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To be Among Them
A man who works towards the greater good is a dangerous man, but an effective man. Don't you ever wonder why no matter how hard we try we can never change ourselves. No matter how hard we try to become the person we want to be instead of the person we are, we always fail. Or do we become the person we want to be? Yet when we reach it... The grass is always greener on the other side. What if there existed, a person who even deep down would not change a single thing about themselves. They were so perfect in their own eyes that not the most convincing argument or most life changing experience could change who they were. No one could challenge them. And what if that person was on a mission. A mission to rip apart the stitching that holds humanities meaningless, monotonous, habitual lives together. This person could not be stopped, this person would not stop until they were dead, and people would follow this person to no end.
"Hey! Waiter!" Cried a red-faced customer, waiving his fork high above his head. I waltzed over to the table and beamed my "Your happiness is the ONLY thing I care about" look right at his pudgy face and said. "How may I help you?" He licked his greasy lips and continued. "Who do I have to kill around here to get a decent steak-burger? Cause this thing you gave me is complete crap." He sneered, a smirk forming on his lips. "Well sir I can bring it back to the kitchen and request another one if you'd like?" He gave me a once over with his eyes and continued his rant. "Now why would you think that two crap burgers would be better than one? Not really getting your point." He said, his smile widening. I could tell he was pleased with how he responded. I continued with my pre-programmed responses. "Well, you can order something else from the menu. We have many different op-" He cut me off. "I don't want anything else. I want some decent food that's not made by a bunch of idiots cooking with cow piss!" With that he pushed his chair back, producing the unpleasant screeching sound of plastic against tile. His protruding gut bounced as he stood. He most likely came in to this restaurant with no intention of eating the food. All he wanted was the high of feeling like he was in charge, even if it was only for a few short seconds. He would walk out with his head held high, his redneck leeches on his flanks patting him on the back. He would walk to his car and ride home feeling on top of the world. Then he would probably go to the bar he frequents and sit down and realize that he really wasn't on top of the world, but he actually the bottom, where the scum collects. The sedentary, leftover, worthless chaff. And he would drink his night away... again.
So I let him walk out of the restaurant, holding his head high. I let him feel those few seconds of euphoric pseudo power. Cause really, I wasn't mad, I just felt sorry for him. Most people would have at least gotten a little worked up about it. But I just walked over to the other table I was waiting and continued on with my job. This table consisted of a bright cheery mom with two oddly docile kids. The mother looked at me in the eyes and said with what sounded like genuine concern. "Are you okay?" I nodded. "Oh I'm fine, thank you for asking, more iced tea?"
That's what most of my days consisted of. And the saddest part was completely ok with it. So I finished up the night and punched out at 8:00 sharp grabbed the same leather jacket that I've grabbed for the last 4 years and walked out the same door that I've walked out of for the last 4 years. Sounds crazy doesn't it? Been working at the same burger joint for the past 4 years and haven't felt a single ounce of discontent. My boss even offered me a managing position but I turned it down. I like routine, it's my drug. I've always felt safe in it's warm and familiar arms. I walked down the dimly lit street and breathed in the crisp New York winter air. One of my favorite feelings in the world is walking out of that stuffy hamburger and fries scented restaurant and breathing in the fresh air. Especially in the winter. If "freshness" could be bottled up and sold, New York winter air would be top of the line. Burgertown (I know right?) wasn't in the worst part of New York but it wasn't a good part either. But a street loses its feeling of imminent danger after you walk down it a certain number of times. I had walked this route thousands of times and hadn't ran into a single problem, except for the occasional bum who pursued spare change a little more vigorously than the average New York homeless man. Yesterday a man walked right in front of me and did an impressive move with his hat and held it in front of me and said simply "give". I try to always have some spare change in my pocket for the homeless men I see daily. So I grabbed the two quarters I had in my pocket that day and popped them in his hat. He nodded at me and withdrew back to his cardboard abode. Sometimes I walk on and don't give a single glance back and some days I give all the change I have. It just depends on the person. I have always prided myself in my ability to read people and when I read something good I toss them my change.
