Persona non Grata (Sample Chapter)
Jimmy was feeling rather upbeat, and he really couldn’t exactly pinpoint the reason why. Since his release from the psychiatric ward a year ago, he had managed almost six-months in Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. He was clean, and about to receive his six-month chip from AA. Going from day-to-day without drink or drugs at first made his head swim with the unfamiliarity of it all. At first, it was surprising for him to awaken to life in the morning, and complete a full day as any other average person without drinks or drugs. It was slowly becoming normal and routine, and may he daresay, satisfying. For example, he thought, he could now enjoy a day’s fatty breakfast meal, bacon and all, without fear that he might shit himself because the alcohol in his intestines absolutely refused to absorb food and circulate it to the rest of his system.
There was something else that peeked his interest in how he was about to spend the day. As he sat in the lobby of a social security office waiting for his number to be called, Jimmy scanned the sea of faces that sat forlorn. He observed their subtle discontent. Some tried to sleep. Others remained silent, looking about as if they were serving a short-term jail sentence, while the truly dutiful public servants whittled away the hours performing the perfunctory tasks involved working for the government.
Jimmy, on the other hand, was beside himself. For Jimmy, the government was often given a bad-rap due to the propaganda promoted by the voting public, which in his opinion, the latter were deserving of their plight. The voters elect those responsible for their indentured servitude. How could the populace then have the audacity to complain about their abuse at the hand of self-serving politicians, while voting in the next election for the very same people and system they claimed to despise? That was a sure sign of insanity.
Each year the deluded voting public listened to pronouncements that promoted their right to vote under a democratic system, which seemed to border on shaming tactics to convince the public they had real choices, but in reality, it was nothing more than a false dichotomy. Jimmy’s view was that the government gained his respect with understanding human nature, and the public deserved deception if they refused to see through it.
When the government called for your presence at one of its many computerized, indexed, and of course inefficiently organized facilities, with just the hint of coffee scent in the background, Jimmy considered it a holiday. After all, it was the government that allotted holidays for everyone. When summoned to a government office for some mundane bureaucratic red tape – cross your t’s-and- i’s bullshit, it was a holiday awarded to that individual. One now had a proper excuse for his/her workplace to take the day off and sit around in a lobby sanctified by the powers of law and do fuck-all for an entire day.
You could doze off in a chair. You could search the Web on your laptop. You could endure the onslaught of CNN news beaming from a hinged television on the wall. You could walk the halls, only to return and find your number still hasn’t been called. One could go for a smoke. Hell, one could also watch one’s fingernails grow. All one had to do was sit, piss, maybe take a shit, and simply wait lost in thought. It could be three, four, and maybe even six hours, then number called, and then fifteen-minutes of questioning from an official that would absolutely resolve nothing about your case. If one was lucky, another scheduled appointment to do fuck-all, all day. Jimmy’s view was the no one really appreciated the sly benevolence of the government.
For the past 45-minutes, Jimmy had been talking to an elderly black man in a wheelchair. Jimmy loved the conversation because it was riddled with names of obscure bands from the sixties and seventies, and included avant-garde jazz, almost unheard of, let alone mentioned in this day and age. Soft Machine, Soft Parade, soft hidden secrets that commend the night – the darkness – those wanting a path beyond the light. Only music can induce such thoughts, but for now, there was the white board sterile environment of the government office space, and a chance to encounter an individual beyond the norms set in stone according to sociological economic factors. The fact is, if not for this government self-proclaimed holiday, these two uncommon individuals with so much in common, would never have met otherwise.
However, Jimmy became somewhat uncomfortable by the man, because as the time grew closer for his number to come up, the man was obviously growing more nervous. Bad sign. It showed that he cared. When dealing with any government official, one should always demonstrate an air of aloofness. Bureaucratic discretion demanded for one not to care or perceive any possible solutions for his/her case. It just wasn’t in the cards. Everything must be unresolved, and dutifully followed up, only to become more unresolved. The latter was the government’s secret for its resiliency.
