Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Only the Moment

I stood with my back against the front door, attempting to barricade the entrance to my home.

Certainly, I thought, this will do nothing in the long term, but it'll give me a last minute feeling of control. I laughed humorlessly and added, one final last minute.

I should have listened to what other people told me about the man, years ago when I made the decision to trust him and move my life eight hundred and fifty miles from home.

They warned me; saw something I was unable to while blinded by his generous offer; an offer he never fulfilled. I think friends and family were more familiar with the Post Office ad that states, 'if something sounds like it's too good to be true, it probably is', or they at least understood what the phrase pie-in-the-sky means.

Each of them said, "Don't trust him," or "Think it through," or "Get something in writing."

My response, however, was clear. "I'm a forty-year old man from New York," I told them. "I've been around. I know when someone's out to screw me."

What I did not know was that my new employer knew little about the company he purchased and did not care to learn more. Add to that his age--seventy-five--and his failing desire to communicate openly, a serious medical crisis at home, and a time consuming effort to "save a wilderness area" that just happened to coincide with his vested interest in local water rights and you can see the 'In retrospect' problem.

At first, the transition seemed simple enough. I was to help them set up the company after it relocated to Bluffton, South Carolina, then go home.

However, the new owner had to make an offer too good to refuse. He talked the talk and I listened as if he recited the Gospel according to...well, live and learn.

I tried for four and a half years to influence him to change his business practices, invest in his new company's future and failed, which brought me to where I stood, back pressed against the door, out of work, and soon out of a home.

I leaned heavily and yelled, "It won't help to knock," and hoped my words would carry through the wooden panel as I heard footsteps land on the front porch.

They knocked anyway, and my heart jumped as if seeking an escape route that might not necessarily require the rest of me to follow, and shouted, "Damn it!"

The door moved against my back; the people outside began to force it open.

"What I like about America," I shouted, "is that the people in authority don't really give a damn about whom they hurt. They just blindly follow orders as if the person on the receiving end were less than human."

I turned my head and shouted louder. "Throw in a canister of poison gas crystals! Break a goddamn window and climb in with a can of mace! No, no, better yet, stand back and raze the place with AK47s. Who would gives a good goddamn if you kill everyone? It'll be easier for you after that, you'll only have corpses to drag out and dump with the rest of the remains of my life on the frigging front lawn."

I was breathing rapidly by the time I finished.

What the hell's wrong with me? I thought then. I trust the bastards of the world because they say what I want to hear, when I need to hear it. How many good, simple people have died because of that over the last several millennia? Well, at least I'm not alone, I informed myself as if accepting the consolation prize for the 'World's Biggest Chump' was the same as winning the lottery. I can do the stoop-shouldered shuffle on a bread line, tin cup in hand, begging for a place to sleep...a prelude to a better tomorrow.

"Oh well," I muttered as I opened the front door. "Come on in."

Two of them, one male, and one female, garbed in the county's finest tan and brown uniforms, pushed passed me. They boot stomped into the living room, heads swiveling like robots examining an alien enclave seeking what, for them, would be the easily detectable (we all know androids have infrared-sensitive vision) cache of paraphernalia.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that all they'd find was the last week's dirty briefs.

Tears welled, pushed toward freedom as I watched my belongings unceremoniously dumped on a pile at the foot of the driveway.

I asked them if they needed a match.

"Just burn that shit. Isn't that what you people like to do to the helpless?" I sat on the porch. "Here!"

I cursed as I pulled off my shoes and tossed them out on the roadway. Item by item I stripped until I stood bare-assed and angry alongside the pile they continued to build from the things I had kept in my life.

To my surprise, they did not give a damn that I had violated one of America's most sacred taboos, that I committed the heinous crime of indecent exposure.

And to make matters worse, to my utmost humiliation, the female Gestapo agent stopped and patted my stomach and informed me, "Need to lose a little weight, my man."

Sighing as loudly as possible, I dressed in whatever I could find, and ended up with only one sock and one shoe, different feet of course. I climbed in my car.

My old Audi was the only thing left to offer me shelter. I pounded on the steering wheel until my fists ached, then moved to drumming the seat.

By the time the agents from hell had finished trashing my home, leaving it all in a mound for the rats to nest in, my anger had abated. Fear slithered in to fill the void, but found itself shouldering a long lost, dark companion, Depression.

"Hey," I said to the once buried, now resurrected emotion, "I haven't seen you in a while."

Depression snickered, "About twenty two years, nine months, six days and three hours since my last visit."

Then it sounded hurt, and added, "but who's counting? Certainly not you."

"Listen," I said, trying to speak kindly; after all, it meant well and probably thought I needed to be depressed. "As I remember it, your last visit was an occasion I'd rather not relive...if you don't mind."

Depression was quick to retort. "I had a great time. Do you remember the shuttered windows? Not eating for days on end? Moreover, how about the self-esteem bashing? Crushed that little bastard half to death didn't we?"

Depression glowed with pride and a sense of accomplishment as it wedged itself between Sadness and Fear.

Sadness would be the clear loser, I could see that much. Fear was powerful, shoving, poking, and doing its best to stand its ground.

"Hold on! Wait a minute!" I talked aloud to be heard over the three of them while they jostled for position. "It took me years to recover from my last bout with you, Depression. I'll skip the entire visit this time, thank you very much." Before either Depression or Fear could get a chance to respond, I heard Sadness take a final breath, shudder, and succumb to the pressures the other two had exerted on its life force.

Without wasting an erg of energy, I seized the small advantage gained by Sadness' passing, jumped out of the car and went to my stuff.

Carefully I sifted out what was important, filled my car, backseat, trunk, and front seat with as much as I could cram in, and then squeezed into the driver's seat.

The steering wheel looked a little out-of-round. Shrugging, I started the car and braced myself for a renewed onslaught of negativity. Depression and Fear remained silent, although in waiting for an opening. Sadness was dead of course, and so for the moment I felt rather victorious.

And in the end, isn't it just the moment that counts?

Copyright 2009, all rights reserved. Larry Schliessmann

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