Thursday, August 7, 2014

[A city series] Better people have lost bigger bets

Once again I'm doing a series of stories from other writers. This one is from the lips of a friend of mine. He's given me permission to recreate the story here, straight from his mouth. Enjoy it:

"Better people than I have lost bigger bets"— A writer said this one day when I called his life plan foolhardy. When I heard it, it struck me, in an awkward way, as truth. Truth is hard to find these days, and when I see something even remotely close to it, I perk up. That time was no different, though it was swiftly overtaken by a harsh melancholy in my chest. The writer stating his reasons was no defeatist. He was usually chirpy—some would say never serious enough, and perhaps that was his undoing—but as he restated this, following my disapproval of his plan, I knew he was too serious.

You see my writer friend, James, was a little bit of a contrarian. I enjoyed having his humor around as we were both writers trying to make something of ourselves. James was fresh off a broken engagement with a gorgeous professional-type who, at the end of the day, couldn’t even bare to bring him around to her set of professional-type friends anymore.

I’d met these friends; all of them sterile, all of them exuding that upper middle class homogeneity that has become our city—they may be from around the world, but they all think the same. He claimed that he was tired of her, but I knew him for the romantic he was. He was surely heart broken. Hard for anyone to break it off from another human being with which there was some shared past and, the worst of it, a shared future.

Listen, you can’t just give up. I said.
I’m not.

We were in a dive bar in the Bronx which was playing Reggaeton music as loudly as possible. I leaned in. His plan? Move to Barcelona with his meager savings, and when they ran out, he would hopefully find some sort of income—he wasn’t against being a criminal—and then when that ran out, or he didn’t have anything anymore, he would understand that all he had done had been for naught. And what then? Well, he would completely run out his money, run out his food, and not wanting to beg, he would walk out.

No, not leave and come back home with his tail between his legs. Yeah, leave like those old people of tribal lands who, once they knew they were a burden, would walk out into the wild and choose an honorable way to die. Yes. I wanted him to write about it, but he refused. 

As the music blared, and curvy Bronx women and men walked and danced by us, I felt sickened by the thought of the man in front of me walking off into the wild. Perhaps I too should have been planning the same as James. Being a veteran, I'd known those who gave it all up; and I agreed with James’ assessment of there having been better men losing bigger bets (I am not one of those people, I'm sure I'm going to win).

James is no slouch, tall, lanky but v-shaped and assured; he was attracting eye rolls from a few Latinas. I watched him look back as the smell of perfume as well as dirty carpet filled my thoughts. And I could think of nothing more than the fact that what he'd said was true: That there were great men in history who had lost bigger bets, who had even been forgotten. That they would always be forgotten and whatever meme and greatness they had would never be carried on to any of us.

And so he left that week, said he would email—he didn’t. Said he would send his writing—he didn’t. I haven’t heard from him since. I’ve wised up since then. Become more practical. Decided that becoming a part of the Empire is better than being trodden underneath. I help a security company  imprison people and keep them there, as well as make them more likely to recommit crimes so they end up back in our good graces. 

I hardly write except to whine about the world. Of course, I wonder about James and hope he found a mamacita in Barcelona. I doubt it, though. I haven’t read anything by him, and I assume that he would have run out of money by now. He’s probably dead in some beautiful wilderness. His body feeding the same things all our bodies will feed, but since it wasn’t done with the ritual I’m used to, I find it abhorrent to think about.

Nevertheless, he didn’t leave nothing behind. I still think on his wise words: that better people have lost bigger bets. Such is life, but where I was filled with dread before, I am now filled with humility (perhaps those are the same things). Yet there is also fear as I remember some other things that James told me:
For our society is one where you will starve if you don’t provide something that is of worth to the others, there is no inherent value to many things—think bubble gum pop. That is simply the truth. And though it isn’t spoken, this is something that’s felt by everyone; this inherent run, rat race towards that which will allow you to live by the grace of the other people around you, no matter how 'bad' they may turn out to be. Think about it, James would say, pounding his finger dangerously hard into his temple. Think about suicides. Not the written ones, but the ones that happen as suicide by cop, or off a curve in the road. How many accidents are suicides? 

He would go on: Think about the many people being shed from our nation’s roll call. Think of all those bets that didn’t work out. Now think of the fucks with whom all these bets ended up working out. Nothing about our species works rationally, and all that is unspoken is based on fear. Therefore all that is remembered is fear. 

