My parents took their camper and left California, for good, tired of the high taxes and “the left,” and headed out east. Funny enough though, I remained, in Weaverton, in an apartment not too far from my old middle school. My new job wasn’t great, to say the least. All my education and work experience, I managed to get a dishwashing job at a terrible restaurant called Sully’s. I wasn’t good at the job, but there were times, at work, where I was able to keep away from everything else, to isolate my mind and let it drift. And plus, I guess the job wasn’t all that bad; in some ways, it was better than sitting in front of a monitor all day, but I still struggled, financially and otherwise.
I changed, I felt, not significantly, but just enough to feel at ease for a little bit longer. Soon, however, a new obstacle will render itself and I would have to adapt.
But, another thing started to occur. There were times when something stirred in between shadows. I remember one night lying in bed after a long day at work I saw it in the doorway. A white shape, completely still. My eyes adjusted and tried to focus. Soon, I saw a face. It was blurry, but I was able to tell that it sat above a night gown.
“Mom?” I turned on the light, but the thing dispersed. There were other sights as well that tugged at me just in the moments before and after sleep. At first, I was scared, then I learned to live with the phantoms.
“Burt?” One day, I saw him walking down the street. He turned around and smiled.
“Hey, man.” He was wearing the uniform of his family’s restaurant.
“How’s it going?”
“Alright. Just on my break. I’m, uh, delivering pizzas now. Again.” He shrugged and nodded.
“I take it you lost your place in the fire?”
“Well, that’s fun.” He took a hit off his cigarette and blow smoke from the corner of his mouth. We stood there on the sidewalk for a moment.
“Look,” he finally said. “I never apologized to you. I mean, if you remember, I was kind of a dick to you. To a lot of people.” He flicked his cigarette onto the concrete and smothered it with his foot. “Don’t know if that means anything, or if you care. Probably shoulda said this sooner, but…”
I didn’t know what to say. My mouth just sputtered out some words of gratitude on its own.
“Yeah…still writing? You were writing, right?”
“A little bit. But not so much now. I guess it wasn’t for me.”
“Right. Right. Well, hope you find your ‘something’ then…Yep. Probably should get going. Fuck…” He took a sip from a styrofoam coffee cup. I had a feeling it wasn’t filled with coffee, however, since, as he spoke, his mouth reeked of booze.
“Um, take care. Alright?”
“Yeah, you too.” And he was off.
For a while, I wondered if Burt genuinely felt remorse, or if it was merely a sense of guilt he was obligated, for selfish reasons, to abate. I also wondered how much Burt was aware of himself. He seemed average intellectually, and a slave to his own desires; however, the couple of times I spoke with him, there seemed to be a sense of misery that quietly trembled in his throat. But, despite this, I had a feeling he would never change. This was a fate of a lot of people, including myself. But, why was I so obsessed with change, anyway? Was it because it was the only signifier I could recognize of what it meant to actually live? One who never changed or experienced growth was living a common death. In the past, such questions would have tormented me, now they delighted me, in a weird way, as they made me stare at myself and realize how absurd I was sometimes. Because such questions don’t really have answers, at least ones that I could get to. I needed to focus on something else. Something unique to me instead of trying to be deep, trying to figure out the dark, hidden language of life.
But then, what was I? Some say that everyone is good at something. But I don’t think that’s true. Maybe I’m cynical, but it always seemed like something con artists would try to sell to the gullible who needed to feel better about themselves. And, even if one is good at something, what if they never discover it, or, worse, it fades away? My dad was good at music, though he never seemed to satisfy him, fully. As a result, he never fulfilled his potential. Conversely, my mom was a star athlete, but now she is older, having reached the peak of her athletic prowess decades ago.
So, maybe I’m not good at anything; maybe I don’t have something innate that distinguishes me from the anonymous crowd. But maybe that’s for the best because there is a responsibility in greatness. I don’t have a responsibility to anyone; I don’t even have a responsibility to myself. But, as a result, I don’t have purpose. And maybe that was the purpose of that dream: to help me cope with this condition by recognizing that the entire universe is drifting along, as well, without purpose or meaning. All was silly. All was absurd, and to try to establish meaning and stability was even more absurd.
There was a utility in this perspective, but it had its limits, I felt. Because people are inherently absurd things. We are creatures that don’t see themselves that way who live in a society that imposes certain expectations on them. This strange nature has brought man to where he is now, but it also has brought a suffering that not even achievement could fully wash away. And, I still worried that, at the end of a life living as a dandy or wanderer, or would come to the realization that I had wasted something, even if life, in of itself, was just an odd mistake.
So, as I entered my apartment, I realized I was in the same place as before. I still had dreams, but I no longer commanded them in the way I had done before. Perhaps, I lost my ability to discern the life of sleep from waking reality, allowing me to lucid dream, or, perhaps, I had given-up. And, sometimes, I would sit alone at my computer and stop to wait for something that never occurred. For a broken melody that used to be plunked from behind the walls of my old apartment. I thought about where that person was and hoped that they didn’t give-up like I had, assuming that they had survived. And so things go.
I was still alone. Every once in a while, I reached-out to my parents. They were usually busy doing something–various projects or going out with the new friends they’ve made. This was a good thing, of course, but it made me realize how little of a life I had occupied. Every once in a while, I would see a familiar face in town, other than Burt’s, but their existences were completely separate from mine. Sometimes I would chat with my coworkers, but most were younger than I was and I had a hard time relating to them. For a while, I thought leading a social life “wasn’t for me” and, thus, tried to focus on things I actually enjoyed, but there are just some things that you cannot deny as part of your existence. I was still human, a social creature, who was defined by others and still secretly sought company, even if minute.
But, occasionally I still had fragments of that dream, the one I had created and tried to control long ago. And each time I experienced a fragment, something new would cut through me. But the feeling would fade as morning fed through the window. At least there was something there, even if momentary, like a bug spinning in the endless water.
Today’s prompt: Sully
So yeah. This is the final installment of the writing challenge for the month of July. So, not really big fan of the ending, or the middle…thought the beginning was okay. Anyway, I’ll probably do a more in-depth retrospective sometime soon, but for now I’m just glad it’s over. And if you have no idea what this is yet you decided to read this installment anyway, click here to read from the beginning, if you want.