All The Windows


fear

I scroll through my Facebook feed and I look at all the windows. My monitor is a thousand-story house, and I am a giant, peeking my hideously large eye into people’s lives.

This is the first election cycle I’ve been an adult about. I didn’t really care about the other ones because I was still in day care. The day care was called high school, college and graduate school, but it was day care all the same. The issues didn’t bother me because I didn’t have any issues. Student loans gave me more money than I knew what to do with, and my parents could always loan me the rest.

Life was good.

Then I moved out and moved to Los Angeles and life was hard.

It wasn’t the bills or the poverty or or my broken teeth or my job that made it almost impossible.

I can shoulder just about any difficulty.

It was the hopelessness.

It was the feeling that nothing mattered because it’s all rigged, anyway. It was the knowledge that there are some people who think you exist just to be miserable and give them money.

It was the thought that no matter how hard I tried I would never make it. I would never write a good book, and I would never get close to a TV writing room, and that, in the end, I would exist as nothing more than a warning to others.

“Don’t chase your dreams,” they’d say, passing by Old Man Brock as he babbles insanely on the sidewalk, “be an accountant. Be something safe. Have a house. Have a family. You’ll do alright if you just don’t chase your dreams.”

A man cannot live without hope. Hope is rain, the water that fertilizes your will to live.

It doesn’t have to be a big hope. It doesn’t have to be a grand design. It just has to be a hope. A hope for a better future. A hope for your family and your children to have it better off than you did. A hope that your hard work, now pointless toil, will one day amount to something. That you will be recognized, perhaps even in your eulogy, when someone like me will stand before your coffin and say: “She worked hard. She battered and she toiled. This is admirable.”

So I try to deal in hope. I try to find the hope in hopelessness.

It’s hard. It’s much harder than dealing in despair.

Any idiot can point out how hard things are.

The universe will one day burn out and die. Everything will be dead forever. All will be nothing.

But nothing is something, isn’t it?

And how long is forever, anyway?

There are people who disagree with hope. These people deal in fear, and hatred, and malice. They are the true evil. They tell you that you were right. That tiny little goblin in the back of your mind knew what it was talking about. You’re works do amount to nothing. It is all going to hell. There are people out to get you.

Don’t go outside. They’ll shoot you.

Don’t stay inside. They’ll blow you up.

We’re all selling something. These people are no different. They’re selling fear, and fear is addictive. A girl cowers before a roller coaster. A boy walks away from the girl he loves because he can’t ask her out. A girl stays inside and plays World of Warcraft because she hasn’t left her house in months. A boy doesn’t go to a job interview because he’s scared, he’s scared and it’s been so long.

I am not a violent man, but me heroes are those of violence. They rejected fear. They are the general who said “nuts” to the Germans as they encircled Bastogne. They are the women arrested fighting to vote, or the African Americans beaten for doing the same. They are the man in the Nazi rally photo who refused to heil Hitler.

the-tragically-powerful-story-behind-the-lone-german-who-refused-to-give-hitler-the-nazi-salute

They are people who showed bravery in the face of thousands yelling at them that they should cower, they should fear, they should tremble at the sound of hopeless thunder.

But bravery does not need violence.

So I stand, and my legs are a thousand feet tall, and I peek through my windows.

And I see heroes.

I see people going to conventions. I see people dressing up any way they want. I see men loving men, women loving women. I see young couples being married. Having children. I see my parents buying a dog even though they know it will die. I see love in the face of hatred, bold, shining love that will not be turned away. I see the power of humanity, the power of your very being and I smile.

I peek through the windows, my giant eye filling the entire frame, and I see a world around me, bright a beautiful.

And I think.

I truly think.

The shadows have nothing against the light.

They stand behind their podiums and they scream. “Be afraid!” They shout. “Take my fear!”

Pay them no heed.

Look out your window.

The world isn’t burning.

And even if it is.

It won’t burn forever.

And how long is forever, anyway?

view_with_a_window_by_ahermin

 

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If I were a serial killer


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If I were a serial killer I’d murder people in the drive through at In and Out Burger.

It’d be so easy. No one would be able to drive away, and no one would want to get out and help because they’d be on their phones. They’re always on the phone, especially in the infinite line at 10:30 pm at an In and Out Burger.

I’d go up to the driver side windows and tap the glass with a knife. It’d be a long knife, one of those scary ones you’ve always assumed hillbillies would kill you with if they only got the chance.

It would have been my dad’s knife. He’d have shown he how to skin a deer, but he never would have imagined the uses I’d put it to.

I’d tap the glass, and they’d glance over at me. Their fear would be delicious, like a double double animal style hold the lettuce.

People tapping on your window isn’t that weird in LA, but it is weird when they do it with a knife.

I’d be wearing a black hoodie and have a big, bushy beard.

It’d be dirty.

It’d have burger bits in it.

I’d grin and my gold tooth would show and then I’d duck down under the car. It’d make things scarier.They’d try to find me but they never would. They’d be too distracted by the Facebook or the Twitter. By the little lights blinking on their phone’s screen.

I’d get them in the end. If I were a serial killer, I always would.

If I were a serial killer.

I’m not, though. Most people aren’t.