I should have stopped him then. He was obviously crazy. But I didn't. Now I wonder if I should have spoken up. Called his family or friends. And it is with this in mind that I have a heavy heart for my friend, James. For he has more talent and worked harder than I ever did, and he was the one who eventually walked off. Didn’t win his bet, but made his payment without complaints.

The End.... for now

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  1. Best said by my hero: gotta know when to hold em, when to fold 'em!
    But decent story. What happened to the guy?

    1. Thanks for reading. I will have a sequel coming up soon. I will inform everyone as soon as possible.

  2. Like an Into the Wild for people who like Spain?

    1. See the similarities with Into the Wild; mainly the whole part where there is a need to walk away, if you will. That being said, I'm not sure there are many more similarities. Thanks

    2. Yeah, thing is this kinda shit does happen all the time. I mean, what you gonna do? Cry for them? These fuckers are given a chance that someone in any other country would take in a heart beat, and these fuckers, they throw it away.
      Knew a guy, nice guy, hardworking guy, but he always gave his money away. Always. Never gave a rat's ass about what his family and friends would say, which is don't give away your money. And never give it away to people who can't pay. The whole fucking world is built on the backs,not of those who don't pay, but those who pay. And if you give money to those who pay, well look out fucker, cause you're violating a motherfucking law of nature, well of money, really, but money is nature, don't you know? So this fucker, he does just that, he does the opposite of what his real friends say to do, and he goes about helping homeless people and friends who are losers with all that he can.
      I take him aside, try to talk some sense in to the fucker, but no. He could give a fuck about what I'm saying. He's all about not helping me, but of helping his ego. The fuck He asks me, when I tell him he'll end up on the streets when he gives away a paycheck to those on the streets (probably using it for smack, the fucks). He asks what's wrong with following the word of those religions (all, according to this guy), and I try to tell him that it doesn't matter what people or holy books or public service ads say. It's what works. That shit. It's shit for rich people, or those who can afford it. But it doesn't get through to him.
      So one day he's gone. Gave away too much and couldn't make rent. Then he's on the streets and so (too much pride to beg, this fuck, think of the hypocrisy of that, ifyou can) he can't shower and his manager at the restaurant, he keeps him on for a bit, I mean he's a hard worker, he just has this psychosis to help others, and soon he stinks because no shower. And no job.
      Never heard from him since.
      I'm just saying. One chance is more than enough. People who throw the rest out, they're just mocking us, mocking our patience. The fuck. This friend of yours. Well he just deserved that shit, son.
      I hear: Maybe he could have been a prophet in different times. The fuck, son? No way. Prophets were the biggest ads of the old times. You gotta be a smooth talker to let your words be your trade. Fuck outta here. Be of use to society or vanish.

  3. Damn artists, all the same, always trying to be a martyr upon some cross (one they want to 'create' of course, typical) and never getting that it doesn't accomplish anything. Maybe for the ascetics with crowd appeal, but that's not these people who simply don't understand what it is to really create for something like a crowd and instead they linger with ideas of a cross only for them though they never say it and instead always claim to be exposing their soul and living that hardy life of artists in a city. I mean if you're serious get out there and cut your fucking ear off. Then I'll respect whatever it is you're doing.
    This is not to degrade all artists for there are plenty who know much about the world and who know much about themselves and who know what it means to speak to the crowd, fact is, I know a few who are the tip top sort who understand who feeds them, hint it's people like us, on the top. So these artists understand that it is those crowds with money they need to dance for and these are the ones who history writes about.
    This man, if we're going to call him that, this man needs a swift kick in the nuts. Then I can tell him how the world works. That being said, I agree about the bets part, that part is solid as gold

    1. I know you. Those artists don't kowtow to no one, and that's the beauty of life. Why spread lies then? Just think about that when you're driving your german luxury auto to the Hamptons

    2. uwotm8? Think nothing when I'm taking that drive. You should think on it if you trying to fix the leak in your rent control 200sq-foot apt, north of 70th street (never knew they went that high until I looked at a magazine recently)

    3. I think artists, over time, are diverse enough of a group that they straddle both sides. That being said, as much as i hate to admit it, Wolf is right and if we look at the Renaissance and other times, artists were paid to create by those in power. With a middle class part of that changed (but there was still an 'elite' view of art, look at literary fiction and other so called 'higher' arts), but if inequality is to remain as it is, then perhaps we'll see another rise in art? (I know art prices have been rising for years now, but that was mainly for established artists of the past rather than anyone current, that I know of) I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it could happen.


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