“Shit,” the man stated. “Just call my number. Got things to do.”
“Oh,” Jimmy nonchalantly responded. “They’ll call you. They have to, but they do it with great patience.”
“Man, what the hell does that mean?”
“It means sooner or later you’ll have to confront your accuser.”
“You’re fucked up.”
“Yeah … maybe … but I do have them figured out.”
“They? Who is they?”
Jimmy struggled not to laugh. It was against the rules of comedic etiquette to be amused by one’s own cutting wit. He leaned in towards the man. “They be the one’s enforcing the rules. Arbitrarily, I might add. So, I wouldn’t sweat it.”
“Oh really, and you know what brings you here?
“To be honest, actually, no. I was summoned by mail. It was a rather cold and direct letter, but it did strangely give me a sense of importance. I did, however, enjoy a good breakfast at a government café. Funny, they serve the worst food for one’s health and heart. The government can’t be all bad.”
The man looked at him sideways, “You trust the government?”
Jimmy sighed. “The government doesn’t want you to trust it, but only to comply with it. As long as you show a faint willingness to comply, the government will forgive any transgressions.”
“Are you drunk? High?”
Jimmy was stunned. He hadn’t been drunk or high in six-months, and still he could not escape the accusations. “Forgive me,” Jimmy simply said. “I tend to explain things in philosophical terms. I’m not trying to impress anyone but myself.”
“Damn, you is one out-there dude. And you do seem impressed with yourself.”
“I think you should take this all in stride. Look at it this way. You’re going to be called to the window and talk with a nine-to-five bureaucrat that is probably a devoted church going person lacking a soul.”
The man tilted his head and rolled his wheelchair a few inches back and then again forward. “All God’s creatures have a soul.”
A few cutting remarks were racing through Jimmy’s head as a response, but he bit his tongue. All those shared moments in AA/NA must have given him more endurance and patience. “My apologies,” Jimmy offered. “A bit tired from making an early morning of it.”
The man nodded a response, and appeared to Jimmy returning quietly to ruminating about what he would say when his number was called. The man stared down at the pissed-stained too-many-times buffed floor. At that moment, a government worker came out from the haloed background of the government offices. He presented himself squarely center the waiting room, filled with the invited guests of the government. Jimmy was both amused and impressed by the stance and theatrics of the bureaucrat.
“Your attention, everyone,” came the authoritative voice of the government official. Jimmy noticed that the man was somewhat overdressed. A government official should always look like something tailored from JC Penny’s, but this man actually went the extra distance buying from K&G’s suit factory for men. He might even be as bold as to buy an overpriced suit from Dillard’s at the Lenox Mall. Obviously, Jimmy observed, the man took the role of an over glorified file clerk seriously, and here Jimmy thought that this was an exclusive role for librarians like himself. No, he rethought; a true read librarian never takes himself/herself seriously.
Something made Jimmy’s heart sad, like tiny needle pricks dancing on his pulse. He then imagined the government official spending a weekend with his wife. Jimmy saw them shopping for clothes together on a Saturday afternoon. He, constructively and diplomatically complimenting his wife, as she disembarked from the dressing room, as she showered in his attention on the small platform of carpet outside the dressing room.
She, in reverse role, attentively judging the waistline of his tried on pants, and he, dutifully surrendering to the dressing room to try on another pair after her deep reflected considerations. Then, a drive up the boulevard, freeway, spaghetti conjunction, riding out beyond the perimeter, escaping out into the setting sun soaked oily color, and the two hardly conversed. Neon city – bright towers – tracers of white headlights, receding red taillights – chasing the weekend spent. Maybe the two would share a movie, before resting in the calm of a Southern night, as it passed with the metrics of crickets, cicadas, as the breeze breathed below the waning Moon. A giant eye, and wherever they went, the Moon stared and stood above them. But now it was dinner time, and she still had the joy of living within her, despite all its deceptions. He was with her, but his soul was flying away. Across the stark lit-up night – young professionals and incompetent fucks, she was still beside him. “Why, why, why, so beautiful, as she sleeps? Why did she choose him?”
