The Taste of Forbidden Fruit

“Rejoice in all you’ve accomplished! Not everyone gets an eleventh chance.”  JSM

Chapter Twenty One.

Trees of Knowledge

Have you ever consumed forbidden fruit?

Knowing you shouldn’t partake in it’s sweet temptations? Despite the nagging, overbearing whisper in the ear, “It’s alright, no one will ever know,” and you fight the urge, internally debate, battle with emotions and fear, then plunge your teeth in anyway?

Perhaps I should reinforce the question.  I don’t speak about forbidden activities such as breaking into a neighbor’s home and stealing coveted forbidden items, or going out side a relationship and keeping a forbidden secret from loved ones.

I ask in regards to:  Reading a sibling’s journal/diary.  Listening to a heated argument through the vent connecting two rooms, or with an ear pressed against a locked door. Finding something that was never meant for your eyes to see and rummaging through it anyway out of sheer curiosity.

I get that people like their secrets. I’ve seen some secrets kept using the craziest of methods. However, the secrets I speak on are much more trivial. Little, dark, hiding in corners and closets–secrets.

Five key events have laid the groundwork for determining who I am as a person: The day I legally adopted my eldest daughter.  The birth of my second daughter.  The day my divorce was finally finalized. Finding something my eyes were forbidden to see.

The last of the five we’ll discuss later.

The first three events mentioned in the above list are kind of obvious, so I probably don’t need to go much further in detail for the moment.  Today, however, I share my first taste of forbidden fruit. Something I wasn’t meant to see but my curiosity got the better of me and I ventured out of my comfort zone for the first time. I was either eleven or twelve.

That age of exploration.

*****

Half way between my state’s capital and the coast, is a town which fits the description, “if you blink, you’ll miss it.”

A single two pump gas station, one church, a hardware store and a small cemetery. The fire department and police station were combined into one building, a coffee/pastry shop across the road and a deli/grocery store within walking distance.

Nestled off the side of the main road camouflaged by trees sat a saltbox style, two story home, painted onyx black.

Members of my large extended family resided here and when the family got together for a barbecue or a gathering, it was quite a crowd.  Children inside and outside through the front and back door, running up and down stairs, sneaking into the surrounding woods to play. A congested kitchen and claustrophobic hallways. Wide open backyard with blazed trails, and at the outskirts of the property sat a junkyard.

The junkyard wasn’t guarded by a mean old man or a frothing menacing dog tied to a stake. The doors were wide open and we could explore and wander freely, as long as we were careful.

“Don’t you kids get into anything!  Be careful down there!  Don’t go where you’re not supposed to!”

“OK!  No problem!  Sure!”  Was our usual reply.

Having already explored the junkyard in it’s entirety throughout my youth, I made the decision one afternoon to go back to the reunion and find something else to do for fun.

Off the side of the trail leading to the scrapyard sat two out-buildings, painted the same color as the home. One was the size of a large smelt shack and the other was a small, open concept one room house.  While we were able to see though it’s windows, a padlock hung from the outside of the larger building and only adults were permitted to enter.

The smaller building slowly approaching to my left had the door slightly ajar.  It was always locked up tight as well. Something isn’t right about this.

Growing up in a religious household I wasn’t exposed to much in the realm of the secular. Certain books weren’t allowed.  Specific music wasn’t allowed or encouraged.  Some games were frowned upon. Halloween was restricted to just nearby family visits. Dungeons and Dragons was out of the question and as a result I played it elsewhere.

As a child of the church, I didn’t know who certain celebrities were, or who was popular in today’s music scene.  I was only shown what I was shown. I read what was provided to read. The TV shows I watched, were determined at an early age.  I was raised on 1980’s PBS programming.

Hanging out with the neighborhood kids I was asked, “Did you know so-and-so is coming to the Civic Center next month?”

“No.  Never heard of em.”

“WHAT?  Never heard… do you live under a rock?”

With that kind of response, I suppose I can say I do.

I don’t want to say I was sheltered from the outside world.  I believe my parents did what they thought was right by me.  The knowledge received in their upbringing, was in turn then passed on to me. A protective veil was created to cover my mind.

When I reached a certain age, however, I was asking questions that couldn’t be answered. Contradictory statements that morphed into debates. “What if” comments were spouting left and right from me.

I wanted to know things. My curiosity was bursting at the seams. I spent considerable time at the library looking for answers to my questions and ultimately when I reached that age, I fell into what I call, limbo.

