I know this guy who is wandering lost in the modern world.  He has desires.  He has dreams but his dreams fall victim to the noise of every day life, drowned out in the din.  I’m trying to find my way through to  his-story.  I think it is a search for identity story, a love story, a story of redemption and absolution.

He has spent many years wandering in the desert chasing one mirage after another.  He is tired of chasing mirages.  He wants something real to hold on to in this world. He can’t wait for the afterlife to claim his prize. They call him a seeker.  The Who wrote a song about him. Most of the time he has no idea what he is searching for.  Is it peace?  Happiness?  Love? Purpose? Meaning?  The subject changes as often as he changes his underwear.  And he has been known to change underwear at least twice a day.

I’m not sure if he will ever find what he is looking for.  How sad to have to search for something and never find it.

He walked up to the roof of the hotel to get some fresh air and watch the night sky turn to dawn.  The time between dusk and dawn is meant to be a time of magic.  At the precise moment when it is neither night nor day, the gods can be summoned.  He has never seen a god before, maybe today will be his lucky day, but he doubts it.  The gods abandoned man a long time ago when we decided we no longer had a use for them apart from killing each other in the name of one god or another.

The cars in the distant stream by like shooting stars.  He moves closer to the edge and looks down. Edges make him feel uneasy.  He always feels compelled to jump.  He struggles for reasons why he shouldn’t.  Lately he has found it harder and harder to find a reason that’s worth a damn.

He hasn’t said good bye to his wife.

He steps back from the edge.  Maybe tomorrow he won’t be so lucky.

Poor human hearts pounding everywhere, lying in their beds, walking their dogs, worrying about their future, dwelling on how their life took a wrong turn as they ride the bus to work in the morning.  I’m lying here in my hotel bed.  No other guest are stirring at this hour.  The dull roar of distant traffic reminds me that the poor human heart pounds 24 hours a day.

My past is a distant memory.  Who I was before no longer matters.  I resist thoughts of the future; they only bring anxiety born of uncertainty.  My crystal ball is full of thunder clouds, the clouds of unknowing.  Not being able to see the distant shores makes me seasick. I ground myself in the present with Jack’s words.  On my nightstand is last night’s entertainment, the Portable Playstation, Burnout Dominator crashing into cars to earn points, a fantasy of the human heart pounding of road rage.  Dark Resurrection, a hero’s quest to claim an unknown prize.  The prize doesn’t matter, what matters is the adventure along the way.  I long to feel my human heart pounding with the anticipation of unknown trails, dangerous trails, where the capacity of one’s own wit and resourcefulness determines life over death.  Adrenaline becomes my addiction, instead of cheap whores and booze.  An addiction that prowls like a hungry wolf on a cold desolate winter day looking for his next kill to keep him from Death’s steel jaws, the circle of life, the pounding of human hearts beating to different tunes on their iPods.

I close my eyes.  I’m on an empty beach watching her stand with her feet in the sea.  Her peach colored Spanish dress pulled above her ankles, she is dancing with the waves.  I feel lonely in this empty bed of fluffy white blankets and pillows listening to my poor human heart pounding.

She was the ugly one.  The guys never wanted the ugly one.

She sat and watched her beautiful blond-haired blue-eyed bombshell of a friend garner all the boys’ attention.  They had no idea what they were missing, leaving her to sit and stir her vodka lime and soda on her own.  Books aren’t the only things that shouldn’t be judged by their cover.

She wished at least one of the boys would like her.  She would do all those nasty things most boys only fantasized about in lad mags.  She would let them shave her bare and paint her tits blue.  She would even let them watch Blondie over there go down on her.  That’s right, she knew Blondie’s secret and they didn’t.  With Blondie, they had no chance, but with her, they could have everything.

But she was the ugly one and the ugly one never gets any attention.

I want to impress my girl with my new Gucci underwear.

I race to the bedroom and get undressed before she makes it to the top of the stairs.  She spends a half an hour in the bathroom.  If it were any other night, I would be asleep by now.  Some times I swear she stays in there that long on purpose.

I catch a glimpse of my new Gucci underwear in the mirror.  They are red, hot, and damn sexy.  I think they make my package look bigger too.

She brushes.  She spits.  She rinses, then spits again.  She gargles 15 times and spits.  She flushes the toilet for a third time. Silence.  I hear the bathroom door handle rattle.  I dive on to the bed.  It squeaks and moans.  I settle into the middle of the bed and lay spread eagle.