“If you look behind me, you’ll see numbers assigned to my fellow co-workers on a digital screen behind their stations,” spoke the government official convincingly-authoritatively.
“Damn, he’s good,” Jimmy remarked. “The man was born for this job. A man born to read directions from a text for a newly bought Home Depot item.”
“The hell you talkin’ ‘bout.”
“Never mind, Daryl. I’ll explain later.”
“Look at these numbers posted here,” continued the strident voice of the government official. “You will see numbers indexed as one through twelve. Now! Look at your ticket numbers. If your number starts with a one, you will be going to windows one through six. If your number begins with a two, you’ll be going to windows seven through twelve. All those with a number one should seat themselves on that side of the room, and all those beginning with number two, should seat themselves on this side of the room.”
Jimmy did not look at his ticket number. Daryl did. Others obeyed the command after some debate with their friends and families. What followed was the small shuffle of feet as some of the people followed the directive from the government official.
“Jimmy,” Daryl said. “Both our numbers begin with two. Shouldn’t we move over to the other side of the room?”
“Daryl. It’s a digital screen with numbers. It doesn’t care where you’re located. You’re a number. They will find you, even if you’re taking a shit across the street.”
“Yeah,” Daryl confirmed. “The government is powerful.”
Jimmy sighed. “What makes the government have the illusion of power is that contrary to popular belief, it is not inefficient due to incompetence, but rather, inefficient for its own purposes. There’s a method in the madness.”
“Oh,” Daryl said, widening his eyes. But that guy do seem serious about bein’ efficient.”
Jimmy laughed. “Daryl, the guy’s probably spent the morning in his office reading the sport news on his computer. Maybe even taking a peek at Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and realized during a moment of clarity that he was receiving a paycheck. Not quite accepting his role as a mere bean counter; he had to try to justify his position with pissing on his territory.”
“You a cynical fuck, dude.”
“I look at it objectively,” Jimmy countered.
Jimmy then found a woman, somewhat overweight, middle-aged standing over him, displaying a few gray hairs that had escaped the weekly die treatment. She wore an oversized Ann Taylor business casual suit, tan color jacket with a black knee length skirt. He tilted his head as he looked up at her. She smiled warmly. “James Stone?” she asked with subtle intrigue.
Jimmy cocked himself upright in his chair. “James? I haven’t been called that in a while. Is this James Stone in all capital letters, as I’m recognized as a trustee of the state as written on my birth certificate and driver’s license?”
“I was told about your dry sense of humor,” the woman responded smoothly. “Follow me, Jimmy.”
Daryl feigned being shocked. “Dry sense of humor? This boy serious … and cynical ... damn cynical.”
Jimmy rose from his chair and smiled at Daryl. “It’s too bad we couldn’t talk longer with each other. I do have a decent comedy stand-up act.”
“I bet,” Daryl said, rolling his eyes.
The woman waited for Jimmy, as he gave a last nod to Daryl. He then followed her to the back offices. Her skirt swished as her nylon thighs rubbed against each other. Hhmm. Too many office parties served with cake and ice cream, Jimmy observed. Probably dutifully walks the treadmill each day, while her husband cooks eggs and bacon.
He entered the backroom office of the woman. There were the cliché cutout pictures of grandchildren and family outings on her desk. Scattered about corporate directives covered the desk, but appeared positioned in place for particular purpose. There were no words exchanged for quite some time, as the woman sorted through papers and finally retrieved a manila folder that obviously had his name written on it. She studied the contents within, and then breathed heavily, sighed, and glanced off at the wall before returning to making cursory but intriguing glances at Jimmy’s file. Finally, she gazed at Jimmy, and spoke:
“Are you still seeing your therapist?”
“Which one,” Jimmy said with a shrug.
“Oh, him,” Jimmy responded. “I missed some sessions.”
“Was it because you were high or drunk?”