Limbo is a difficult place.  Never knowing.  Always guessing.  Fearing the worst but hoping for the best. Partially empty.

I knew something was beyond that protective veil created around me, but I couldn’t guess what it was.  I felt I was missing out on something. Why can’t my questions be answered?

My wheelhouse is “what if” and I struggled to understand.

Regardless of where I spent my time, rules were always in place. At one family’s home, the attic was forbidden. At an uncle’s home, the upstairs closet was a no-no.

At the home where the junkyard was located, the out-buildings were violations of family privacy.

“Go anywhere you want.  Stay out of the shacks.”

“Why?”

“It’s not yours… that’s why.  Everyone needs their own personal space.”

Having the doors locked during each visit made it easy to stay away.  I knew my extended second or third cousins, twice removed, or older family members spent time in the shacks, but I didn’t know why.

Seeing the door slightly open and no one in sight, I crept into the bushes and made my way unseen, to the back of the small cabin to get a better look.

The protective veil ripped in half when I worked up the courage to go inside the dimly lit room and see for myself what all the secrecy was about.

I can’t recall how long I stared, but it seemed like time stood still and I was rooted to the floor, eyes wide, mouth agape, and shaking with nervous shivers. Everything within me told me to leave.

The other side of the veil was something I never expected.

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A rare archeological find

“Magic is a state of mind. Magic has no true definition.” JSM

 

Chapter Twenty

The Poet Tree

 

 

Lots to discuss today and it centers around an ancient relic.

Well, not really an ancient relic.  It’s not a golden mask or a chipped and weathered arrow head or a tarnished coin, but more along the lines of something found at the bottom of an old filing cabinet I keep stored in my basement. Happened across it while looking for something else.

Long ago, before I adopted the role of full time parent, I was bereft of purpose. I only existed in this life. Searching for meaning (but didn’t really care), and trying to find my place in the world and fit in (again, not truly caring).

I had ideas of what I wanted. Those wants usually included another drink, a party pad to crash at or an alternate substance to alleviate stress. Often I thought about goals and ambitions, but at that age and time I had no ambition or tangible goals.  Work, pay out, party, plod along, play, pass out and repeat.

Then I became a parent and everything changed.

I know for a fact my singular purpose in life is to be the best parent I can be. No gray area there. Nothing can sway me otherwise as I’m fully aware it’s my sole purpose for being. My personal universe revolves around them.

Before I took on the role of parent, the worst that occurred in life was breaking up with a girlfriend, or arguing with a buddy who’s upset because I couldn’t come over and hang out for the day. Which couch was I crashing on this time? Hope the boss doesn’t call me in on Saturday. I’ve already worked my thirty hours this week. They’re starting to cut into my social time. I hope they take me from the back of the warehouse and put me on cash someday. It sucks back there.

Academically and grade wise I sailed through my education. I did all my homework at the school, finished above average with all areas except math (hate math) and the second I moved out of my parents and “became my own man” I turned down an opportunity to attend a technical college. That continued education would have allowed me to settle into a trade I enjoyed.

Instead, I decided it was then time to experiment with the darker side of life.

And that’s just what I did.

I’ve done my stint for king and country.  I’ve survived the mandatory prisons and all my obligations and it’s now time to explore.

My explorations guided me through some rough and rocky terrain but along those travels, someone in the party group named a location off the beaten trail, “The Poet Tree.”

A fallen oak, down a steep embankment. Perfectly level and wedged between two other trees to form an enormous chair.  Thick enough to sit underneath and lounge in the shade, or walk along the top and have access to easy climbing.

Maybe some poetry was written.

Typically though, it was a place to hide from the public and plow down some beers and generate a ruckus or two.

As I wandered this leg of the journey, I carried a backpack.  Packed with snacks and drinks and among my possessions I kept a composition notebook.  Usually I would draw, or doodle or create strange little designs, but one time after a “bad day” I returned to the Poet Tree alone.

Lost in my own little world, and oblivious to everything outside my field of vision, it was here I managed to write my first poem.

Mind you… I was quite out of my head, had more than likely ingested something I should have avoided, and while I regret my actions, I learned from the experience.

I was nineteen and going through a “bad spell”.

While rummaging through the clutter in the basement recently, I stumbled across some old drawings among other objects and polaroid pictures within the bowels of a filing cabinet, and within the pages of an old notebook I retrieved my poem scribbled so long ago. An ancient relic of my old life.

