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Old Mr. Murray

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I’ve found that the easiest way to get ahead in life is to play up to their expectations. If you look stupid, play stupid. If you look smart, play smart. People will think you’re just a cliché and that’ll be that. You always know what to expect, always are a move ahead. A loud knock comes at the door.

“Hi there, Mr. Murray. It’s Mr. Allio. May I come in?” God I hate this prick. I take my time walking to my door, which isn’t hard in this eighty-nine year old body. I fumble with the doorknob. I will admit that, no matter how old I act, my body gives a brilliant performance. Bogart couldn’t act this way, even with countless lessons. I open the door and find Allio’s fat face a foot from mine.

“Bill! Good to see ya!” He calls me Bill. My name is Elliot. Not Bill Murray. Elliot Murray. I guess he thinks he’s funny. God. I loathe him.

“What’d ya have for breakfast, Bill?” Loathe. I look at the door across the hall. Maybe Mrs. Johnson had a heart attack. Something to get Allio out of here. Alas, everybody is fine. Too bad. I shut my door.

“Just some oatmeal. And a bit of juice, I think.” I give him my elderly voice, but it’s halfhearted. Hell, I don’t care. A damn parrot could fool this twat. And just so it’s clear, I know exactly what I had for breakfast. It was a bowl of Quaker oats and two glasses of orange juice to go with my three Monday pills. But he wouldn’t expect a sharp memory so I don’t show him one.

“That sounds good, Bill! A lot better than what the higher-ups serve me, I tell ya!” He shoots me just the stupidest smile you could ever imagine. Jesus, I nearly throw up. He’s just awful. I repeat; loathe. He sits down in my green chair, which angers me more because I love that chair. I don’t want it all tainted with his being. “Have any big plans today?”

“Don’t really think so. Maybe read a book. I’m in the middle of a puzzle, too.” I point an arthritic hand--shaking very dramatically--to a half-finished (and half-attempted) puzzle that hasn’t been touched in weeks. And you can bet he knows that, too. I can see the pity on his face, thinking I’m some old bag with dementia. If I had any respect for him I’d stop toying with him.
After a few minutes he leaves to go perform the same dumb act on some other elderly person, as if we’re all the same. I guess I can understand why. I mean, he has to take care of a lot of people in the Suites. It’s no surprise that he can’t get personal with most of them. Just doesn’t have the time. And I’m well aware that there are some awful people to take care of here, too. Some of the residents are just asses. Some by disease, some by crankiness, and some just because they’re asses. But asses all the same. I can pretend to be a kind, stupid old guy to strangers or acquaintances. But no way in hell could I be nice to those jerks. So I guess in that sense, I gotta respect Allio. Even so, though. Loathe him to death.

I grab my coat and go for a walk. It’s a nice summer day, judging by the clouds. I pass so many rooms and so many people. Some of them have to be absolutely miserable. I mean, yeah, I’m pretty sarcastic and all, but I’m not too picky. I don’t hate the Suites. Nothing glorious, that’s a fact. But I’m not complaining. Yet I have met so many people that hate every bit of this place, every stitch in “that goddamned maroon carpet.” That’s what they always call it, too. And it really is disgusting looking. Stretching down every hallway, worn down by rollers and canes. Looks like they rolled out a pancreas. I think. Can’t actually say what that would look like, but I’d imagine something like this carpet.

It’s a wonder why we’re all alive, anyway. And that isn’t some deep philosophical question, either. The doctors and the lawyers and the teachers, they all serve their purposes. But us old bags? God, so many people (many of us included) would love it if we just withered away after seventy. What purpose do we serve? Baking some cookies and farting uncontrollably in front of our kids. That’s all.

I don’t understand why they don’t just take us out and shoot us. I mean, we’ve lived our lives already. It wouldn’t be a glorious job, sure. But people are politicians, and that’s about the same thing as killing people for the sake of doing it. On second thought, I respect politicians. They act, just like I act, living in a stereotypical shell for the rewards of it.

I do like being alive though. Really do. My friends, well, friend, he thinks I’m a true pessimist. I’m not. I just don’t mind calling people out on the s*** they do. And if we were all honest, we would realize how much calling out there is to do. But I don’t think my life is bad. Well, okay. Maybe you could call me a pessimist. I mean the evidence is certainly there, and you’ve only seen a page or so of my life. But if I’m a pessimist, I’m a damn happy one.