Jimmy glared at her with a slight smile on his face. “I’m about to get my six-month chip for being clean.”
“Were you clean that entire time?”
Jimmy let a pause fill the air as if inflating a balloon. “You’ll never know, will you,” he finally and flatly stated. “It’s part of the …
The woman cut him off mid-sentence: “What do you think of Doctor Vanous?”
Jimmy looked down at the floor, and gazed at her with a deadpan expression. “He’s a guy that jots down a lot of notes, and I suspect they’re there before you. Personally, I think he’s full of shit. He doesn’t ask me many questions, because, as a librarian, I viewed his bookshelf. He reads pedantic shit – and he should do more drugs. No offense to you but he’s a bureaucrat with a degree. Once he challenged me throwing his degrees in my face, just because I dare defied him with an innocuous question. All those degrees hanging on his wall, and I’ve read more books than he spent delivering boring seminar speeches at conferences.”
The woman smiled and nodded her head. “Yes. Well, I’m privy to share your psychiatrist’s notes with you.”
The woman straightened herself, before glancing down and reading from the notes in Jimmy’s file. She appeared delighted in regurgitating the sick mind of the person before her, as she also ostensibly viewed herself with unquestioning credentials of being a government official. She cleared her throat and read Vanous’ notes from Jimmy’s therapy sessions.
“My client, James Stone, is suffering from a messiah complex. He believes that this diagnosis, which he perceives as a compliment more than a neurotic condition, gives him importance and an excuse to hide behind his magical thinking nature. He is certainly above average intelligence, but he disguises his disease of addiction with fantasies of being something unique. However, he is unique, but he has little to offer except plagiarizing and offering his own spin on those he already read from his vast library. He is the quintessential manipulator. He is always trying to get high, even when he is most sober.”
Jimmy pressed his lips together and thought awhile. “Just out of curiosity, aren’t those records supposed to be confidential?”
“Not in this case,” she responded nonchalant and with a subtle wink.
“Ah,” Jimmy sloughed it off with a sardonic laugh. “I no longer reside in the presence of being a messiah. Perhaps, being a messiah was a bridge too far, and I should have settled on being Lucifer.” Jimmy winked back at the government officiated woman, and took note of her perfumed skin and the smell of coffee permeating from her Orwellian cubicle.
The government agent stated smoothly. “You have some things to answers to. And I already had my lunch today, Jimmy. We have all day.
Jimmy laughed aloud: “Besides you want the glass of wine at 8PM to watch posers trying to solve crimes on CSI –sexy camera look – let me give you advice – to get away with a crime – pretend you’re not breaking the law – act as if everything is normal.”
“Have you broken the law, Jimmy?
“Of course, I delight in it. What purpose does your question serve? You let the Costa Nostra do it for years. The problems with those dicks are that they sell heroin under the disguise of olive oil. You buy olive oil from Arabs, Greeks, Italians, and Spanish, from the Whole Foods Market– never realizing its connections to the heroin trade. Now, we buy heroin from Turkey or Afghanistan, but reserve refined olive oil for the Italians; they’re the best at it.”
“Did I strike a nerve? I made no accusations,” the government worker stated with a sublime smile.
Jimmy folded his arms. “You implied it. I pick up on all the non-verbal cues.”
“How’s that day off from work working out for you Jimmy? The government official jousted.
“Great. But even the government will not waste it’s time with me. Sooner or later, even the
Government will come to the point, reluctantly, of course, realizing I’m beyond redemption. I don’t blame the government giving up on me. Why would the psychopaths who rule the world want to confront the truth that their civilization is decaying? Well, they simply can’t, lacking in emotions. It’s an equation they simply can’t phantom. It’s like the indigenous people of Peru when first seeing the Spaniards come ashore, the former could not see the Spaniard ship resting on the horizon. Even though the ship stood right before them, in plain sight, the natives could not see them because they could not comprehend something so removed from their cultural perspective.”