*****

“Star date unknown. Maybe midday. Impossible to convey what I wish to portray. A handful of colors, no blue, no gray. Among the peace of the ruins I desire to stay.

Crystalline twinkles through the branches creep. The trees come to life and begin to weep. Sway side to side, roots buried deep. My eyes, wide in awe, puts them back to sleep.

I believe my thoughts are losing focus. What I need is a dash of hocus pocus. The daylight will fade when night encroaches. The dark of the mind, an image approaches.

I say to myself it’s a chemical reaction. My cloudy subconscious projects the distraction. Withdrawn and alone, no satisfaction.  A need, not greed for human compassion.

The wizard will say it’s all in your head.  We all have something to fear.  It’s good to explore and strive for more and allow those sights to appear. The mind is a maze with unlimited doors, some marked but most unclear. We need to open them wide and step inside no matter how severe.

To control the wild is the greatest gift, a concentration strong. We search for a voice or the obvious choice and ache to get along. They say silence is golden, but today it rings, and sings it’s evil song. This state of mind, this place to hide, I know I don’t belong.

The pain, it fades, and the wizard smiles. Always rubbing it in. Imagine a movie screen over the eyes and the reel begins to spin. When life gets you down, just reach high above and don’t be afraid to sin. We can all come together, no matter the weather, and strive for the ultimate win.

The dancing stars, these wandering lights, point the way back home.

Only me at my side, this endless ride, alone I’ll continue to roam.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Live for moments. There is no future, there is no past, there is only now.” JSM

 

Chapter Nineteen

Merlin

 

 

Merlin joined me on the park bench as the last of the fires burned out. The one remaining building at the end of the nearest street fell into a pile of rubble and dust.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he smiled and withdrew a pouch of rolling tobacco from an inside jacket pocket as my mind watched a husband and wife running for their lives away from us.

Merlin packed the dried herbs into the thin paper and glanced at the destruction I created. “Beautiful day to be outside.”

Knowing where he was going with the conversation I snapped back, “It’s freezing out here.” I leaned my head back on the bench and looked to the gray smoke filled sky directly overhead. The screams of the population around us finally dwindled and vanished on the passing wind.

“Nah. I love the chill. Cools us down. You look like you could use someone to talk to.”

“What are you doing here, Merlin?”

“Sitting with you obviously.”

“That’s not what I meant. Why are you here?”

“Just passing through on my way to the store. Saw you sitting here by yourself in the cold. Thought I’d join you.”

“I appreciate that but I’ll probably be sour company. Besides, you’re wearing shorts. Not the best day to be sitting around outside in shorts.”

Merlin shot his eyes around the leveled city and snickered, “Well, perhaps we can just sit and not speak. Sound good?”

“Sure.  I don’t feel like talking.”

We sat in silence. Two grown men planted firm on a crumbling bench at the outskirts of an obliterated public park. One pouting and the other taking long pulls off his rolled smoke.

After a few minutes of quiet and half a cigarette, he asks, “What are you doing tonight? Want to go down to the watering hole and grab a drink?”

The last thing I should be doing. Especially today.

I caught his stare from the corner of my eye, “No thanks. I’ll probably be sitting around the table at home, planning the future, trying to fix what’s broken.”

Seeing his opportunity to get through my wall, Merlin pivots to face me, “What needs to be fixed?”

“What doesn’t need fixing is the question.”

“OK then. Spill it.”

I whipped around to face him. “Let me ask you a question. When I came to you asking if you wanted to join me in BizarroTech, why didn’t you?”

He scrunched up his face and tilted his head to the side. The question was obviously unexpected. “It’s not for me. That’s why.”

“Do you think it’s for me? I could call Bill anytime and get reinstated.  It seems like the easy way out.”

“You didn’t take the offer… so I’m assuming it’s not for you. What does me, not drinking BizarroTech’s Kool-Aid, have anything to do with why you’re sitting out here alone, pissed off, in the cold.”

“Then you think it’s a scam. A pyramid scheme.”

He snuffed out the cigarette on the bottom of his shoe and thought it over. “No. Not a scheme.  It obviously works, but it didn’t feel right.”

“That’s where I am, Merlin. Nothing feels right.  It’s like being on the brunt end of a colossal joke.”

“How so?” He leaned back, nestled his frame into the wooden seat and draped both arms across the backing.

“If I said, three steps forward, three steps back, would that make sense?”

“Sure it does. No matter what you do, you can’t get ahead.”

