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Ashes and Vapor

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So the New York Times wants to know if Jonathan Geoffrey has any regrets at the end of his life, eh? Yes, I have a few. But they all boil down to regret for my wasted life, if one may even call my existence life. My life as Jonathan Geoffrey started on a Thursday morning in 2010.

As my waking mind began to register outside stimuli, it first received a stream of complaints from my auditory nerves. Evidently some ridiculously incompetent occupant of my apartment complex had decided to blast one-hundred decibels of heavy metal at 5:00 a.m. At first I considered taking the 9mm handgun from my drawer and wreaking havoc on his speaker system. But this idea faded with the realization that such an act would require me to rise from my bed.

Rolling over, I strove to ram my pillow down my ears and force my mind back into repose. This, of course, only succeeded in fully awakening me. Several seconds later, as my feet struck the floor, I let out a sharp gasp. Bending down, I drew a Phillips screw from my foot. Something about the sheer pathetic quality of my situation then sparked a dry laugh from me. I continued laughing while taking the first-aid-kit from the cupboard in the next room. Note that I use the term “room” rather lightly here. When I looked behind me and saw the trail of blood which I had dragged across the floor, my laughter ceased.

Ten minutes later, having eaten a quick meal of cream of wheat and cleaned up the blood, I entered the shower. As I let my body relax under the warm stream of water, my alarm clock began screaming. Letting my head fall forward against the wall, I stood still. After three minutes with the alarm still droning in my ears, I considered moving. I decided not to risk it.

Eventually, after cutting myself with four different dull razors and jamming my hand in the door, I made it out to my car. I eased out onto the road. And merging myself into the mesh of steel behemoths which devoured the asphalt like langoliers consuming time, I let out a sigh.

Life flashed by me on all sides, I could see it in the smile of the woman to my right, I could see it in the joyous laughter of the man in the blue Corvette. And there I sat, my world centered on a rusted Festiva, a dingy little apartment, and a McDonald’s restaurant where I served heart attacks and obesity with ketchup and salt.

I cursed and slammed my horn as the vehicle in front of me stopped. Sighing in frustration, I glanced at my watch. My shift began in five minutes. Life sucked. That summed it all up to me. I laughed as this thought came to me, and then I felt like weeping.

After a verbal beating from my boss for tardiness, I labored, serving the same disgusting people the same deadly food, listening to the same repulsive coworkers making the same vulgar jokes, watching the same two-minute-off clock tick by at the same slow rate, and living the capitalist dream of honestly scrounging one’s way up the economic ladder.

Eventually the nightmare ended, and I could go home. But rather than driving straight home, I turned down several back allies and just wandered. I shot past the filthy buildings and the wasted people, and I reassured myself of my own worth.

I never saw anything as I barreled down that deserted alley; I did not even recognize what I hit as man until his battered face thrust itself through my windshield. As I stared into his lifeless eyes, I cried out and swung my car to the right. With a sickening crunch the hood crumpled against a building wall, and the windows exploded in a shower of crystal shards.

I kicked open the door shakily. Glancing at the front of my car I saw a blood-spattered and contorted pile of flesh in rags draped over my hood. Gazing on high, I screamed out, “Why?!”

Sinking down next to my car, I slammed my head into the metal frame repeatedly. Eventually, as this fit of self pity dissolved, I pulled out my cell phone to call the police. I stopped dialing when I noted a dark brown, leather briefcase lying in the middle of the road. Frantically I tore it open in the hopes of finding the name of the owner. Instead, to my intense surprise, I found dozens of small bundles of one-hundred-dollar bills. In that money I saw a chance at life, an escape from my misery, and I took it!

Only now do I realize that if I thought I understood misery before, I knew nothing of the intense agony that a man may live through unbeknownst to his fellows. For thirty years I have masochistically searched for joy in what brings me pain. I have tortured myself with penthouses, expensive cars, revelry, and power, all overshadowed by the certain conviction that I have based my life in a contemptible act. And so I have lived in my elegant, refined, and expensive cage of misery for all these years. Fame. . . Wealth. . . Bah! I call them ashes and vapor, smoke in a mirror.

I compile the entirety of my existence into one word, “empty.” And now that the guilt and the shame have finally surfaced, I shall depart and meet whatever hell god has prepared for me. For if god truly reigns, then he must have prepared me an abnormally dark hell.
Now go tell your paper and tell the world that the life of Jonathan Geoffrey, famed millionaire, meant nothing but lies, pain, deceit, and regret!

Let all of the gawking, babbling fools know the truth! I’ll pass on before any of their responses ever reach me. Their shock-induced-horror and their inane, pathetic condemnations shall fall upon my unresponsive tomb. Nothing will matter or change. This revelation will die out like all other fads which enchant or enrage the masses for a moment through their sheer novelty.



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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

ajkstarr said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm:

I really enjoyed reading this piece. Youur writing style is very mature, and observant. I liked the cynicism of  your main character, it made him very entertaining.

Your writing is very formal in some places. Make sure what you write is what your character would think, biased observations, someone called them. I understand your character is young-ish for most of the story. The way you told it, made the character seem much older

 
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banangela29 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 5:50 pm:
Excellent! I think you have a very observant and mature writing style... I couldnt find very many flaws except that maybe at times it was dull what was going on. At certain points the pacing seemed inconsistent... you could have sped it up a bit to keep the reader interested. But other than that, it was very very vcery good :)
 
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GoodmorningSweetheart said...
Jun. 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm:

Excellent piece, well written and inspiring. I see no major flaws except the following.

I'd like more description of the main character. I understand that he's an average guy, but little else besides this. This type of story doesn't need extra description of the main character, but it would be nice.

Your language is good except one little oddity bothered me:

"Gazing on high, I screamed out, 'Why?!'"

The rhyming is just a little distracting.

I enjoyed this st... (more »)

 
J.Octavian.R This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm :
Ah, thank you. That line is choppy. I shall alter it.
 
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