You read about stuff. You see a headline, you see a Facebook status, you see a flag as someone’s profile picture, you catch a little phrase on the Facebook trending bar, and you get scared.

They mostly put scary stuff on that trending bar. They mostly put scary stuff in headlines.

They don’t do it for any insidious reason.

It’s just that bad news sells.

Bad news sells, and everyone knows things are getting worse.

There was a time in the Roman Empire when people realized things were as good as they were ever going to get.

“This is it,” people would say to each other, “it ain’t going to get any better.”

“Yep,” the would agree, “I’m afraid this is it.”

“Things are only getting worse,” they’d say.

“Worse and worse.”

Can you imagine what the Facebook trading bar was like back then?

Full of bad news, or bad news that was on its way, or bad news that could happen.

Full of scary headlines.

You see stuff like that and you get scared.

You get scared and you go to In and Out Burger at close to midnight and you think about how easy it would be fore some psycho to kill everyone in line and no one would be able to get away or notice everyone else was dead until it was too late.

But most people are good people. They aren’t serial killers.

But it’d be easy to imagine they weren’t good people.

You don’t have to though.

It’d be so easy.

But you don’t have to.

colosseum

1800 Seconds at a Starbucks With No Line


StarbucksPic

I’ve often thought that opposites are the scariest thing in the universe.  What could be more frightening to a being accustomed only to light than darkness?  Only land than water?  Only existence than nothingness?

There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to ask himself the hard questions.  What’s he afraid of?  What’s his opposite?

I work at a Starbucks in a large mall. It’s not a bad job, and it’s actually a great break form writing screenplays and thinking all the time.  I never thought I’d have an existential moment there.

And yet I fucking did.

What’s my opposite?

I found it, this very night, while working the register during the late shift.  It all happened in the span of 30 minutes.

30 terrifying minutes where I had the opposite of a line.

Minute 1:

The two women stood about five feet back form the counter.  The squinted at the menu.  I asked if I could help them.  They didn’t respond.  They just stared.   I wondered if they even heard me.  They were probably going to order Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers.  They had the look about them.  The thirst.

Minute 2:

They finally ordered very berry hibiscus, just like I knew they would.

Minute 3:

They went over to the bar.  There was no one else in line.  I drummed my fingers on the counter and let out a long sigh.

Minute 4:

Joe finished passing out their drinks.  I watched him do it.  His eyes were dead.  The smile was forced.  I could tell he couldn’t hang on much longer

Minute 5:

There still wasn’t anyone else in line.  Joe went to the back to do some dishes.  The shift was in the storeroom counting supplies.  I was all alone.

Minute 6:

I couldn’t believe it.  There wasn’t even anyone else in the mall.  The phone rang.  I picked it up.  There was no one on the line.  I crumpled up a receipt and tried to shoot it into a trash can.  I missed.  I picked it up and tried again.

Minutes 7 – 10:

I continued to miss.

Minute 11:

I heard a scraping sound coming from the somewhere by Bloomingdales.  It sounded like somebody was dragging a shovel on the tile floor.  The phone rang again.  There was no one on the line.  I walked out of the store.

Minute 12:

I looked toward Bloomingdales.  One of the overhead lights about 300 yards down flickered.  The scraping sound didn’t stop, but no one was there.  The phone rang.  I didn’t answer.

Minute 13:

Still no line.  I heard a splashing by the fountain.  The sound of a child’s laughter.  I wanted to go investigate, but someone had to stay at the front of the store.

Minute 14:

Things started to get weird.  A woman in a dress walked back and forth between the Disney Store and the Sporting Good store.  She carried an old, one-eyed teddy bear.  The phone rang.

Minute 15: I asked her if she was okay.  She turned to me.  She had no eyes.  “Today is National Hot Dog Day.” She whispered.  My heart seized up in my chest.  I told her I already knew it was national hot dog day.  Facebook told me.

Minute 16: The woman just stared at me.  I just stared back.  I noticed she actually looked more like a little girl than a woman.  Perhaps the girl from the fountain.o-BLACK-EYED-CHILD-570

Minute 17: This was certainly the longest I had ever gone without a customer at Starbucks.  The girl recommenced her wanderings.  She eventually walked away.  I went back into the store

Minute 18:  The phone rang.  I picked it up.  “It’s National Hot Dog Day.”   That’s when I started to go mad.

Minute 19 – 25:

I don’t remember much.  The phone kept ringing.  I think I stacked cups into castles on the counter.  I made sugar packet guards and used the drink sleeves as gates.  I laughed a lot.  The children kept laughing with me, too.

Minute 26:

I thought there was someone in line.  It turned out to be no one, though.

Minute 30:

I woke up on the floor.  An old lady looked over the counter at me.  She had a Nathan’s Famous bag on the counter.

“Are you okay?”  she asked.

I wasn’t.  I just asked her what I could get her to drink.

“What goes well with hot dogs?”  She asked.  There was a strange smile on her face.  “It’s national hotdog day.”

And that’s when I heard the phone ring.

And that’s when I started to go slightly mad.

But…

Ah!  Another person!  And another.  A line, a blessed line, and I was swept up in the moment.  The fear vanished and I told her, I told her…

I told her a Java Chip with an add shot would go great with hot dogs.  It was a lie.

creepy kids

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