Loose Change

The music was blaring so loud that the rooms of the house were shaken by the hands of the bass lines. Glass bottles rattled nervously along on the edges of counters while red cups trembled in the hands of young bodies swaying with the melody.

The house was filled to the brim, bodies on top of bodies heaving to and fro, a living mass of flesh twisting and writhing together in one ecstatic motion. The walls themselves had come alive and their pulse quickened with every song. Women screamed and men waited patiently or otherwise for their moment to strike. Hands began exploring the curves of neighboring frames and at times you couldn’t tell where one body began and the other ended–and so the waltz went on.

There was one who was still in spite of the motion. He sat alone, a shadow overlooked and unattended to in a forgotten corner. The poorly postured spine and accompanying body language spoke, “I would rather be anywhere but here,” and yet, there he was and there he stayed. His hair was long and dark, draped about his face like a curtain closing on a stage. His face was obscured, brought to light only when he lifted a bottle of cheap red wine that dangled precariously from his right index and middle finger, bringing it to his lips in a graceless yet fluid fashion between the passing glances at the people around him.

These people some would call his friends, though he was beginning to really wonder what the definition of that word truly meant to him now. The more he began to brood over the thought, the tighter his grasp became on the bottle (unbeknownst to him). All these people he knew, he did not know; and they did not know him. What he didn’t realize, however, was that this was (subconsciously) a defensive effort at self preservation; superficial relationships required less maintenance and left far less of a mess whenever they left, voluntarily or otherwise. This fact, accompanied by the terrifying notion of his genuine nature being discovered by someone else, left the boy–for better or worse–socially and utterly inept at developing healthy and reciprocal human relationships. Rejection, in this society, was non negotiable.

A few shared interests brought these people together on fair enough terms, but it was the treasure cove of the various rainbow colored assortments of bottles in the house and what those bottles would do to them that truly bonded them together. Their socially acceptable, government taxed drug habits allowed them all to tune in to the same communal frequency for a few hours. Dopamine and Ethanol were the true companions here tonight, and oh what a lovely pair.

His face became briefly illuminated as the wine was lifted to his lips and it was then a smile was seen–forced, sad. Defeated.

He recalled, with a greedy slosh of his drink, a bygone season of his youth, a chapter of his life that now seemed so very far away from where his story was now. So far in fact, that it may as well have been another tale entirely. He remembered how these people around him had all once sworn that their bonds would never be severed. Be it tested by the wiles of men or women, the gaps created by distance, or even by the rapacious hands of Father Time himself; their fraternity would always endure. And it was for this very reason that he had smiled that sad, sad smile…for time had indeed bested all of their promises. The years had now made strangers of them all.

He had watched–from a comfortable distance, how the years had come and gone, each one somehow quicker than the last, taking with them one person after another from his life who saw fit to grab a piece of it and oh, so many of them did. From the friends who would come in good cheer to laugh with him in the fair weather seasons, to the transients and drifters whose walks in life had collided with his own to share the road for a time. To the women whom he had shared a bed with, to the thieves who coveted pieces of his very soul—where were they all now, all these people he had touched?

Things fell apart, with or without his help, while other unseen beginnings were born from their endings. People fell in love, he noted with a secret envy, and by-in-by fell away from him. Others simply drifted away, like so many Autumn leaves shaken off of a shivering branch. He thought to himself that this was simply the way of things. This was only the reality he refused to accept in the ignorance of youth. People came and went away in seasons. Hopefully you saw them off well and could greet their returns, if any, with open arms. And if you did see them again, it would be as if there never was any distance, stolen heart, or time that had ever separated you in the first place.

Deep down in his heart, this was a greater hope; that those he chose to call his friends and his new found families would forever remain true to him. But he had come to learn there was no such thing in life as permanence and that for him, being a man who was all too aware that his tomorrows were all but infinite, forever was a dream that he simply could not afford. To him the present was all he had and all that mattered was who was present.

Everything in his life he learned was temporary. Just like his now almost empty coveted bottle would soon be nothing but garbage, an object to be cast aside. Just like this moonlit night would soon give way to another dawn that would come to steal away his dreams. Just like his life would come to a close, at a time unlikely of his own choosing. All fades away into story in the end, and he had been so many stories, hadn’t he?

It was this fact however, that ever present sense of self awareness of ones own mortality that drove him to constantly seek some semblance of substance in any and all things he sought. And therein lay the great dilemma, the cognitive dissonance that cleaved him in two; the Romantic and the Cynic. One embellished and sought love, while the other mocked it in parodies. One yearned for honest, pure affection, and the other was paralyzed at the very whisper of the word.

Though in secret fantasies and half-hearted whispers he demanded substance, the life that he had created for himself was not one of substantial merit by hardly any means. In spite of the depths that he had explored and thought existed within himself, his actual existence was one of extraordinary shallowness. His dreams told stories of forbidden passions; his waking body found him parading in the same nocturnal debaucheries the likes of which he repeated week after week, year after year. Countless mornings spent waking underneath an unfamiliar ceiling. A warm and nameless body at his side. These collisions the only bit of intimacy he could afford to spare with the loose change left in his pockets.

He was ever the victim of his own hypocrisies. Countless contradictions were brought to light by a near constant state of self deprecating examination. It was clear to him, and anyone else who really looked beyond his presented self, that he was his own worst enemy. In the space that existed behind those wild eyes, he was both warden and jailer. Completely unaware that he alone held the key to his cell, for his chains had grown far too comfortable.