It was raining. I lifted the shade to watch it streak down the glass. Across the street I could see office workers plugging into their intravenous caffeine drips. I headed down to the gym to sweat the liquor out of my system.
I skipped breakfast and wandered off in the rain.
My eyes went in and out of focus. I felt weary. I pulled my hat low to hide my bloodshot eyes and caught the Local.
I stepped off downtown and headed past the Brooklyn Bridge. I was accosted by a hipster on Park Row. He walked at my shoulder, babbling about polar bears. Manhattan on a Monday morning.
“You have until the end of this length of fence,” I said, pointing to the wrought iron bars, “. . . and then you stop talking.”
“I don’t even know what you just said, but whatever . . . ” he replied.
He wanted me to join Green Peace.
“You fucking heard me. I said fuck off!”
“There’s no need to be rude . . . “
“Get away from me, motherfucker, before I knock you the fuck out . . . “
My face flushed red. I wanted to run his head into the fence. He stammered a response and walked off in the other direction. I made it a few more steps before the adrenaline hit me.
Chemically induced well-being mixed with my anger, bringing it into sharp relief. I stopped, looked up, and realized where I was. Suddenly, I was full of purpose. I thumbed the code into my Blackberry and Googled an address.
After some twists and turns, I stood on the corner of Church and Vesey.
On the pedestrian bridge, looking out over the pit, I waited for the Transcendent Moment! to arrive. It didn’t. Ground Zero looks like any construction site.
If they wanted a Memorial, I thought, they should have left the rubble.
What could they build? Some shiny steel and glass? Bits of stone with names on it? The tinsel of sympathy, and ten million square feet of commercial office space.
I’ll take the shattered, melted concrete. Glued together with organ meat.
No one could walk by that every day and forget. I wanted to smell jet fuel.
Walking through downtown in the rain, I felt disgusted. I saw that steel climbing slowly into economic viability. It made me heartsick. That was when I realized it was all about money.
My Army ‘thing’ was about money. The gene seed of my decision was planted when I was just a boy. It lingered, dormant, infecting every choice with guilt that didn’t lead to its flourishing. It grew a root through my heart and cast a shadow over my entire life.
. . . But it took money to move me to it.
It took being broke and desperate. It took realizing that I had worked so hard for nothing. A few pieces of paper I don’t even have copies of. A worthless degree and a lot of debt.
Fragment life. Shrapnel people. Transient friends passing me like shards, drawing blood and embedding themselves somewhere else.
I couldn’t think of one thing I had done that I felt proud of. No amount of drinking or fighting or fucking had ever made me feel adequate. Getting a degree certainly didn’t.
Despite this, I might never have put my name on that line again if I didn’t find myself staring in the mirror at some sad-eyed loser. I couldn’t hold a relationship together. I could barely hold myself together. I couldn’t bear the thought of laboring my life away for any amount of money. For what? To have family and friends shedding phony tears at my funeral? Paying their respects with one eye on their watches?
If there was untapped potential in me, I was putting a match to it.
I knew that I was cutting out parts of myself to go down that road. Some of them parts I liked. Most of them parts I didn’t. I wasn’t worried about the cost I had to pay. I knew I was leaving people behind. I would have to cut out that part too.
I was tired of explaining myself to people. Tired of watching their eyes roll. Or seeing that vacant expression of pity, like I was losing my mind.
I was tired of feeling alone.