“Exactly. Can’t seem to catch a break.”

He pondered his reply before looking away, “and all because of a car.”

“I can’t tell if you’re being sincere or sarcastic.”

Merlin stood and stretched. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked down at me.  “Of course I was being sarcastic.  But I was doing it sincerely. Are you defeated? Is your life over now? It’s just a car.”

“Just a car?! Dude.  My life revolves around a car.  Without wheels, I can’t do much.”

“Horseshit. Work is a fifteen minute walk, and it seems like the family is helping out with everything else. Hell… I’ve given you rides to the store and back…”

“OK… I get it Merlin. But if you’re not experiencing it… you can’t possibly relate.  I hate asking for help.  I don’t want to feel like a charity case.”  It was my turn to look away.

“Listen. We all go through stuff.  What’s important is how we react to the crap that’s happening. Everything will be fine, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.”

“Merlin. They may be laying off at the mill. You’re the only one I’ve told. I’m low man on their totem pole”

“Do you have a plan?” He sat down on the edge of the bench and opened his pouch again.

I laughed out loud, “Why do you think I’ll be home planning instead of hitting the bar? I could be in some serious trouble here.  Decent money, great bennies… gone.  Without a car, if I do get hit with a layoff, I may be back to retail.  Not cool. I can’t take a cut…”

“But if it happens… you’ll have to.” He lit a second smoke and smiled.

“That’s what pushes me towards Bill and the gang. They gave me this concrete plan and instructed me to stay on it, and the money will come. And apparently it will come quick. Look. Bill gave me this paper. I haven’t read it yet.  He told me to save it till the time was right. I keep yanking it out, but I have yet to read it.  Bill said to read it when the first big check comes in.  Now I’m more curious than anything.”

Merlin clamped his hand over mine and scrunched the paper up into a little ball. He locked eyes with me and shook his head.  “No.  You’re done with them.  Stop living in the past and standing in their shadow.  You made the decision. You have no need to read this.”

I chuckled through my response, “OK, OK. Damn.  All right.  Throw it away. I’m all done.  It’s not for me.”

“Nope, you throw it away.”

I peeled my backside from the bench and tossed the crumpled paper into a nearby trash can. I looked back to Merlin, he smiled and rose from the bench. “See? That wasn’t so bad. Now we move on. You want a ride home?”

I waved him off, “Nah. Not that far.  I’ll hoof it.  Thanks anyway.” I turned my back and waved again over my shoulder. My friend opened the car door, beeped his horn twice and left for the store.

Once out of sight and around the corner I hurried back to the trash, reached half way down and retrieved the crumpled ball. Watching over my shoulder I folded it back up, smoothing out the creases, forcing myself to ignore its contents, and crammed it back in my wallet.

The moment I reentered the home, I pulled a black box from my closet and placed the BizarroTech letter inside. A safe place for my personal items I hold dear. The one thing I can say has never left my side and this box has been with me since my youth.

There it sat. BizarroTech’s mystery letter. Under a lavender velvet material, accompanied with four additional Knick knacks, completely ignored.

In one week I’d receive a notification from the boss man saying that my job was secure and all is well. Life was back to normal.

Two weeks later I’d receive a pink slip. “We’ll call you if we need you.”

I don’t open the box for thirteen years.

 

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“The imagination is a playground of unlimited potential. A place without borders or rules. The ultimate sandbox.” JSM

 

Chapter Eighteen

Downward Spiral

 

 

While the imagination may be a powerful tool, it means nothing if ignored.

My imagination has become an ingrained part of my day to day life. I call my imagination the “3D Overlay” (I know, everything has to have a name, right?).  It has other titles too but for the moment, the Overlay will suffice.

My simple philosophies and outlooks unfortunately make me to see life as “boring”. We wake, we eat, we work/attend schooling, we deal with the mundane, forced to maintain routines, we sleep a portion of life away, and it’s even to the point where available social time and recreational activities can be viewed as repetitive and structured.

The Overlay allows me to see life in a diverse fashion. Call it a coping mechanism.

The origin of the 3D Overlay is deeply rooted in the old life, and I’ll chat about that in upcoming chapters because I feel as though it’s a story that must be shared. It was developed with the assistance from a man who, for the purpose of the tale I have named, Merlin.

To explain the Overlay, I will keep it as simple as possible.