When I got to the end of the long stretch between burgertown and any sort of residential civilization I saw a tall lanky man pop out from a side-street and start walking towards me. Normally I dismiss these encounters because of the sheer number of times I've walked down this street, but this man was walking with determination. Not the normal swagger of a stuck up New Yorker on his way to go clubbing. This man was on a mission. And me being the only person in sight put a sour taste in my mouth. So I hunched over and stuck my hands in my pockets, trying to look as small as possible and continued on. A little more adrenaline in my veins. But the man kept walking straight for me with the same dogged stride. By now he was less than 20 feet away and I saw him fumbling in the pocket of his sweatshirt. I tried to turn down the alley next to me but he cried out. "Stop!" He yelled, holding the ugly snub-nose pistol out towards me. "Wallet, now." I fumbled in my pocket for my cheap leather wallet and held it out with my other hand in the air. Luckily tomorrow was payday. I really wasn't that scared. If he wanted to kill me he would have done it right away. The only thing I had to do was do what he said and stay calm. "Drop it." He said, the slightest hint of his native New York accent rearing it's ugly head. I was born in Illinois, moved here when I was 17, and will be eternally grateful that I don't have that infamous accent.
I dropped the wallet and watched as the man bent over to pick it up with the pistol still trained on me. I expected him to run away with his stolen money and never look back, but he just stood there, him and his gun looking straight at me. I cocked my head sideways as if asking a question. I saw the muscles in his jaw rippled as he clenched them tighter. His eyes became little condemning slits. I stood there, not saying a word. I knew talking would just make things worse. I looked him in the eyes and saw something I wasn't expecting; pity. But it was only a flash. It was quickly replaced by the crazed mugger I had seen before.
"Get on your knees." He said, waving the revolver at me. Immediately I knew this was not just a man in need of money. Epinephrine poured into my veins, blurring my vision and making my heart pound like a bass drum.
"I said get on your knees!"
I dropped to the ground, my knees knocking on the way down.
"Now I'm going to kill you. Slaughter you like a dog in the streets."
He was speaking differently now, he sounded educated and his accent was less pronounced.
"Your body won't be found until tomorrow morning, at the earliest. And when they do find it you'll be thrown onto a stretcher and brought to the morgue along with all the other useless dead trash. Your funeral will consist of your few loved ones and maybe two or three friends. Your family will cry, they'll mourn for a while. But then they'll move on. You'll be brought up in conversation every once in a while, you'll be remembered, but only by a few."
Why is he telling me this? And how does he know it?
"Now make your peace and look down at the pavement. Today is the day you die."
He said it with a confidence I had never heard before, almost triumphantly. By now I was shaking all over. I couldn't control my movements, I felt my legs go numb. I dropped onto my hands. I wanted to cry, or say something, anything, but I couldn't. I just sat there on my hands and knees. I thought of all the opportunities I had missed, all the people I blew off, all the days I wasted. I thought about my mom, my sister, my dad that left me when I was 11. What have I done?
He said it again, this time through gritted teeth.
"Today is the day you die."
I felt a screech escape my lips and piss drain from my bladder into my jeans. I waited for the searing hot bullet to tear through my precious grey matter.
The gun went off.
I fell face first to the pavement and felt my head closing in, the pain was excruciating. Was it pain?
My eyes opened. I saw the shiny wet pavement beneath me. I felt it against my cheek. There was no pain, there was no blood, I was fine. I barely managed to push myself up with my worthlessly flimsy arms. I felt my head and my face... not a scratch. I looked up to where the mugger had been and saw nothing. I was too weak to get up and look. I felt the puddle of urine beneath me, I had completely emptied my bladder. I was alive, and for the first time in my life I felt truly alive. So I splayed my arms out and let my lips kiss the pavement and wept for the first time in years.
Morris Plains, New Jersey
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"If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you."
"Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, 'I just don't care.'?"