Society is dying, I can feel it in my heart, he was thinking. He twirled his keys around on the ring, then twirled the ring around on his finger. You can see it in the desperation of our celebrities. He’d been fascinated by Jim Morrison in his youth—suspected, somehow, that celebrities were more pure, more sacred, in those days…Our celebrities used to be narcissists; they lived the lives we wanted to live and indulged the sentiments and selfishness we couldn’t find the courage to pursue in our own little lives. We wanted to be them…in those days he’d never lived through.
The summer was waging a hot war in his body and in his neighborhood. He felt that his tissues and his muscles connected him somehow to the world alive and dead beyond him—a notion he could feel in his bones. He imagined the heat of the LA Riots (he remembered, falsely, an August explosion). He was drenched in sweat because the earth and every living thing upon it had grown suddenly overheated.
…But we didn’t get to—we were given normalcy instead. At first, maybe, it hurt a little—there was a little jealousy—but nonetheless we retreated quietly to suburban lives and pretended to believe in the world our labor was building. We pretended so long we began, actually, to believe in it.
He stared at a little cup full of jewelry—dangling over the edge were several pair of earrings he had bought for her. The first time he bought her earrings she thought it was really sweet. So he kept buying earrings—like some one-hit-wonder desperately attempting to repeat a winning formula. But his subsequent attempts managed, rather, to merely dull even the initial effort. Her mother bought her earrings, too. As did her friends. These days she mostly wore the earrings Kelly had bought for her. His dangled, night after night, from the edge of a little cup. He had more fingerprints on the cup than she did. He was the one who twirled it around and pondered its contents on restless nights when he should have been working.
Now our celebrities are mangled and horrified caricatures—desperate for recognition as art. We no longer even want to be them, though sometimes we feel we need to be them to escape the pain of every other option.
It was so hot he considered dying. Though he considered that in the cold, too. And then, when the weather was bland—especially then—he’d think what’s the point? If you could put thoughts of death in a cup, it’d be so muddied with his fingerprints you’d hardly recognize it anymore. Nonetheless, he’d never kill himself. He knew that much. He twirled his keys again.
Our sheer numbers provide the promise that some of us will make it but the guarantee that most of us won’t. When he was young and stupid he couldn’t stand the thought of anonymity. Now he wished for its purest form—the kind which would mean his literal nonexistence. He pondered mental illness—whether or not such a thing exists the way they describe it in magazines. Was it just bad chemicals?
Terrified, we are hauled kicking and screaming to suburban hospitals instead of homes. We’ll get out later and shoot our neighbors. They always just say “that guy was crazy” ‘cause they’re scared to admit they’ve considered the very thing over hijacked parking spaces or bad brushes with customer service. Another place he was certain he would never go, but not afraid to admit he understood. Our celebrities, too, will kill themselves and their neighbors—their escape from ordinary lives testimony to the fact that it is not our normalcy which has become intolerable, but our modern rotten humanity itself.
He cranked the AC—a crappy little window unit. It buzzed and farted like his gassy old neighbor wrestling a yellow jacket over a can of warm soda, but it wasn’t going to help with the heat. A lot of things in this world make a great deal of noise, but few can truly improve upon the weather. He turned on his favorite record—it doesn’t matter which one, just pick your favorite and pretend it was that. The vinyl popped and hissed (or maybe it buzzed and farted). He cranked the volume—as loud as it would go.
He set the keys down on the table and walked outside—locking the door behind him.