Each time I enter new surroundings or unfamiliar territory I go through a process of “scoping everything out”. I look to the ceiling, I search out emergency exits, elevators, and I jot a mental notation of everyone around me.  I examine the architecture, the art hanging on the walls, details of the room, the signs posted above and beside doors and once I feel as though I’ve covered it all, I bring up the Overlay.

Now, while sitting in a waiting room or the lobby of a bank, the doctor’s office or where ever, and glancing to the posted beams crisscrossing the ceiling overhead, I see Jackie Chan fighting mafia assassins and ninjas; dancing silently through the air above everyone in the room.

I peer through the windows of the twentieth floor office building and ponder, if the structure was suddenly captured by evil doers, or caught fire, could I make the jump to the roof on the other side and survive?

It’s involuntary. Bringing up the Overlay now is as normal as breathing. No matter where I am, or what I’m doing, I see my world through this virtual shroud.  While I snicker and smile at my superimposed conjured concoctions from time to time, the Overlay can indeed be distracting.

At the end of the meeting with the government officials, I stopped fighting the battle in my mind and allowed my imagination to consume me. Everyone has a breaking point right?  There are indeed straws that break the camel’s back.

After today, I would never be the same again.

 

*****

 

“Please have a seat. Does anyone want a glass of water?”  I asked the two well-dressed men as they helped themselves to the table and opened their cases to withdraw important documents.

A simultaneous robotic “no thank you” came from both.

I sat down at the head of the table, folded my hands on the surface and the man closest to me sighed, “Ok, Jeremy, according to the statement and the diagram, the plow truck was on the right side of the road in the breakdown lane, then proceeded to back up and cross both lanes of the street, correct?”

I glanced over my notes on the paperwork that was filled out on the night of the accident, my police report, double checking the drawings and details and nodded my agreement, “Yes, that’s correct.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to amend it in anyway? Are you sure this is exactly how it happened”

“Of course that’s how it happened. I was sliding down the road, breaks locked up, and the driver cut into my path.  I had to decide what to do. Even the driver admitted he was in error.”

One lawyer looked to the other and butterflies wiggled in my stomach.

“Very well,” the other replied straight-faced as a calculator device was pulled out from a briefcase, “As lawyers representing the state, we are obligated to inform you that we’re willing to ‘negotiate in this manner’. (I won’t put you through the legal crap) As the state accepts the blame and fault in this case, we are willing to provide you with ‘This’ reimbursement.”

The lawyer across the table punched a series of numbers on his calculator and a total was deposited on a small slip of paper where everything was categorized accordingly.

What the calculated amount equaled to was what the state believed a person was worth in a dollar amount based on finances, loss of material possession, and social stature. “With the cost of the damages and the loss of personal items accompanied with the financial situation, here is what the state is willing to take care of.”

“So… I’m still without a car. You’re willing to recoup the cost of the damages, but not replace the vehicle. Even though it’s your fault. Admitted…”

“Yes. That’s correct.  What you see is what you get.”

“Which totals nothing. OK… what would happen if I wanted to fight this and have you replace the car, plus pay off any existing debt? An actual lawsuit if you will. That amount is obviously flawed and absurd.”

He leaned forward and attempted to hide a growing smile, “That’s not how this works. You see, this is the way it is. We have contingencies in place in the event situations arise such as this one, the procedures and protocols will always be the same. Nothing is going to change. If you decide to fight it, like you say, it could be years and years before it even sees court.  Are you willing to go years, waiting, hoping, and thinking?  Lawyer fees, paperwork… Quite a gamble. This is what’s offered and we suggest taking it. If you decided to take it to court, then what is currently being offered is no longer on the table.”

“End of story?” I replied leaning back, crossing my arms in defeat but wanting to remain defiant.

“End of story,” He responded devoid of emotion as the paperwork was stuffed back inside their containers and they rose from their seats. “You’ll be seeing documents and paperwork arriving in the mail which will show and explain everything.  We suggest keeping them for your personal records and if there are any other questions, here is a card, we’re available if needed.  Have a nice day.”

A family man with no vehicle. Back to relying on others while saving up money. Bastards. Sure could use a miracle right now.

No miracle. It’s never that easy.

The lawyers drove away and I turned to the garbage can. The corners of my mouth turned down as I gave the business card a once over before tearing it in half and tossing the pieces in the rubbish.

Another unwinnable battle.

My legs felt weak and wobbly as options continued to diminish and a heavy blanket of despair wrapped around my brain. Waves of nausea ebbed and flowed in my guts and I felt the need to sit on the floor.

