Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 64
The God Down the River
by J.P. Sullivan
IGMS Audio
Bar Scenes with Time and Entropy
Read by Alethea Kontis
Vintage Fiction
The Singing Tree
by Rati Mehrotra
Bonus Material

The Preventable Future of Peter Jones
    by Joshua Ogden

The Preventable Future of Peter Jones
Artwork by Scott Altmann

I was walking the other day and just kind of looking up at the sky and smelling the air. I was by myself, which was an unusual circumstance as I don't have any lack of friends or love and support from my family. I've got a healthy body and a strong, eager mind. I don't have many problems in my life that should cause me to worry too much about my future.

But something about the stillness of the world and how I'm at the edge between my old one and the new one got me thinking about what I want from all of this. I've just graduated from high school, and this walk happened after the ceremony and after the parties and celebrations. And while I was thinking, this desperation came into myself, this panicked feeling. So I wrote it all down in the notebook I was carrying with me, and I'll copy it here.

I want to fall in love.

I want to find a woman who looks at me and truly sees me, and I want to look at her and truly see her, and I want us to look at each other and know that the other is seeing the seeing. A grand circle, if that makes any sense.

I want to have a family.

I want to be a good father to my children, someone to look up to without trying to. I want to show them the best things while also showing them, in contrast, the terrible things that will hurt them. I want to show them how to think for themselves without being controlled by anything else so that they will see the good and the bad and choose the good. I want to show them how to love, through loving their mother and each of them. I want them to know that I see them, too.

I want to fulfill my dreams, as I've always dreamt, while at the same time supplying a comfortable life for my family.

It might be fun to go skydiving. I definitely want to travel, a lot. But since I was little and read about hobbits and wizard schools, I've wanted to write stories. I love words and the way they can create beauty and reveal the truth that isn't usually easy (but is exquisite) to see.

I want to know of something that is, somehow, greater than these things. Of God, perhaps.

I want to know if life is it, if we're just going to die and be dead and meaningless, or if there's "More" after our bodies are dust. And I want to know how to get there if there is such a thing.

I want to love and to be happy during every different part of my life, if it is even meant to be lived in segments. I think, though, that I want to see it as a single, wonderful thing.

These things are the things that I think make life worth living and fill it, bursting, with a joy that is wonderful beyond what even words can express. It's so simple. I see it all so clearly. I feel them in my chest so tightly, so surely. I need these things the same way I need air and lungs.

And after I had written all this down, I sat down in the green grass and wondered to myself why I was so scared when the things I want for my life are so wonderful.

That's when the blackness appeared. Slowly and murderously it seeped onto the stage of my mind, and without my consent. It had perhaps always been there, in the back corners, hiding from me. It said, "Peter Jones, you have the ability to die!" slowly and matter-of-factly in the most terrifying way you can think of.

I don't know what it is, or what it means. But it feels awful. It's a flame that lives to eat without thought of anything but its appetite, and it goes against everything wonderful and real that naturally takes time to blossom. And I'm disgusted by this thing because I know it will take away any chance of a real life of happiness that I have the potential to live.

And it will be my fault for letting it.

I'm terrified of this ability to ruin myself.

The sky seemed less welcoming to my vulnerable soul, the world less inviting, and so the darkness showed me what it could do:

I'll start college to get a degree in English Literature, or creative writing, or poetry, or art history, or maybe even just history. Something romantic and valuable to humanity in the abstract sense. But then I'll get married and become discouraged at the sudden responsibility to get a job that supports her and our future, and the romantic parts of me won't mix with the reality that is having money, and I'll get scared of taking any kind of risk that could lead me to have a job doing something I actually care about.

I'll quickly change my major to something like law, or business, or engineering. Something successful people get. Probably business. The others would seem too difficult to me. I don't know. It would definitely be something boring, or at least something I wouldn't enjoy.

I'll find a job somehow, however it is that works, and with luck, I might work my way up very quickly in my profession.

And I'll love my wife. I'll love her more than anything else. I'll marry her knowing I love her, and I'll know she loves me. I cannot see myself allowing anything else to happen. We'll make love together, and this is embarrassing, but I've never done it before, and with my wife, it will somehow be real and powerful and beautiful. It will be different than how people make it seem in movies and shows. It will mean something. I hope so anyway. We'll have kids, and it will be the most wonderful day when we meet them for the first time, holding in our arms a person that we made together, looking down at it and then up at each other, smiling and crying warm tears.