My new Gucci underwear glow in the dim light.

I hear her footsteps stop just outside the bedroom door.  She gives it a tentative push, then changes her mind.  I hear the creak of the stairs, and then the click of the kitchen light.  A few seconds later, I hear the woompf of the refrigerator door open, bottles clink.  Sloop. The fridge door shuts.

My new Gucci underwear are cool.

Silence.

She will be up any second now.  I yawn.  I rest my eyes for a moment.  I close my eyes and imagine I am the male model in the magazine I saw my new Gucci underwear in.  The gorgeous blond in short shorts is there too.  She has no shirt or bra on.  She presses up against me.  Finally some action.  She likes my new Gucci underwear.  The smile on her face says so.

“Harold,” she whispers.  “Harold move over you’re taken up too much space.  I get all philosophical on her, “how much space do you need?”  Something sharp pokes me in the ribs.  “Ouch,” I groan.  I roll on my side and pull the covers over my new Gucci underwear.  Tomorrow they will be just another pair of funky underwear.

She smells like onions. It turns me on. I can tell by the way she walks that she has been walking through her daddy’s fields. I had to build up the courage to ask her out. We dated for about a month. Then one day she came over to my flat, and she smelled like roses. So I had to let her go.

She is young.  She is single.  She has no ties.  She could up and leave at a moments notice.  She could travel the world if she wanted to.  Every day she sits in the same coffee house, at the same time, drinking the same drink, wearing the same dark blue colors.  She sits talking to the same elderly woman.  Each day she tells the elderly woman how much freedom she has to do what she wants to do.  Even the economy doesn’t effect her. She knows what time it is.  Each day she returns to the same coffee house, at the same time, and orders the same drink.

Buddy is bored with his life. Working at the local Office Max sucks.  All he does is make copies for people and stacks shelves.  He only took the job because his mom threatened to kick him out of the house, which would seem like a drastic thing to do if Buddy wasn’t a 32-year-old man with no defects.

He tries to tell her he has a job.  He is a writer.  She tells him to get a real job.  He took the Office Max job to get her off his back.  Plus he is tired of hearing her say: ‘why can’t you be like your sister? She’s out there making it.  All you do is sit around my house, eat my food and daydream.’

Buddy is a dreamer all right.  He comes up with a new scheme every other week that is going to make him rich.  He figures once he gets rich, he can do anything he wants.  He can even pursue his dream of being a Hollywood screenwriter and director like Spike Lee.  He met Spike Lee once at a Knicks game.  Buddy was selling popcorn in the aisles. He made an ass of himself and blames Spike for not given ‘a brother a break.’  One day he will make it big despite all of the non-believers.

Buddy walks to the corner store and picks up a copy of the Asbury Park Press.  He is after the film review section, which he checks every week hoping to get inspiration from seeing what other people have written.  He sees an ad that catches his eye:  ‘we are looking for energetic people who want to have fun working in the entertainment industry.  Unlimited income potential.’

Music to Buddy’s ears.

The ad gives a phone number to call.   Buddy dials straight away.

A man answers.

“Do you have what it takes?”  No small talk.

“I do,” Buddy answers.  “I’ll do anything.”

“Good.  Be here at 1 o’clock tomorrow!”

“But…”

“Is that going to be a problem?”

“No sir.  I’ll be there.”

The man hangs up without a good bye.

Buddy has a problem.  He is working tomorrow.  He can call in sick, but he doesn’t have anymore sick days left.  And he’s been absent so many times that his boss told him if he missed one more day of work not to bother coming back.  Buddy doesn’t care.  This new job could be his chance to make it.  This new job sounds like what he has been looking for all his life.  Entertainment industry.  Unlimited income.  Everything he has ever wanted.

The man said to meet at the Holbert Building in downtown Philly.  That means he has to catch a train.  His mom won’t drive him.  She wouldn’t understand.  She doesn’t believe like he believes.

The meeting is in a white room.  There is a black table in the middle of the room with two black chairs.  Buddy sits down and waits.  A man enters.  He is wearing a black suit and dark sunglasses.  The image reminds Buddy of the Matrix.  He begins to think that the whole thing is a joke.

The man in black assures him that it is not a joke.  The man in black is a member of a government organization that has been set up to eliminate dreamers and listless people. Buddy has been selected for termination.