Can’t fully be sure of what happened next but I tapped into an event from my past, shot up from the cold tiles and went outside. Snapped maybe? Did I snap?  In hindsight, I believe I may have cracked under the pressure.

Cracked to the point where I left the house on foot, wandered into the heaviest and most populated area I could find, sat down on a park bench… and destroyed an entire city.

I leveled it to powder and smoldering ash with nothing more than the power of my thoughts.

 

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“Don’t try changing the world. The world doesn’t care to change. Focus positive energy on your own personal universe and everything will change around you accordingly.” JSM

 

Chapter Seventeen

The Last Dance

 

Today I feel like I’ve achieved a level of status. Mind you, that’s not always a positive thing.

Not long ago I was chatting with a buddy and made it a point to say during our conversation, “Nothing negative to report thus far.” That may sound cryptic, but the gist of our dialogue was centered on those six words.

That being said, moving right along.

Last night I met my first “troll”.

Wait… Let me retract and rephrase that. Always have to give the benefit of the doubt.

For the moment we can name this person, Schrodinger’s Troll. S/he had the potential to be a troll and I believe at the get go it was intended to be a trollish encounter. It’s tricky to communicate with trolls. They’re not always easy to chat with. I always have to remember there’s a purpose for everything and now I can add “this” interaction to that list of things I’d never thought I’d engage in.

I’ll dive into the back and forth in a moment, but I think I need to revisit something first, for additional clarity. This is not intended to be rude in any way.

I do TotC because I enjoy it. Plain and simple.  To keep that simplicity going, and honest, if folks want to read along, feel free. If not?  I’m still moving forward.  If the hit counter stops dead, I’ll continue this adventure regardless.

Typically a blog serves multiple purposes. It could be a place for advertising, pitching details and promotions for a favorite restaurant, a location for networking, or as simple as an online journal. Or an amalgamation of any of those, and more.

“This” is my online journal. People have journals or diaries because they feel it’s needed. I suppose I need this. End rant.

To make a long conversation short, the interaction with Schrodinger’s Troll is paraphrased as such.

“Why are you writing this blog?”

“Why are you reading it?” (My reply. I like to answer questions with questions)

“I want to see if it has a point.”

“Sure. I get that.  So do I.”

“Does it have a point?”

“I hope so. I guess we’ll both have to wait and see.  I’m having fun and I guess that’s all that matters…”

End of conversation. I don’t feed trolls, but I can say I now have one negative interaction to report.

Perhaps I turned a potential negative into a positive. Can’t be sure at this point. Regardless, yes, this is something I like to do.  It took a lot for me to break through my insecurities and self-doubt, to find a level of comfort to embark on this kind of journey.  I want to keep on rolling now.  The train is moving and seems to be picking up speed.  Engaging in this activity on a daily basis has become something I think about at the end of my work shift and the first thing I do when I wake on the weekends and drink my coffee. I look forward to it.

I may not be an expert wordsmith or speak in poetic flowery eloquence, however, I enjoy the written word and I strive to better myself. Isn’t that the point? Self-betterment?

ONWARD!

*****

 

Have you ever “felt” the cold shoulder? Knowing deep down inside the person you’re standing or sitting beside is doing their best to ignore your existence? (Wink) I’m sure you have. It’s always obvious.

Having experienced the cold shoulder too many times to count, I know most of the signs: They’re looking away, unresponsive to questions, deep sighing, checking the fingernails or the watch, exaggerated movements.

Bill was good at it.

As far as I was concerned the moment I said the words, “That went well,” he refused to acknowledge my presence. He ignored me like a scorned lover.

Pockets stuffed with paperwork, manuals, and corner cutting strategies I parted ways with Bill for the remainder of the seminar and slumped low in my chair at the back of the room. I laced my hands across my stomach and prayed for merciful death.

If my mentor was right about one thing, the numbers were indeed the most boring of all the presentations. It was misery and confusing, and at one point I felt my eyes fluttering closed.

Once the remaining presenters finished their spiel and the seminar was considered over, the caravan travelers rallied together and I don’t remember the trip home. There’s a good chance I slept through the whole thing.

For the next month, ignoring conversation, phone calls, mailers and being unavailable at work was commonplace. I pretended to be absent from the home, dodging random unannounced visits from BizarroTech affiliates.  I had people lie for me and redirect them to other places and at one point it was so overwhelming and crazy, I was almost to the point of making a big stink and making a few phone calls to put a stop to it.