All the opportunity in the world for happiness will be available to me, despite abandoning my love of writing in the name of monetary success and stability. I'll be happy. I will be, for awhile.

But then, maybe within twenty years from now, if everything goes wrong and the bad parts of the world distract me well enough from keeping the kindling inside me wet, I will wake up one morning and look at the blank grayness of the ceiling above my bed, and it will be a mirror to my soul. Reality will seem to reveal itself to me and I'll know that I'm not in love, that I never was. It will hit me, a tangible thing, a physical pain to my head. I might vomit. I might not let myself because I won't like the taste of it.

I don't know what the reason for this realization will be. It could be anything. But it will be a lie, and deep inside myself I'll know that too.

The shades will be drawn back from the window. Light will fall over me while I discover the bitterness inside of me, whatever it may be, pride or lust or greed, any kind of hate. In those few minutes, I'll let it have my soul almost completely because it will be easier and I will be afraid.

My wife will move a little bit next to me, not quite awake, perhaps dreaming about me and the safety she feels beside me. We'll have been married a long time.

I'll sit up slowly and slide onto the edge of the bed, and my neck won't be able to hold my head up because of the guilt that will fill it.

My wife will wake up and look over at me after sitting up on her elbow, and then she'll massage my back lightly with the fingernails of one of her hands. Then she'll kiss my neck and rub my chest. She'll sigh into my back while she hangs on me, and the warmth of her breath will feel like poison to my skin. A small fire will ignite in my chest and in my eyes. And I won't know why, but the need to leave will be desperately screaming in my ear and throughout my head, a beast-like compulsion that gives no reason. My body will want to shake for the thing shouting at me to leave. The world will seem to stand still for me as the truth that I've been ignoring will become apparent.

I'll hate myself. The crescendo of doubt that I'll have let myself feel for so long will come to a climax, and without even trying to explain to myself or talk myself out of it, I'll decide to leave then.

I'm not sure why I see the potential for myself to do this unnatural, illogical thing. But I see it happening just like this, for no reason. It would be pathetic.

I'll curse at myself silently, and then smile into her face, and then I'll kiss it, disgusting language filling my head to the brim, pushing against the sides and coming out my ears. Who knows what she'll be thinking. Probably something warm, something comfortable and happy.

A child will start crying then, and she'll smile into my face, her eyes closed, and she'll say something like "Good morning. Let's make it a good one" or "Here we go. It was only a matter of time. Oh well. I love you" or maybe even just "I love you Pete" and then she'll spring out of bed before my mind can even think to, and she'll go to satisfy the cries of the child she loves.

And then the blackness will convince me that I don't even love my own children.

I'll get up then, just to distract myself, a coward, from the self-hatred that I know I deserve, and first close the shades over the window and then go to the bathroom. I'll shave. I'll brush my teeth. I'll comb my hair. I'll put on deodorant, maybe cologne. I'll make myself look and smell fine without showering, but I'd turn on the water and lock the door to make her think that I am so I have more time alone. Then I'll sit on the floor and cry, then hate myself for crying, because I won't deserve to feel pity for myself. I won't deserve to feel any kind of sadness, or anything at all. But I'll cry anyway, because that will be the only way to not explode. And though I'll deserve it, I won't want to. My morals and natural instincts will be at odds, and I'll hate myself even more for it.

I'll get off the floor slowly when my wife knocks, asking sincerely if I'm okay. Then I'll get in the shower, shout back in a voice that wasn't just crying, "I'm fine" and "I'll be out in a minute." I'll make sure my whole body is wet enough, then get out and dry myself and walk out in a towel to prove that I really was showering. I might even start to believe it myself.

I'll comb my hair and put on deodorant and maybe cologne and brush my teeth again, this time with the door open. My wife will peek in and smile at me, maybe tell me something funny our kid will have done or said. I'll smile back and give her a response that is automatic, and I'll see her frown subtly, and I'll know that she knows something is off. She'll have felt it for a long time, but this morning it will be much more apparent. She'll walk out of the bathroom feeling confused, probably worrying about me and trying to think of something she could do to help.

She'll love me, she'll care about me. She won't know that I've never really shown her who that is.

Our house might be big, expensive. The curtains might be silk, the bed might be nice, with an extravagant comforter and thousand-dollar pillows that would feel just like any other pillow.

I might have a spacious office, with a mahogany desk and with papers stacked neatly around it. There might be a grandfather clock somewhere around there, an antique, something I'll have bought with pride and feelings of grand sophistication. I'll pass my office on my way to the kitchen and shut the blinds that I'd left open.

