T-minus 3 days.
But I suck at math, so let me back up. You’re surprised? Shouldn’t be.
T-minus 5 days.
There we go. In the hallway with Annette Benig’s twin sister. No kidding.
She’s leans in. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
I want to suck on her nose. “Nope,” I tell Twin instead. “In 5 days, I’m going to jump off the building. Think of it as a statement. A great big but efficient fuck-off to every floor I’m going to pass.”
She leans close to hear more. I stare up her nostrils.
T-minus 4 days.
“I’m going to rob this corner store,” I tell my jabbering, retarded brother. “Stand here. When I come out, run back home. It’ll split their attention, okay?”
Alan was never good at anything, but he can run. Ask him to finish a sentence or fix something, no way. But give him something to pursue? No problem. In the old days, he would have made a good deputy. I can see him flying off his horse and chasing someone down on foot. But he’d never be the sheriff. And if things got bad, he’d be the first guy gunned down.
Alan stands there and drools. And that drool is asking me: why are you robbing a store? Drool is slipping from his lip, and it’s saying: why is this necessary? Where did you even come up with the idea?
“Shut up,” I tell the drool. Then to Alan: “As soon as I come out – straight home.”
Inside the store, I expect to see an Asian lady behind the counter. But this Asian lady is bald with tattoos, and while I’m pretty sure that there are bald, Asian, tattooed ladies, this isn’t one. I swing to the ice cream freezer, and think to myself that it would be hilarious if instead of robbing the place, I used the knife to cut off one of my fingers and leave it inside.
“Just looking for ice cream!” I declare. Only I’m dripping blood onto the glass as the knife saws at my skin. Honestly, I just didn’t see that coming.
I rummage for money to pay the Asian lady who is not an Asian lady that I am about to rob but have already decided not to. We make an exchange. She has a goatee. A toothpick. She should have a motorcycle; she thinks she should have one, too. But instead I bet there’s a Hyundai parked outside, and that when she gets behind the wheel, she wonders what the fuck she’s doing working at a corner store, 46 and single.
I rob her. Or rather, I don’t. When I get outside, Alan takes one look at me and sprints away. I don’t have the heart to stop him.
You’re surprised? How come?
T-minus 3 days.
It occurs to me, by the printer, that I haven’t been recognized in twelve years. In twelve years, most automobiles become obsolete. The vast majority of television shows are cancelled. And computers become a gazillion times faster, but I don’t want to get technical on the matter. I just don’t.
I make a hundred thousand dollars a year. I save a portion, give some to charity. I buy houseplants and take care of them. I think of doing the same with a pet, any kind will do. I own six belts, and know which clothes they go with. I have massages by an Austrian woman who tells me that biting therapy is the next big thing. I see her twice a week. But all I can think about, my ass against the hardware, is that I’m never recognized.
The printer delivers an expense report.
“Hi,” says a newbie.
“Is this your report?”
“Yes. I’m Dorothy”
“It’s spelled with two ‘e’s,” she says.
Fuck you, newbie. That’s what I want to tell her. I want to slop those words on her blouse and wash her in the realization that a fuck-you is a stationery product available in the stock room, and that once you get it on you, you’re finished. Instead, I help her with her expenses, show her what she shouldn’t report, how to hide the controversial tidbits and errors of judgement.
“How long have you been here?” she asks, in the lunch room.
I tell her. Down to the month. I tell her that I’ve been here longer than I went to school. But then I tell her more.
“There’s more?” she asks.
“Yes, there generally is.” And I tell her exactly how many more days I’m going to be here.
T-minus 2 days.
“Hi Mrs. Carver, it’s Andrew Jones. That’s right, one of those boys from the family where every kid’s name starts with the same letter. I’m sorry, did you just ask what letter? Listen, is Jane there?”
A new voice comes on. “Andrew? Hi. Why are you calling me?”
“Why are you still living at home?” I ask in a mean way, but really, how do you soften a blow like that?
She natters on about stuff. I natter on about stuff. I ask her why we never dated. She doesn’t remember the thought ever having crossed her mind. I don’t know if it’s because her mother is in the room with her, but she’s polite about it, like the memory’s finally come to her, about that conversation we had about maybe dating someday, and yeah, she regrets that never having happened. It’s too bad, she says. Yeah it is, I tell her.
By the time we’re done, we are really done. I hang up. Alan, the silly retard, is drinking beer on the couch.
I call Twin. “Hey, how long is it going to take before you pretty much forget me?”
“You mean, after? Are you going to go through with it?”
“Answer the question.”
“Well, you’re assuming that I think of you at a high rate in the baseline, which is not true. But let’s start with today. I probably thought about you for two minutes today. How long will it take to think about you at only, say, five percent of that? That’s six seconds, Andrew. You want to know how long it will take after you’re dead to only think about you for six seconds a day?”
“Forget I asked.”
“No, let’s discuss. I’m into this now.”
The phone, it feels, is melting. Twin tells me exactly how my life is measured. She tells me what I’m worth. Can’t say I disagree.
T-minus 1 day.
Nothing of significance ever happens on the day before you die.
Steak and eggs for breakfast, because so what? I wear pantyhose to work because who cares?
I get on the elevator and block the doors. People cram around me, but so what? I didn’t wear deodorant, but what does that make me really?
Dorothee comes to my office. “Hi.”
“Everything okay? You know?”
“And that thing that was going to happen today…”
“Did you tell anyone?”
“No,” she lies.
“Great,” I lie back. “Don’t worry about it. When you’ve been here as long as I have, things are bound to get funky. Everyone bounces back.”
She smiles. It’s a great smile.
Later, I’m on the roof. I called Alan, to explain things as best I could. The retard didn’t understand a word. Not one.
You know, I’m still glad about a lot of things. Like this view, and the highway in the distance, and the haze of smog days. I’m glad for the ocean, and my eyes and hands. I’m absurdly glad for October, and caramels, and a seaside pier I saw in a movie.
Heights do strange things to me. I look down. It’s a hell of a thing to want to die. But it’s worse to be forgotten.
I’m suddenly off the ledge. On the stairs. And yeah I’m anonymous. And I’m going to stay that way. Most of us are. It’s not a problem – it’s a condition. It’s the same one that keeps us moving, and sometimes stops us where we stand – you know, when you hear a song that grips you, that you’re sure came from another lifetime, when maybe you wrote the thing. Back when you were big, and the world had heard of you.
Defeated, I go home. Alan’s crying. He runs over and throws his big hairy arms around my neck, squeezes the tears right out of me. He’s jabbering. I don’t know what he’s talking about. It’s some kind of promise, maybe. That he’ll do better. That he’ll try harder. As though he could. As though either of us could, and as though that particular failure should ever matter. I sit him down on the couch.
I get two beers and put on some music. I sit next to my brother and cry with him, harder than I ever have. Surprised? Yeah, me too.