Out of the blue one afternoon, watching the caller I.D flash the incoming number and seeing Bill’s office digits screaming at me to answer, I gave in.

I practically hollered into the receiver, “Hello!”

I could feel his Joker grin through the phone, “Jeremy… I was about to give up on you. Have you been away?”

“You could say that. Listen, Bill, I appreciate everything you’ve done, but I don’t think BizarroTech is the right thing for me. Sorry to have to say this but you’ll have to take my name off the list.”

Long drawn out pause before my ex-mentor replied, “Sorry to hear that. We really pulled some strings for you. Are you sure about this?”

I had to stop and think hard before responding. Was I truly sure this wasn’t the right thing for me?

What are the true possibilities if I stick around? How far up the Tiers could I climb? If all I have to do is get people under me to build a pyramid, my work load diminishes to the point of non-existence, and everyone below is making the money for me and all I need to focus on is making scheduled purchases and upholding my end of the bargain. Go to the rallies and conferences… Really?  Is that all?  No catch?  There has to be a catch.

I parted the kitchen curtain and looked towards the driveway as a vehicle with tinted windows and government plates came to a stop at the front door. BizarroTech wasn’t the only pain in the ass I had to deal with that month.  I pulled the curtain closed as two men in black suits grabbed briefcases from within the car, glanced around the property and walked up the path. One tapped a button on his phone while the other pressed the doorbell.

“No Bill. I’m done. Listen, I can’t talk anymore and I have to let you go.  I have company and I’m about to have an uncomfortable conversation.  Take care.” I hung up without waiting for a response.

All my attention was now focused on the door separating me from the two suits waiting on the stairs outside.

This is going to suck. I exhaled and reached for the knob to let them in.

You see folks, I call it the Big Cosmic Joke. This universe has a funny way of altering a life and throwing hurdles at you left and right.  Sometimes all you can do is jump, dodge and try to avoid said hurdles at all costs. Eventually, the more the hurdles are tossed on your path, the more you become numb to it.

The Big Cosmic Joke is—even though you did nothing wrong, no fault, no personal blame; whether it’s becoming a victim as a result of a cheating spouse, wrongfully accused of something, an individual trying to set you up to take a fall, whatever the case may be–You did nothing wrong. Completely and totally innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The universe still finds a way to make sure you suffer through the situation anyway. Even though I did nothing wrong, I still needed to be punished in some fashion.

The Big Cosmic Joke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’ve lived a thousand lives and I desire to live a thousand more.” JSM

 

Chapter Sixteen

“In case of emergency…”

 

 

I detest violence.

The idea of balling up a fist, seeing red, and allowing the mind to transform the body into an object of destruction, bothers me. Striking out with rage and placing knuckles, elbows, or any other body part against another’s flesh, with the sole intent of doing physical harm and intentionally dolling out pain? (shudder) No thank you.

I’ve been close, oh so close, but never once followed through. Terrified of what I may be capable of.

I’ve never been in a physical altercation, save a couple of scuffles. I’ve been the recipient of a couple of hits through my youth (they don’t count), but never a punch by punch, blocking incoming jabs and tussling in the dirt with another person–fight. Just me  randomly struck or shoved by someone who didn’t enjoy my presence, and falling to the ground clutching the point of impact, wincing in pain.

I did suck up some guts and bravery once; lashing out and punching an older student in the throat for stealing some equipment from me during gym class.  He never saw it coming (you’re welcome dad), but other than that, no. No stereotypical fist fights. To this day I wonder why I had to visit the Principal and serve detention for that. Totally unfair.  I was told I could defend myself if needed. The bigger guy started it 😉

Anyway.

I’ve been in some pretty ugly places. Ugly places that quite possibly if I had chosen any other fork on the road, I would probably be a lost cause. Behind bars. In a hole perhaps.

It’s funny how the mind works sometimes.

Just on the edge. Teetering towards the side that leads to utter madness, full loss of control and a consciousness devoid of all faculties–from out of nowhere–without warning, something snaps you out of it. The conjured violent images and possibilities dwindle away and vanish from view.

“That was messed up. Time to rethink the situation.”

Glad I weighed all my options. That could have been bad.

When one lets the mind go wild without an anchor or restrictions, only the worst possible scenario can occur. Especially if dealing with suffering of any kind.

I’ve been to that edge and I don’t enjoy it. It’s a scary place to visit.  A place that truly tests ones perspective.

