Monday, August 29, 2011

Logic & Empathy

EPS: "It gets better. Life is an open landscape."

CLOS: "Many of us are trapped, and many more feel that they are."

EPS: "It isn't perfect, but a lot of time and luck went into our very existence. I am overcome by the thought of how unusual and fortunate it is that I live. I get to have experience. I learn, love, laugh, and live."

CLOS: "At the very least, you think that you do. Our pain is what really connects us all, and I sometimes wonder how much longer I can stand this experience."

EPS: "But there is nothing else, and as far as I can tell, this is my only chance. Why dwell on that which makes me unhappy? Why let things make me unhappy?"

CLOS: "Because we are problem solvers, each seeking to fix the universe which bore us. We need that pain in order to keep surviving. If we are numb to this sensation, we are stagnant."

EPS: "Some pain cannot be solved, and besides that, there are far more capable solvers than I."

CLOS: "It doesn't work that way. We don't get to take the good without the bad. Each of us learns and adapts. When we cease to do so, we cease to live."

EPS: "How do you explain that to those who suffer? Those with real problems?"

CLOS: "What are real problems? What aren't real problems? It's not my place to decide that."

EPS: "Then what is it you propose, if it isn't comfort?"

CLOS: "Perspective. Stand back from your own personal situation and think about the city, the country, the planet, and the universe. See how small a part you are of the past, present and future of these things. Then re-evaluate your priorities."

EPS: "They'll never go for that."

CLOS: "For once, I think we agree."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Wonderful End of the World

He was a brutal looking man. His downcast face was host to generations of scars that connected the wrinkles of his patchwork scruff. Despite his intimidating figure, he was known for his kindness and his understanding. No one knew what had marked his skin, but his brilliant empathy had made him seem younger and more beautiful than the braggart men who were a third of his age. Young women brought him gifts and told him of their fondness, but he always kept his distance. He knew they didn’t want him; they wanted a man their own age with the strength and vigor to keep up with them, but with his wisdom. They were in love with a person who didn’t exist. After all, you don’t gain that sort of wisdom without a lifetime of shit preceding it.

He was once one of those young men that he now reviled. He was cocky and self-centered, but he was also crippled with fear. He was the sort of contradiction that you wouldn’t expect to be able to exist – a man with self confidence who couldn’t handle other people. Even he didn’t understand it, but he had plenty of excuses he could fall back on. His father was violent, but not in the way you’d expect. He was an emotionally volatile man who set the seeds of injury from deep within you and kept the wound from ever healing. His father had made him feel helpless and worthless, and after a while he could no longer voice his thoughts in front of him. By the time he was an adult, he was so disconnected that he didn’t trust anyone who was older or younger than he was.

His mother was dead. She had lived long into his life, but she was dead before he was born. She had no will to fight his father, and her frustrations were passed on to her children. When age finally took her, he mourned, but he was relieved. He couldn’t side with her, because she clung to all the things that he had come to hate. She had genuinely cared about him, and he knew that, but she was a mess. Between the religion and the man she didn’t have the strength to leave, he just couldn’t respect her anymore.

When he was finally on his own, he was too damaged to carry on a normal life. He was, by all rights, a very smart and productive man, but he avoided other people at all costs, including his career and his personal ambitions. He saw himself passed up time after time by people who were less skilled, but were disgustingly outgoing. The women he had in his life were similarly damaged, as his demeanor didn’t attract the healthy happy type that he longed for, and eventually he left them all without even a hint of sadness. The loathing that he felt was too overpowering to feel anything else. He was not able to hold casual relationships, because he was overtly jealous and controlling. He had inherited too much of his father.

This painful realization had kept him alone in the worst way for the last 25 years. He was outwardly very kind because he saw life in the shades of gray that it really was, and he couldn’t help but be reasonable. He had nothing to gain and nothing to lose, so he was the perfect sounding board. Long ago he had developed a plan, and as introverted as he was, he could easily commit to it. He was saving his money. He worked hard for a long time, making very little, but he saved all that he could and he knew that he was close to his goal now. He didn’t show it, but he felt happiness. It had been a long time coming, and he had stuck through it. He wasn’t retiring - he couldn’t bear that loneliness - but he knew that his working days were coming to an end, and his sentimentality brought him a solemn joy.

Finding what he needed was easy, at least compared to the years of saving. In order to get it without arousing suspicion, he needed to assemble it himself. This didn’t bother him. Even if he fucked it up, it would have the effect he desired. He wasn’t trying to live forever, after all. He didn’t feel bad about betraying the affections of the young women who loved him, so long as he remained a non-sexual object. They had squandered their time fretting over the sort of men he had exactly avoided becoming. Needless to say, he cared even less for the men.

The duffel bag he carried with him was a common affair, as it had held his meals and other various objects that he felt were useful. Today, however, it held more; it held the futures of him and everyone within a fifty mile radius. No one would check it. This had long been a part of his plan. When he arrives, he sets it in his locker, making sure that he was alone. As he attaches his nametag and walks to his station, he keeps the countdown in his mind. His smile is the most unnatural thing about him, and draws the attention of those who know him best. He tells them that he is just happy. He has finally accomplished something that makes him proud, and looking out over the faces of the unappreciative people, he knows that he has made the right choice. They wouldn’t feel so stressed soon, and neither would he.

Just then, he is unexpectedly called to his manager’s office. This is unusual, but nothing can break his stride today. He’s still counting downward in his head. When he arrives in the office, he finds it empty, so he takes a seat, and sprawls himself out, more relaxed than he had previously been during his long career at the company. His managers arrive, with a sad look that he can’t decipher. Finding their own seats, they give knowing nods to each other and sigh heavily.

“We have to let you go.”

He’s shocked. After all this time, he had long felt invincible. He had made mistakes, but nothing so severe that he should be fired.

“Why?” he says with a forlorn passion, not seen in his work since he was a teenager.

“You’re just not the face we want on our company. You scare children. You’ve been here for a long time, and we appreciate everything you’ve done, but we have to think about profits first.”

In his final moments, he stares down at the floor disparately. He doesn’t have anything to say. Still conscious of the time, he stares deeply into his managers eyes and begins to count backwards.

“3… 2… 1..”

The explosion was so great and so damaging, that they never found his body. The parts they did find were indistinguishable from the rest of the rubble. He had set a nuclear device, the range of which destroyed his entire town, and caused lasting effects for miles beyond that. It would come to be known as the greatest disaster in the history of the country, and no one could figure out why it had happened. The dust swirled about in the radioactive breeze that only nature felt, having reclaimed the land. His long journey had ended, and the emptiness that he had inside him had become a literal emptiness.

As the sun set on the ashes, there was a quiet and destructive beauty that was reminiscent of his own.