On the floor lays an unmarked envelope, but he already knows what it is.
The divorce hit his wallet and he hit the bottle.
A vicious cycle that would appear to have no end.
A recluse by his own admission. A man who felt that everything he touched turned to ash.
The anti-Midas, one might say.
As he opened the seal on the envelope and unfolded the letter he was not surprised to see a note from his landlord telling him he had 30 days to pay this month’s rent as well as the two previous ones he had failed to pay.
With only about $500 in his possession, including the money he took out from his 401k to invest in his, now, ex-wives bakery, he seemed to be out of options.
His brother lived in Phoenix with his three “perfect” kids. He parked his Range Rover and Mercedes side by side and loved the attention he got from the neighbors. He struck it rich when he was an early investor in a small tech firm that sold patents to Google that were eventually implemented in their Google Glass project.
$35,006,440.47 in the bank to date.
The two are estranged.
A bitter battle over their parents estate drove a deep wedge between the two.
They used to be close.
They used to be best friends.
Now they hated each other. All over a small house in Riverhead, NY that only netted them $50,000 each.
Both used that money to invest.
The piece of paper he held in his had was a representation of all that went wrong in his life. He tore the paper in half – he no longer felt much emotion – and let it fall to the floor. He grabbed a bottle of whiskey off a table sitting next to the entrance of his apartment and sat down in his favorite chair.
In between each gulp he would sob uncontrollably.
“This isn’t what I thought life would be,” he thought over and over.
Laughing of children in the hallway made him scowl. Scowling made him mad. Being mad made him drink. Drinking made him depressed. Depression made him think of better times.
The better times are what he hangs on to.
Like every night, except for Monday’s when he goes to AA just so he can feel human connection, he passed out in his chair still holding onto the bottle as if it were a new born baby that needed protection for the world around it.
When the sunlight pours in-between the blinds it wakes him up. He staggers from his chair, stretches his limbs and hops into the shower. The water is freezing cold, but as long as he feels something he doesn’t care.
He puts on his uniform, grabs his bag and is out the door.
He has nothing of value so he doesn’t lock it behind him.
At work he is a loner and people typically don’t talk to him. He had a good friend at one point but because the MTA had budget cuts they laid him off.
“Better him than you,” he thought to himself.
Making his way to the service station he makes sure to pick up a cup of coffee from a street vendor.
“Black, three sugars.”
The fact that he stops there everyday and the vendor doesn’t know his order shows how easy he is to forget.
“$1.25,” says the vendor.
He takes a sip from the cup and savors it for a moment. He then looks toward the sky and nods, then sighs in relief.
As he goes to walk away he hears a soft voice from behind him.
As he turns around there is a young woman, probably in her 20’s, standing there holding a $5 bill.
“I think you dropped this.”
A warm feeling rushes through his body as he takes the $5 from the woman.
“Thank you.” He says.
“Have a great day,” she responds. Her smile reflects all that is good in life.
Nothing has changed in his mind though. This was just a small example of good that makes you think there is more to life than the shit we trudge through.
Before he enters the station house he takes a deep breath and smiles. Another example of good. The quiet perfection that sometimes leaks into our minds and lets us think there is something to live for.
The man clocks in, gets his assignment and then heads outside.
As the train pulls in a tear starts to form in his eye.
The doors open and people file out, going to whatever useless destination they have planned for themselves today. All victims of the human condition. All slaves to the notion that hard work pays off and good things come to those that wait.
He sets up his gear and is waiting on the signal to close the doors. He peers outside to see if everyone is on board and the same young woman from earlier comes racing down the platform trying to get on the train.
A small smile forms on his face and he holds the door open for a moment longer so she can hop on.
He finishes his shift and is a whole new man.
He punches out, walks down the steps and starts to walk home.
He even breaks his routine and walks into CVS to buy a soda. He’s done with the bottle.
As he is standing on the self-checkout line he sees a $5 bill fall to the floor.
“Excuse me, I think you dropped this.”
A young lady turns around and says, “Thanks,” and then goes on to talk on her cellphone hardly paying attention to the man.
He continues to smile.
A $5 bill and a smile prevented him from turning his subway into his escape pod from this earth taking the lives of innocent victims he felt he was freeing. The ultimate payback to a family that had abandoned him.
They would have to live with his reputation.
Maybe there is more good in this world than bad, he thought. There has to be a reason we crossed paths.