We might have a dog, maybe a golden retriever or a labrador. Something big and beautiful. I'll take it for a walk, because I still won't have my mask on quite as tight as I'd like, and I'll need to have a few more minutes alone to become situated. I'll feel content around the dog because of how it'll make me feel guiltless and better than I am. I'll congratulate myself (perhaps unconsciously) for taking the dog for a walk, for doing something so nice and so right.

Then I'll realize that I love the dog more than I love my family. And I'll cry some more in front of the dog, and I'll kneel down and let it lick my face. I'll use the dog's smiling face and excitement at being pet to make myself feel better, even though I won't deserve it. I'll pretend to know that the dog loves me, accepts me, and I'll convince myself that that makes me justified for being who I am.

I'll come back to my house smiling, and I'll revel in the work I've done to achieve such a wonderful house. I'll pet my dog lovingly as I take off its leash on our doorstep, and say "Good dog, gooood dog. Such a good dog," and we'll go inside.

I'll smile and kiss my wife when I see her, and I'll tell her how wonderful our dog is.

Then I'll eat some eggs my wife will have made for me after getting breakfast for our kids, and I'll eat them while she is busy doing things around the house, maybe getting children ready for school, depending on how old they are. If they're old enough by then, I'll talk to them and pretend to be interested in their lives, and I'll watch them smile, showing they feel loved, more confident in themselves. And my wife will see that and convince herself that what she saw in me that morning must have been something small. Maybe he was just tired, she'll think, or maybe work is just stressful. She'll cast aside any doubt towards the trueness of my love and passion for our family.

I'll eat the eggs and tell myself I deserve them. I'll have worked hard for the money that bought the eggs and the milk and the pans and the butter and the spatula. I'll feel very deserving, but it will be a forced feeling. The guilt will still be there, and I'll ignore it in the name of constant self elevation that I will have engrained in myself. Leaving will be in my mind at the same time.

Then I'll get in my nice car after kissing my wife and my kids.

I'll drive to work, and quickly, the mask will fall off. I might cry. I might listen to slow, swelling, dramatic music to make myself feel better. And at the same time I'll really start to think about the best way to leave my family. The easiest way. The way that would make me feel the least guilty. Being guiltless will be the most important thing, although I'll tell myself over and over again how terribly they'll be hurt, and how terrible this will be for them, and how they deserve so much better than this terrible fate. But there will be the foundational undercurrent of necessity that will drive me on. I'll have convinced myself that this is the only way things can be right, that this is the way everyone will be truly happy. I'll be lying to myself, and I won't even know it. Or maybe I just won't admit it.

I'll arrive at work with the beginnings of a plan in mind, and I'll hate myself for it, but still feel confident and secure in it. I'll ignore the self-hate in favor of satisfying my own wants and fears.

I'll sit at a desk all day, maybe in a nice office with windows making up the whole back wall, allowing light to flood into the room. It'll make me feel powerful, important, and I'll keep my back to it the whole time I'm there. Complicated-looking leather books will line the bookshelves on the walls, and I won't have read any of them.

I'll type reports or send emails or make PowerPoint presentations or scroll through nothing at all on my computer as I stare through it. People will come in and talk to me, acting happy and nice and personable. They'll do it because they're at work at a nice job. They won't really know me, and I won't really know them. They might see this; we might see the fakeness of the other, but we'll be okay with it because we'll be at work and being nice to people will be something you have to deal with if you want to be successful. And I'll pretend that it's what I wanted. I'll need to be convinced of my success. But I won't be, and on this day it will become apparent. This realization will stew with the other in the back of my mind as I carelessly do work in a profession that will reveal itself as meaningless to me.

My wife will text me throughout the day, sending me funny pictures and heart-emojis, and will try to figure out our schedule for the rest of the week. I'll respond slowly, casually, without effort, agreeing to drive people places and to get certain things and to have our cars looked at. I'll get angry whenever she responds quickly and enthusiastically.

I'll sit at my desk and type things like "In order to increase productivity, we must understand the impact our best work can have" or "I'd be happy to help, just let me know!" or "The deadlines are approaching, let's keep this up" or "Meeting, 1:00. Please be there ready and attentive" and then I'll write an email with a lot of swear words and alkjgfuhsdvgihf;ka iodfugyo8wiluj;asdn at the end of it, and I'll almost send it, but then I'll just start crying again and delete the whole thing.