Buddy demands to know why the government would want to get rid of dreamers.  The man in black explains that dreamers are idle and dangerous to an orderly society.  He recounts some of history’s most dangerous men who were dreamers – men with ideas and visions. The man in black quotes Lawrence of Arabia:  “All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of day are dangerous men, that they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.”

Buddy doesn’t understand.

“Idle dreamers are the worst breed of dreamers because they produce nothing,” the man in black adds.

“How can dreamers be dangerous?”

“They are dangerous because they are non-productive to an orderly society.  Society needs people who do their part to keep the machine functioning.  Society wants polite members.  Society wants people who are content to work 9 to 5.  Society wants people who are happy to work 60 hours a week and get paid for 40 hours.  Society wants people who are happy to get 2 weeks vacation in June or July.  Society wants people who are content to work until their bodies are useless to the society.  Then they can chase their dreams.  Society wants to keep the people strung out on the hope of a better tomorrow.”  The man in black says all this with no emotion.

“The world needs dreamers, and besides I am not a dreamer.  I have plans.  Big plans.  And just as soon as I catch a break, I’ll show all the cynics who doubted my abilities how wrong they were,” Buddy argues.

“Be that as it may,” says the man in black, “the government considers you to be a dreamer and all dreamers must be terminated.”

Buddy doesn’t want to die with his dreams unfulfilled.

Buddy doesn’t have a choice.

Buddy doesn’t know what else to do.

Buddy watches the lights fade to black.

“May I take your order please?”

A group of young professionals are laughing and joking with each other.  They’ve had their menus for 20 minutes, but haven’t bothered to look at them.  It’s Friday.  They are in a good mood.  There is no rush.  It’s the end of a long profitable week.  They just want to have a good time.

One of them looks up and sneers at the waiter who has interrupted their little party.  A good servant should have manners. A good servant should know his place.

“Like we’re going to need more time,” she pauses, glances at his nametag and says his name with distaste, “Buddy.”

“But you can make yourself useful and get us some more drinks.”  She says, and then returns to her happy little party.

Buddy wonders how he ended up here.  Once upon a time he had dreams. Big dreams.  But now those dreams are gone, dead and buried.

So this is what it’s like to be dead.  Well not dead exactly, more like I don’t exist anymore.  Yesterday I was thinking of re-inventing myself, but somehow I went a little too far and erased myself right out of existence completely.  That’s the trouble when you think too much, you start asking too many questions and then wham, you ask the million dollar question that invalidates your whole existence.

Look what happened to Job.  He asked so many questions that God had to come down out of Heaven to shut the boy up before he made the whole system collapse. God was furious over that one.  He kept muttering to Job to gird up his loins like a man and justify why he felt qualified to question God’s ways.  Job was lucky; he got off with a warning.

Descartes tried it too.  He locked himself in his room and decided he was going to figure this whole idea of existence out, maybe even prove that God did in fact exists and that the only reason nobody had seen him since Moses was because he was on holiday in some far off corner of the universe.  Descartes nearly erased himself as well.  He asked so many questions that the only thing left in existence was him on a tiny island, no birds, no trees, no ocean, no sky – nothing.  He would have done it too, but at the last minute he suddenly remembered an important meeting he didn’t want to miss.  He rescued himself by uttering, ‘I think; therefore I am.’

For me it started out rather innocently.  It was a nice day.  Unseasonably warm according to the weatherman, so I decided to take a walk down to the little stream in the woods behind my house.  The woods were quiet, peaceful even.  It was the kind of quiet that almost begs you to stop and think.  And that should have been my clue to turn around and go home, but I lingered on.  I saw a rabbit basking in a patch of sun.  With the purest of intentions, I simply wondered out loud, ‘what is it like to be rabbit from the rabbit’s point of view?  If I could talk to it, how would it describe reality?’

Then like poking a hole in a damn, more questions followed.  What is reality? How do I know these woods and that rabbit are real?

I took out some loose change in my pocket; is money real?

I looked up at the sky; what are space and time?

Am I dreaming or am I awake?

And it went on like that for hours.  Question after question I asked, and for every answer I came up with, more questions followed.  I became obsessed with questions.  I walked home and questioned everything on the way back.

It was then that I made the fatal mistake.  I looked in the mirror and asked the one question that has ruined many a good man:  Who am I?

Whoever said that ignorance is bliss was right.  I wish now that I had heeded their wise counsel, because who I thought I was turned out not to be who I am.