“Of course,” the government official smiled with furtive brow. She then crossed her thick but shapely thighs that squeezed sexual vibratory seduction signifying the pink-purpled-piss-taste cum-fig-flower resting in between her black netted pantyhose.
Damn, Jimmy thought. She has it down to an art form, even at her age.
“Jimmy,” she began. “We’re going to take you off the payroll. In that, I mean …” she paused. “You will no longer have an employer,” the words raced out and quickly established the premise for the meeting. “You will have a small apartment. You will have a grocery list of money – that, we will provide you, including your intrigue for alcohol, but you will no longer exist as a number in the Social Security Department.”
Jimmy’s face contorted with confusion. He deliberately maintained his cool. “Ah,” Jimmy said, staring off into a corner of the room with great furtive brow. “And why is this?”
The government worker leaned forward. “Jimmy,” she said. “Who is this person you befriended at your AA and NA meetings?”
Jimmy knew instantly whom she was talking about, and he knew that Lydia despised this person. He wondered if the government official contacted Lydia. He smiled, awkwardly. “The last ‘A’ in AA and NA is anonymous. We’ll keep it at that. I call my friend Retro, because we listen to backdated music and talk conspiracy theories. That’s all I’ll say for now.”
The government worker leaned back into her chair, and, again, he heard the swish of her black stockings. If only he could just fuck her and then not wake up next to her. He would simply go home with his endeared loneliness.
“Has he done anything to make you feel alienated?” the government official simply asked.
Jimmy sighed. “Like what? What are you getting at? He shares the shame addiction, as I. Yes, we both indulged in smack and banging our veins.”
“Nothing more?” came her cool and immediate reply.
Taken by surprise, Jimmy searched, fumbling for a proper response. He finally asked: “Why do you ask that?”
The government worker seemed to want to withdraw her previous question. She appeared to contemplate, staring past Jimmy. “Look,” she finally said. “The reason why you’re here is for us – the government – your representatives – to seek a solution. You’ve been in rehab. You’ve sought professional mental health on numerous occasions.” She stopped suddenly, before pronouncing something of significance. “We have a problem here, Jimmy. Your detailed conversations, often revealed when you were drunk, face the possibility of being exposed to the greater whole.”
“The greater whole?”
The woman sighed. “Yes, Jimmy. The greater whole, as in the public mind. They’re not ready. And too much has been hidden from your view – too much censored for your offerings.”
Jimmy zeroed in on a corner of the floor. “What is this really all about?” He appeared exasperated.
The room swallowed the silence. The government official spoke. “Never enter the public discussion again. Be no more. That’s all I’m at liberty to tell for now. They only give so much information, but you will understand why this government action is necessary. Things will be revealed.”
“You’ll be paid, of course. We can claim it to disability.”
Jimmy waived his hands above his head. “Wait. What the hell are you saying?”
A pause soaked up the conversation like a sponge.
“There are things I’m not at liberty to discuss with you now,” the government official stated frankly. “I’ve received an order from the IRS and Social Security Department that you are to become someone beyond government records.”
Jimmy sighed with subtle frustration, “Could you give me details? My suspicions tell me that there is much more involved here – I mean other agencies.”
“I already told you, I’m not privy to that, Jimmy. All I can say is that these agencies and departments hand me cases like this from time to time.”
“Oh,” Jimmy said with a hint of sardonic herb mixed into the conversation. “And what becomes of my Birth Certificate, Social Security number?”
Another pause. Nothing awkward in the short silences. There were just so many unanswered questions, lingering in the air wavering, waiting for the precise moment to reveal the answers.
“Those numbers never really existed,” the government official replied. “Or, at least, not in the way most people understand them.”
“And who are they?”
The government official slightly laughed. “They? I suppose they’re the ones that can determine when a social security number is just a number, and a birth certificate a mere piece of paper that serves its purpose. In your case that purpose no longer applies.”
“Yeah,” Jimmy stated with a cynical grin. “You have to understand that my past hallucinations were less surreal than this moment.”
“You might be right.”
Jimmy stared dumbfounded, and leaned back in his seat. “Really?”