My mind has led me to choose the lesser of two evils. I choose the path that leads down the lighter side. The darker path creeps up and runs beside me now and again, always within jumping distance, but never stays long and eventually veers away out of sight.

The interaction with the BizarroTech brothers put me over the edge and took me to another place. I place I hate visiting.

*****

 

“How about this,” I counter proposed, “You give me a loan to buy a car, tomorrow, so I can make all my dreams come true just like you said I will, and we can pretend none of the cluster mess ever happened.  Automatically deduct the money out of this guaranteed monthly check I’ll be seeing in a few months, and when the loan’s done, we can then move onto Phase Two and everyone will be on a clean slate. A fresh start. Does that sound OK?”

Gill crossed his arms high on the chest, “I can’t give you money. I can assist with the criteria and help show you the way, but I’m afraid that’s where it stops. If you need further mentoring and additional help and material, you know how to reach Bill. I trust and support him.  He’s become quite important around here.”

I drove my fingers into my pockets, “Yeah, that’s great. How about those cufflinks?  Or that watch? Those would take care of a new set of wheels.  I don’t think you understand what was sacrificed to get here.”

Gill glowered down at me, “I know my fair share of sacrifice, Jeremy. We all struggle and suffer. That’s why we keep driving home the importance of success and hardship.  The greatest struggles produce the greatest success stories. You and your story are a testament to that. You will be well taken care of and set up for life, if the instructions are followed.”

Shaking my head I looked to the floor between us, “I don’t believe that. I believe if you really understand and sympathize and accept the fact that somebody could use some real tangible help in life, a man of your caliber would be in a position to willingly help that person. Guess I was wrong.  If the situation was reversed… I’d help you.”

I was nothing more than a pest at this point and Gill turned to his subordinate smiling. “It’s always good to see you, my friend. Send me a line before the spring conference and maybe we can meet in the middle somewhere.  I’m going back stage to work with Phil for a moment, set up those numbers, and we’ll catch up for lunch. Enjoy the rest of the day.”

That’s when my mind took me to another place.

You’re not going anywhere.

Beside me on the wall bright red letters flashed like a neon sign in a casino and caught my attention. “In case of emergency break glass.”  My entire conception of time slowed down to a crawl and I watched my actions closely, feeling tears well to the surface while allowing my mind to become unhinged and opened up to the ugly.

The fabric of my shirt ripped open and snared, as I shattered the glass enclosure holding the fire extinguisher. My elbow plunged through the protective casing and I felt the pointed tips of broken remains tear deep into my upper arm. Most of the blood quickly absorbed into the shirt, but I created a few more slices when reaching my hand inside to pull out my red weapon of death.

I clenched my teeth, held the fire extinguisher like a medieval battering ram and brought it straight up under the big man’s chin.

Small sprays of crimson spattered the white walls and the ceiling tiles and he reached out blindly to find something to grab onto to keep from falling. The leader reeled back and when he stumbled over his large feet and crashed into the wall, he brought his bloody gaze down to meet mine.

Wincing, I looked away from the new impact spot, hearing the squish of a flattened nose and damaged flesh as I placed the bottom edge of the extinguisher against his face. A fire extinguisher is quite heavy when used as a baseball bat.

The big man hit the ground with a thud and catching movement to my side, watching my mentor bolt down the hall away from me, I whipped around and threw the red weapon end over end as hard as possible at the back of Bill’s flailing legs.

It cracked against his right ankle and sprawled the old man out on the carpet. My mentor hit the floor and rolled into the wall; coming to a dead stop in a crumpled heap.  He reached down to his twisted and now swelling foot to inspect the damage and I stormed towards him with both fists clenched, and his leader’s blood sprayed across on my face.

A smiling stage hand rounded the corner whispering into a headset, and after witnessing the mess caused by my hand and seeing me standing over the stars of the show he called for help, bolted from the corridor and the emergency doors unlocked throughout the convention center. Red strobe lights activated at either end of the corridor, the DJ spoke into a microphone and in the distance I heard a scream from a terrified attendee in the auditorium and when Bill looked up to me helpless and hurt, pleading with tear soaked eyes, he whispered, “Jeremy, what are you doing?”

I looked to Gill and his large frame disappeared from the floor and without warning, my mind snapped me out of it and I was once again standing before the smiling men watching them exchange their parting way pleasantries. I shook the vision from my brain and patiently waited my turn to be addressed.

That was messed up. Time to rethink the situation.

That could have been bad.

 

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