—he was pro-stability, against destruction. He wasn’t working for THEM, whoever it was that was working against him because he was normal and hopeless and smart enough to know how bad it was. Who were they? Did they even care? What could they do to stop him from getting in his crappy car and driving away from it all?
Let them foreclose on this shit. Take it all. The dirty socks, the dusty corners, his dozen pairs of old shoes he kept for no reason, a kitchen table he’d found on the street, a million scraps of paper that he kept because that’s what homeowners did.
Take it all.
He’d drive and drive and drive and drive and drive. And eventually the car would break down. And he’d walk; get a ride from a new love, a divorcee with no kids. What the fuck did he have to lose? He had half of a mortgage payment to bankroll his new life. In individual twenties, it was impressive. A thick stack. And really, that was more than enough.
If he outran his past, who could bring it back? Maybe if he started over and made different mistakes, better mistakes then—then every thing he lost might actually matter.