“You paid your dues,” she said with the first hint of sympathetic. “You went and completed your education. You were employed in various jobs. You are now considered worth fifty-thousand dollars annually. This is what you will receive from the government in allowances.” She paused and looked up contemplating. “How you spend that money,” she then quickly inserted, “is not our concern.”
“So,” Jimmy said, still taken back with disbelief. “My social security number, my birth certificate, my many applications for employment, they were all just a number, but if I defaulted on reporting these in the past I was held liable in the eyes of the justice system?”
The government official unlocked her legs and turned to lean against her desk. The air was spoiled-cum-wet with sexual intrigue, broken up only by the white aseptic walls of whitewashed bureaucracy. “Jimmy,” the government official sighed. “We no longer want to hear from you in the hall of literacy, justice, or everyday plain living.” She paused, before delivering the next lines with lucid directness. “You no longer exist, Jimmy. You’re a persona non grata. Don’t worry; we’ll take care of you.”
“Take care of me?”
“You do still do have your addictions?”
“You still go to AA/NA, but still indulge in your addictions?”
“I met someone that can be very persuasive,” Jimmy’s spouted a terse response, as he looked out at the sun-bleached blinders of the office. Behind those venation blinds is simply a parking lot filled with cars, he thought. Filled with cars that come routinely to their 8AM – 5PM jobs. Sometimes one of the bureaucratic employees brings donuts for the other workers. And yet, I’m the addict? It is always the crucial 5-minutes to score – there’s an uncertainty – anxious moments as to whether one will find release. These government bureaucrats have no release. Their lives outlined like epitaphs of a gravestone. Their routine is an addiction.
“Jimmy,” the government official nearly shouted to get his attention. She then crossed her black nylon legs to entice him back to the reality of his environment – sexual nuance never really for simply having sex.
Finally, he stated after brief contemplation. “It’s called Narcotics Anonymous for a reason. I cannot reveal his name.”
"I didn’t ask for his name. I’m just wondering about the intrigue that exists between the two of you."
"Because he is a junkie," Jimmy flatly stated. "He'll punish me with answers and discoveries; whereas, you and your inept laws and government only prove to keep me in a state of uncertainty."
The government worker stretched out her legs and her thick shapely legs resounded the movements of her black nylon stockings. "I understand he's a junkie, Jimmy. Are your sharing needles?"
“Well,” Jimmy began. “It’s strange that my friend always has a fresh supply of everything. What’s even stranger is that I’m speaking with a government official that not only seems to mind about my heroin use, but appears to support it.”
The government official looked at him with an expression of incredulousness. “I believe you’re comfortable with the bizarre and eccentric.”
“Yes, and you have access to my psychiatric records to confirm that. I feel I’m somewhat at a disadvantage.”
“How often do you shoot up? Is it only with your friend?”
"Don’t know," Jimmy replied. "I do it occasionally. I know someone that is shooting smack between his toes to hide the addiction. His feet bleed so he has to wrap them up with bandages. I stay out of it. But, yes, I do it with, shall we call him my special friend."
"Are you drinking?' she asked with a tacit lack of emotion.
"Then what?" she asked frankly. “Where do you see this relationship going with your special friend?”
Jimmy peered at her. "You want the truth? My friend told me he was going to lead me to a sewer that leads to a civilization below the city. Can you dig that?"
The government official did not change her deadpan expression. “When was the last time you used, Jimmy? Seriously.”
“Last month,” was Jimmy’s simple and terse reply. “But we were talking about my friend.”
The government official reflected for quite some time. “We’ll no longer discuss your friend,” she stated, giving the first signs of seeming uncomfortable.
What the hell does that mean, Jimmy thought?
The government official again crossed her legs pronouncing her black stockings, but Jimmy now realized her stockings were not silk-sexy born, but rather, represented a plastic-like nylon longing. Longing for what? Her job? Her status? Her marriages? Her divorces? Her children? Her nine to five job? Her routine? Her exploits of silliness drinking one too many glasses of wine with her night out with friends?