I'll go back to feeling bad for myself and I'll leave work early. I'll drive along the main roads and look for something to eat, but nothing will be appetizing. I'll feel nauseated and lightheaded, and it will be then that I wonder what went wrong. I'll wonder why I married my wife if I never loved her, why we made love and had kids if I never loved her, why she loves me if I don't love either of us. I'll wonder how love can exist with one person but not the other, and if love is only real if both people feel it. Then I'll wonder if my wife even loves me if I don't love her, and that will make me angry. I'll wonder how she could dare to pretend this long and how she could live with herself and the act she put on every day of our marriage. I'll wonder if anything she'd ever said to me was real. Then I'll be determined to go home and confront her about it. I'll even practice looking hurt in the mirror when I'm stopped at red lights. I'll decide to confront her, and then when she admits it or denies it, I'll pretend to act even more hurt or unbelieving, and then I'll leave. It would be easy and would make me seem like I was the one who was wronged.

And then I'll fail in convincing myself of my own justification and I'll realize just how evil that plan is, and I'll realize how truly evil I am for thinking of it. And then I'll feel bad for myself and cry.

I'll drive home, and the driveway will seem like the edge of a cliff, and I'll look at it and wish that it was.

I'll walk through the door and shut it behind me, but I won't move away from the doorway. My wife will have been doing something in the living room, but when she hears me, she'll stop, and the house will have a dark silence hanging throughout it. She'll get up, slowly, and walk to the entryway and see my face, and she'll smile brightly and frown terrifyingly in the same second.

Then, without trying to, I'll surprise myself and say, simply, without emotion, "I'm leaving."

I won't know why I say it, and I'll be aware of my ignorance. I'll say it, and I won't take it back.

She won't cry, not initially. At first, she'll hang there in the space in front of me, her body wanting to fall but keeping itself up somehow, keeping itself there just for the sake of not crumbling into a mound of dirty, quivering sand, staying up because that's what the body is made to do. She might stagger a little bit as the weight of the thing I said crushes her whole soul, but other than that, she'll be motionless and expressionless, her eyes seeing far away and nowhere. Her pupils will shrink. And then it will feel like the air between us has closed completely, and she'll be right there, and all the disgusting, barbaric, holocaustal, selfish, filthy pain I'll have caused will be right in my face, inside my chest, in my feet, my toes, a fire, lava, brimstone, everywhere. I won't be able to breathe. That will be the thing that makes me move towards the stairs, towards our room and my things. I'll move purely for the want of breath, to get away from the thing suffocating me, to get away from the heat. I'll need to run, and I'll want to die, and I'll want to die, and I'll want to die, and it will just keep repeating in my head, but I'll still run away from the heat that would kill me. And then I'll cry before she does, before she starts screaming and asking questions and hitting me and bringing up our children.

And even though I'll deny it over and over again, I'll worry solely about how I feel, and not for a moment about the people I'll be deserting without consideration or explanation.

Everything will become a blur. I won't say anything. I'll hear my wife and at first she'll ask things, softly, but then she'll see that I'm determined, that I'm ignoring everything she's saying, and then I'll feel her there on top of me, hitting me and scratching me and pulling at me and kicking me, I'll feel her tears and spit as they splash up from her face. But I'll just grab the things that I love more than my family. Electronics and clothes and some books that I won't have read for a long time. Then I'll see our dog, and I'll ask it to come, then I'll tell it to come, and it won't, it will be growling over the sound of my wife shrieking and sobbing. Then I'll swear at it and walk back out to my car, now calm, and I'll drive away. My phone will ring and ring and ring, and text messages in all caps will appear on the screen. But I'll just drive, and ignore it. I won't throw it out the window or even turn it off. The most I'll do is silence it.

I won't be crying anymore. I'll be numb. But I'll still drive away from them. I'll scold myself, and tell myself softly to go back. But I'll keep driving. The two parts of myself will continue to fight, and as always, the selfish one will win without any real opposition.

I'll find somewhere to sleep. Maybe a hotel at first, but then, after a while, maybe I'll rent an apartment, one that still gives off the feeling of success that matches the job I still hate. It will be a nice one, with a wide north-facing window I can put a long desk in front of, for writing. I'll get excited about the freedom I'll have to finally write the things I haven't had time to write, that I'll finally be able to sit down and just write my best selling novel. I'll give up after the first week of trying, then cover up the window with a black sheet, and I'll kick myself for being so stupid and naive, then tell myself that the job I have is much greater than something silly like writing.