I live the way I like, and I like the way I live. Sure, I have to deal with some of those idiots like Allio. But a few strangers shouldn’t determine the quality of your life. That’s for you to decide.

I head over on to Terrance’s room. He’s the only real friend I’ve had for a long time. I’m honest around him. He knows I have a sharp wit and he has one too. We’re both slow on our feet but we know what matters in life. He can be a real bastard. We’re very similar.

When I arrive, though, some ladies in blue outfits are inside, taking everything out. They chat about some dog that blondie got. Since it isn’t important I interrupt them.

“Excuse me, but what are you doing to Terrance’s room?” They look at each other and stop moving the furniture. I see from the somber look on their faces that something is wrong. “No… oh God, just tell me he moved.” I’m not putting on any accents for them. The distress starts setting in. I sit down on Terrance’s tan couch. One of the ladies comes over to me, and the other awkwardly walks out of the room.

“Mister… um…”

“Murray.”

“Yes, well, Mr. Murray, it isn’t that simple. I really wish it was.” Please, he isn’t gone. Can’t be. “But last Thursday he just never got out of bed. He went in his sleep. From what it sounded like, he went really peacefully.” I stood up. “Mr. Murray, I’m sorry to tell you this. I really am. But he was happy and someone even said that.”

I left. I don’t know what someone said. I don’t care what someone said. I don’t care about the blonde caretaker standing outside. I don’t care about the looks she gave me as I cried in the hallway. I don’t care about her curvy body that I noticed as I walked past her. All I care about is Terrance, and he’s gone. I can’t believe it but it’s true. Gone.

I sit in my room and cry. I haven’t cried in a long time, just because I’ve stopped caring about most things. I guess this is why they don’t just shoot us when we get old, though. No matter your age you never stop caring about people. A knock at the door and I know it’s Allio. In truth, as surprising as it is, I don’t want to see him. No one but Terrance.

“Hey, buddy.” he says as he lets himself in. He sits down in a chair across from me. I don’t bother to look at him, I can’t handle it. I’m already ashamed enough. He clearly doesn’t know what to say.

“I’m sorry about Terrance. I really am.” I almost appreciate it. I know that he’s being really sincere and that I should like the gesture but I just can’t find it in my heart to care. He gets up to come sit next to me on my couch.

“Look, Bill.” And those words make me snap.

“Aw, f*** off, man! My name isn’t Bill, it’s Elliot. You think that you’re being funny but you aren’t, you fucking aren’t!” I’m not using the fake voice, or the old-man language. I’m speaking from the heart. It’s time to drop the act. “You don’t understand. You have no idea what this is like! I do nothing all day. I sit around and eat and sleep and s*** and that’s my life. You get to be free. Your day here ends at seven, but my day keeps on repeating. It’s Groundhog Day here and I’m the wrong Murray. But my one release is when I get to talk to Terrance and escape because I don’t need to pretend around him. I don’t need to wheeze and limp and be something different. And now he’s gone. He’s just gone.”

Allio says nothing to that. He didn’t deserve it, he really didn’t. I know that, but I can’t find it in my heart to take it back. So he just stares in confusion and pain.

“I’m sorry, Bill--err, Elliot. I’m sorry Elliot. I guess I don’t know what it’s like, but I know that it’s hard to lose a friend and I’m sorry. Just please, let me know if I can help.” He doesn’t stay much longer, which I’m glad for. I can’t stand to look at him. Not because I hate him, but because I hate how I treated him.

I go to bed hoping to wake up and have Terrance back, but it doesn’t work. In the morning I’m still tired because I hardly slept. Wadded up tissues lie beside my bed. I go outside and sit on a bench. No breakfast, no meds. People leave me alone. They always do, but I notice it more this time.
The easiest way to get ahead in life is to play up to their expectations. Well, I’m doing that now. But now I don’t have to pretend. I notice pitiful stares and sidelong glances. They understand it. They think they understand my pain and I hate it. Nobody understands. I feel something that I don’t believe anyone can empathize with, that feeling of having it all gone. In a way, losing everything is kind of peaceful. I don’t have to worry about anyone else, about hurting anymore. So now, my day is always the same. I just wait. Wait for death to come to me and let me leave. I sigh and get up from my bench, thinking to myself how much I wish that they would just take us out and shoot us.



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