This blog entry is about poverty, my own gnawing poverty. It isn't going to be like some nobility novel of the lives of the poor. Nor is it going to be like some bleedin' heart, paternalistic, condescending case study of the victimised-- those who lose out to the capitalistic system and spend their lives railing against it but have no qualms cashing in French fry coupons at McDonalds.
Nah, this is going to be a rant for the times we live in...I live in. And if you think the story rings false, so be it. If you think of it as allegorical, you are entitled to your own literary allusions. Because I don't care what people think. See I'm on the edge. What that edge is, I won't say. But sometimes it feels sharp, and sometimes it feels dull. And sometimes it feels hungry. Draw your own conclusions.
Take yesterday and my last apartment meal. I scavenged my closets, finding an old cellophane bag with one serving of stale Captain Crunch cereal. What else did I find? A can of coconut milk. But not just any can, a dented one with sentimental value. See this was the can an old Thai girlfriend threw at me when I came home drunk from a strip bar with a strutting sex on demand attitude.
Those were the days. Yeah, back then there were dependable buddies you could drink with at girly bars, watching their nimble pole dancing. The days when you could come home late, staggering drunk. When women of all levels of exotic styles were to be chased, and sometimes made yours. Yours as either quick rolls in the hay, or longterm chicks like ones who throw cans of coconut milk at your head. But those were also the days when you were young and fast enough to dodge deadly tin projectiles and make crazy demands of Thai ladies you should have treated better.
Why treat 'em better? Because they deserve it. You deserve it. Because life changes fast. Guys get older and get caught up in their own families, the lives of their spouses, kids, and careers and the kids sports leagues. And you don't even know what they think because you haven't seen them in years because most of them have moved on. And you think that because you're doing bad they must be doing well. But you don't know for sure. You'd look 'em up and talk about the old days, but what good does sentimentality do you? Especially when you're hungry. Especially when Captain Crunch and a four year old can of coconut milk is your last best meal for awhile.
What of changing your condition? What of making a stab at the world of employment? Of finding some job on the internet? How about the free stations at the library when you have to sit next to some poor, down on his luck street miscreant who reeks of stale cigarettes. The smell burns your eyes. The smell scratches your throat, but your ass in the chair is steadfast because you don't want to lose your chance at employment, any employment, longterm employment, brief employment, employment to tide you over another month's rent.
You look at the emaciated, smelly tobacco guy and wonder how far he is from starvation or from being found in some snowbank frozen like a lost sausage in the back of some rich guy's walk-in freezer. You also wonder how far you are from his fate. But you got knowledge, too. You know something rich guys can never quite figure out: the economy is like a rug, it can be pulled out from under you at any time.
Mistakes, mistakes. Like when you run into that old Thai girlfriend and she looks beautiful, like she hasn't aged a day. She tells you of the money she's making from the chain of beauty salons she owns and how she's married but wishes you didn't have those dark parts of your character. Because if you didn't she'd a married you and the both of you would be happy together. You pass it off as a joke, but it hurts 'cuz its true.
So life's travails go on. Finding food, hoping never to smoke, hoping to find a Thai woman who you will treat better next time. But if there is any lesson in life it's this: Value each can of coconut milk you own because some day they'll all be gone. Out of spite they'll chop down all the world's palm trees and then all you'll be left with is yourself and small bowl of stale Captain Crunch cereal.
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