I'll ignore the questions of my wife as much as possible, mostly because talking to her will make it more difficult to ignore the reality of the terrible guilt I'll feel. Then the divorce will go through quickly. I'll push for it, and then she'll connect the dots, stop asking questions, and all of her unconscious suspicions throughout our marriage will make sense. She'll give up, and she'll have no reason to hold on, because it will be disgustingly clear who I am and who I always was.

She'll have the house. I'll keep the car. I'll feel saintly for allowing my wife and my children to keep the house that will be much too big for one person.

I'll be allowed to see my children, but I won't want to. I won't say much about it. I'll turn down visitation rights, and then I won't be allowed to see them, and then I'll fight for the right to see them, just to prove my innocence, but in the end I will be asked to stay away forever, without the burden of child support, and that last part will convince me that I've won.

I'll go to work every day and type at my computer, and smile at people when they pop in my office. I'll tell myself I'm successful and powerful, then go home and cry at the unfairness of it all.

There won't be a moment throughout all of this that I consider anything outside of myself.

I'll think a lot about my life then, in the hellish darkness of my room that will be in the hellish, revealing light of the world, about who I wanted to be and who I actually became. I'll think a little bit about what I did wrong, but mostly about how I couldn't have done anything better, how it will have turned out how it must have.

I'll blame the hard--no, tedious work required to craft a career in writing, and the stupidity in society for not seeing my story-telling genius immediately and snatching up every word I could have written. I don't know how I'll convince myself that this should have happened, it won't make sense, but I'll be angry for not being "noticed," for not having the head of an acclaimed publisher come knocking on my door and asking for my work.

I'll blame the perfect woman that I could have really loved for never showing herself to me before I was forced to settle on my wife, who will have become my ex-wife. I'll blame God for making life more difficult than I wanted it to be. I'll blame my parents for not teaching me well enough. I'll blame society for making me need money. I'll blame the internet for distracting me on days when I could have been spending time with my family. I'll blame my family for making me feel guilty for leaving them, because they just won't understand, they won't see the necessity of leaving. I won't either, but that fact will never reveal itself fully to me. I'll blame the whole world, I'll go through the whole list of everyone and everything, then I'll come to dogs and global warming and the actions of people I've never met and Hollywood and politics and the weather and the uncontrollable conditions of the chemicals in my brain and causal predetermination, and then I'll sit up quickly as my brain reaches for something else to blame and there will be nothing, and then I'll blame the absence of things to blame, and then the air, and then the earth, and then space, and then finally the blackness.

And then I'll be left with a choice.

I'll choose to believe in nothing, because to believe in something would be to admit the existence of responsibility, and the guilt and fear that will have power over my whole soul.

Then I'll quit my nice, awful job that was forced upon me by society and collect all of my retirement money. And then all the things I've been holding myself from doing will instantly become available to me. I'll look at my savings, and I'll be satisfied.

It will feel invigorating, enlightening, a simple answer to all my problems. My head will buzz, and in the moment of realization, I'll feel exalted. My vision will widen across the whole world. I'll feel like I have complete control over my body and my life. It will feel like a drug, like a song written just for me, like everyone is praising my name, like Life will finally have given herself to me, saying "do whatever you want, honey." And I'll want to do more than that. I'll want everything. She'll be there in front of me saying "go for it" and I'll do more than that in a way that she won't like.

And I'll do it for most of the rest of my life, which will feel like it must be a long time, endless, infinite, all mine, to do with whatever I want for however long I want without priorities, without organization, chaos, but who cares, Life will be mine and I won't have to worry about anything, finally, what was all the other shit about anyway, who cares, I'll be alone and free and that's all I'll need, I won't need people or stability or purpose or laws or boundaries or rules or safeguards, who cares I'll be so tired of caring and worrying and pretending, and finally I'll let out who I've really been my whole life, a sad person who doesn't care and just wants to do what he wants, who cares about anyone else, I'll be the victim for having to please people and society and my dog and my fake slut wife who never will have cared about me anyway and my stupid annoying children who don't know anything, who don't understand and it will be all their fault for not understanding, not mine, never mine I'll just have done all I can and I'll just be left with nothing nothing nothing, but no Life will have given herself to me, but there's nothing, but NO, there is everything. There must be.

So that's what I'll do. I'll do everything to ignore the nothing I'll have given myself.

