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Poverty and the Brutal Fog

BrutalFogWithTreesThis is not the life I envisioned for myself. My checking account has a -$324.78 balance. My gas tank light is on and I can’t fill it until I get paid, which means I can’t sign up for shifts at the courier company I work for until I get paid on Tuesday, but that first paycheck may not even get me out of the hole, and rent is due on Friday.

I’ve had to ask for money from the man who asked me for a divorce. The rest of the money coming to me is tied up with lawyers. I’ve subsisted now for months on Ten-forTen-Dollars groceries. I’ve eaten canned raviolis for the first time since childhood. I make canned chili with rice several nights a week. I salt it heavily.

I made the humbling choice of looking into food stamps, though I’m told I’m paid too well to qualify.

PTSD has pushed me into a dark panicked corner. How can I be this broke working seven days a week? The math has defeated me. I’ve worked a long tangled string of entry level jobs so that I could write. But the 95%-completed-memoir I wrote was untrue, or missed an enormous truth, all to protect a man who never had my interest at heart. Or I worked a long string of entry-level jobs because I felt most comfortable aiming low. Or both.

I hate writing this. I hate how this could be used against me, but my only guiding star these days is the ugly truth, because that star shines on other men, trapped in their self-made bunkers, unable to trust in the love offered to them, nursing ancient wounds around which their entire lives have formed, like a tree absorbing a piece of broken fence.

They’re out there, dim stars in a black sky, solitary, gleaming, protecting their soft, faltering light.

Tomorrow I’ll shower the stink of this brutal fog off me, dress in clean clothes, and drive with my gas light on to the building downtown where I’ll begin to learn foreign languages that drive our devices and therefore our lives. In a few months I’ll take an internship, and this time next year I hope to have landed a job that will pull me out of this swamp.

I could fail. My fuzzy, addled brain, cluttered with the 24/7 fear intimately known by all men in bunkers, may fumble with these foreign languages. But it’s worth a shot. I don’t know how much lower I could go – I’d rather not find out.

PTSD, or The Little Self of Horrors

Pic of Author Looking HauntedThis is you smiling.

You’ve hiked into the forest behind the house in Portland where you’ve crashed your deep space bunker, and now you’re exerting all of your facial muscles to perform the most common exercise known to modern man. This is your selfie. This is your smile.

You used to be sweet. Now you’re scary. That’s what they keep telling you. You frighten me, they say. You’ve left three jobs and three homes in the past year because you can’t keep it bottled. 44 years of rage uncorked, the vintage 1971 was a bad crop. Straight outta Oklahoma, you sad, scary hayseed.

The fucking bunker is failing. You watch astronomical amounts of television while playing match-three games on your phone just to keep the hate in check. You watch so much TV that you’ve run out of TV. You’ve watched it all. Congratulations.

You are a 44 year old dog walker courier who’s about to lose his job. You’re scorched earth. You have nothing left but a 4Runner and a chihuahua named Agnes. You are such a fucking loser that you’re sucking up all the loserdom in the vicinity. You’re the kicked dog who keeps getting kicked simply because the last guy kicked you.

You’re in a strange city where the streets make no sense and the faces come out of the rain. Nobody here knows your name and you drive the strange streets thinking you could at any moment just disappear and would anyone hear that tree when it falls in the woods behind the bunker, over and over, a woods full of trees falling one at a time?

You think you’ve found a new Ground Control, you sit on his couch every Wednesday morning for 50 minutes trying to figure out if you could trust this one, if you could hear his voice as you drift through deep space, the only voice you hear now because you have successively shut everyone else out, even though you know that the one thing you need is the one thing you can’t accept – human connection. The only thing the kicked dog trusts is the kick itself.

You shield the world from your rage and at the end of the day you’re spent, a skinless man with bundled, singing nerves in the dark of the back bunker, the most farthest deepest room back there at the back. You hold the chihuahua to your chest, both of you fetal, and you keep checking to make sure she’s still breathing. 

You know the only thing that will save you, if you can’t accept human connection, is this. Putting words together even if your head is fully occupied by OCDish snatches of pop songs you’ve heard on the radio. Put the words together somehow. But don’t fucking put them here. Put them here and you’ll never get hired again. Put them here and the only humans who will connect will be the other freaks. Don’t do it. Don’t hit [publish].