Despite all the conformity and status quo in her life, she had the power of the messenger delivering directives from the-powers-that-be. Why? He was now not just a persona no grata, but simply erased like a mathematical equation on a white-board.
The government official shuffled Jimmy’s records and placed them back in a manila envelope. She then unlocked one of the drawers of her desk and pulled out a black box. Opening the black box with a key, she pulled out what looked like a credit/debit card. She handed it to Jimmy. Then she leaned back in her chair with a thoughtful look. “You’ll use that for any purchases you make. There’s a phone number on the back you can call to check your account balance.”
Jimmy cocked his head. “It won’t be easy to buy heroin with credit,” he said wryly.
The government official chuckled. “Something tells me that won’t pose a problem for your supply.”
“And what do I tell my bosses at the library where I work?”
“Just stop going,” she shrugged. “Tell them nothing.”
“They will call me? Might even file a missing person report.”
“We’ll handle that,” she said with a wink. She thought for a moment. “Jimmy, people see what they want to see.”
Jimmy nodded in agreement, and placed the card in his wallet.
“I want you to check in with me next month.”
“What date and time?”
“You’ll know. Trust me. Things will become more apparent in the coming weeks. Next month you’ll be meeting some very important people. They’ll be very interested in what you’ll have to report. I think you’ll find it just as interesting. You’re about to go on quite an adventure.”
“Good,” Jimmy said with raised eyebrows. “If there’s one thing I fear, and that’s boredom.”
“You’re free to go,” the government official stated. “This meeting’s over.”
Jimmy rose from the chair and began to leave. As he headed toward the door, he paused and looked over at the government official. She didn’t look back at him, but began working at her computer. He opened the door and left, because nothing could be said to end such an unexpected pronouncement.
As he entered the lobby, he saw Daryl having an animated discussion with a government worker behind the window. Watching Daryl roll his wheel chair back and forth told Jimmy everything. Daryl was playing the game all wrong.
“Man,” he heard Daryl complain. “I have to rely on public transportation. Excuse my language, but it’s a bitch for me to get here. I forgot that paper work back at my room.”
“It’s alright, Mr. Henderson,” Jimmy heard the patient voice of the government official. “Just bring it to your next appointment.”
“But how long do I have to wait? I need this money.”
“We’ll start the paper process today. Don’t worry.”
“Ah, man. Really? Your office tells me anything and everything.”
“We understand, Mr. Henderson.”
Jimmy stood and watched the exchange between the two, half hoping that he could at least say goodbye to Daryl. Too late. Instead, Jimmy saw the digital sign call another number. A person or family looked at their ticket and gathered things to approach the window with a government clerk waiting with perfunctory patience on the other side.
“Daryl,” Jimmy said to himself. “The entire point of the process is to keep the issue unresolved. The business of bureaucracy is for an excuse to continue contact with another fellow being, and to give purpose to an absurd existence, void of meaning without our proclaiming and producing one.”
Jimmy looked at the people sitting lethargic in the lobby. He then watched the numbers flash across the digital screen. Then it dawned on him, he would never again be a name or number. The government played a cruel joke on him. If he would taunt the powers-that-be that he was a messiah, they would return the favor by pronouncing that his very existence was up to question. No contact. No recognition.
Boarding the MARTA train, Jimmy took a seat and slouched backwards gazing outwards. The train rambled past industrial and residential property. Even in the air conditioned compartment of the rail train, the summer Sun burned through the window to make its presence known. Suddenly, Jimmy felt the drop of an elevator within him. It was a feeling of complete emptiness. He didn’t feel defeated or depressed. He felt absolute nothing. He lowered his sunglasses over his eyes, and tears swelled up. He was not sad. It was that he needed a counter reaction to the emptiness swallowing up his being.
Then a voice whispered in his head. “Be nothing.”
The train rattled across the tracks. Jimmy wasn’t even crying. His eyes were simply swimming in the void before him.