I'll visit whorehouses and strip clubs, many times. I won't even enjoy it at first, it will feel strange and awkward to me, but I'll do it because it will make me feel powerful and important and edgy and young, and the simple sexual pleasure without emotional ties will be an enormous relief, enough to convince myself that love doesn't exist and that I shouldn't even try to look for it anywhere, and instead just indulge myself.

I'll try all kinds of drugs, and I won't like them at first. I'll drink myself to sleep every night and wake up with a headache, crying and cursing everything. As I wake up, it will be curses at myself while my mind is hazy and it's harder to tell myself lies, and then everything else after I get out of bed. These curses will continue without stopping until I'm back in bed.

I won't gamble at all though. Part of me will know that I need money to live this way, and that restriction will be an infuriating itch that I can't get rid of.

Every once in a while I'll try writing, when I get up slowly and it's quiet and I can think to myself without too much hatred. But it will be short-lived, and I'll immediately give up in hellish anger as I deny what I see inside myself as I peek below the skin.

I'll have bought a cheap, one room apartment after the rent of the first one became too expensive. It won't have any windows except for one facing the building next to mine, and even then I'll keep the curtains shut. I'll rarely shower or change my clothes. It will be a blur of undenied passions going nowhere and meaning nothing. There will be color and sound and feeling and explosions, but it will all fizzle out into blackness as soon as it's gone through me. I'll forget it immediately and move on to the next thing, and then the next and then the next. I won't remember anything except myself and my animalistic need to be satisfied by frivolity and nothing.

I'll pour and pour it in myself, but it will disappear as soon as it hits the tip of my soul.

I'll be empty. My thoughts, in chains, will echo off the walls of my body.

Years will go by this way, and I'll know that I'm empty, but I'll drink and smoke and sniff, and sleep with whoever will sleep with me and angrily watch internet porn on my neighbor's wifi if nobody will, and somehow get enough money to survive, probably stealing, and go whole days not moving with a scowl carved deep onto my face, and watch cable, and play video games, and sleep, and hate myself, and I'll know that I'm empty. I'll look at everything and it will seem to mirror my soul.

Who knows what else I'll do. This future is exhausting, and I feel sick at myself for writing any of it. But it feels important to admit of the possibility of it all, because maybe I'll be able to catch myself if any of these things do start to happen.

I don't think there's much more I'll do, so here's the end that is probably universally inevitable to anyone who ignores the evil they're capable of:

One day I'll wake up, head and body and mind attacking itself, and somehow I'll realize that I'm old. Older than I would ever have thought possible. And I'll look up and stare at the ceiling again and I'll wish that I was lying next to my wife. True reality will reveal itself to me, will laugh and cry for me, and I'll know that love is real and that I was in love, that I always was, and that I could have been for the rest of my life, maybe forever.

And as the pride and the evil ambition and the lust and the greed flee victorious from my eyes and onto the eyes of the rest of the world, I won't know how I didn't see that I loved them, loved what I had and could have had.

I will collapse into myself while Life beats me for raping her.

And then I'll drag myself up and out of my bed, and rush through the door, and run down the stairs and outside the door of my apartment.

I'll look up and cry, spitting and gasping. The tears will leak into a whitening beard.

I'll look up and I'll see that I've been left behind. And at first, I'll be angry with everything for leaving me, at my wife for letting me go and at my children for not clinging to me, at my job for not being good enough, at the world for making me think that I needed money and success so badly.

And then I'll sit on a bench and I'll be mad at myself, and I'll cry silent tears of shame and true regret, things I'll have felt the whole time but will only just then allow myself to feel out in the open.

It will be too late, and it will be my fault.

I'll desperately, tortuously call my wife after finding her phone number, and she'll hang up as soon as she knows who I am. I'll call her many more times and nobody will answer. I'll call my grown-up children after working to remember their names, and they won't answer either.

I'll be too scared to kill myself. I know I will.

And I'll finally look up at the world, and it will be light, and I'll want to hide, because I won't fit in with an inch of it.

I don't know how I'll live the rest of my life. I know that it will be slow and tired, resigned. I might get a job at a fast food place or delivering mail once I give up on stealing and borrowing money from people. I might really start to write after I allow myself to see inside myself, maybe something honest and true and beautiful. Maybe I'll turn things around and become a force for the best good in some way.

But I will have abandoned my family and ruined everything beyond fixing.

I don't know. Now, I look out at everything and, as it always has been, it's all so beautiful. And I guess that could be the easiest thing in the world to forget as I go out into it.

I won't let myself forget. I can't let myself.

I'm horrified by what I can be.

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