“Life? Oh, fuck you. That’s the answer— like most things. Anything unfortunate could happen to you and someone you love or someone strange will meet your eyes, shrug their shoulders, and fucking say, ‘That’s life!’ like it’s a slogan,” Frank sniffles his nose and then swallows the snot that came down.
“Humans are the top of food-chain— the apex of society— and yet this life, this world is so cruel. Shit just happens sometimes— sure. But it’s uncontrollable, ya know? It’s cruel. I didn’t ask for this! I didn’t want to look like this! But I’m here and life happened and that’s how the whole fucking story starts— life,” Frank coughs heavily and spits the wad onto a building, as he continues to walk down the sidewalk.
“Ya know, life is a lot like sleeping under the rails of a train. The moments before and after are so fresh, accepting, and relieving. But when the train comes— the shit hits the fan! Oh, waking up like that feels like Satan is breaking the ground under my feet and taking back all the luck he gave me,” Frank moves the beanie around his head so he can scratch the sores growing on his scalp. He looked left and right before jaywalking across the street.
“But that’s not the best analogy. Or metaphor? Whatever! Fuck off. Life is cruel. It makes no sense. How can mother fuckers I know the name of but can’t picture their face rule this world? A faceless ruler or rulers? Gates could walk by me and I’d think he was a cuck or something,” Frank waved his hands around, as if he had an audience.
“While I— on the other hand— am raising a crock of kids A-LONE. A single parent and six kids. What job could I work that could support this family? I didn’t ask for this! I didn’t ask for my wife to fucking leave me! And people ask me why I drink myself to sleep. So damn cruel,” Frank pulls the cigarette from the fold of his beanie and pats the pockets for the lighter he assumes are in his children’s clothes. He hits the cigarette before beginning again.
“And think of all the contradictions built in the very fabric of our civilization! Why is every incredible drug in this world illegal? All the old fucks at Capitol Hill need to take some shrooms and see what life actually is. Why are school systems ordered by age and not by interests and talents? What is free in the Land of the Free? I would really like to know what moron thought of that nickname. What is democratic about voting laws? What’s the Declaration of Independence compared to all the fucking money I need to live? This world is built off cruelty and life always fucking works in the way of the wicked. What else is there left?” Frank throws the cigarette into the street, as a car drives by, hitting the windshield. They flip him off and he returns their greeting.
“Oh, fuck off! What else do you want? Some cheap rhetoric? Want me to say, ‘But it’s worth it all!’ Well, I can’t! I don’t know! Is life worth all this pain and torture? All the death and abuse?” Frank stops at the entrance of a red building with golden letters spelling ‘THE ALIBI ROOM’. He looks to the sky and sighs.
“Sure, there’s glimmers— fucking glimmers— of pure happiness like a puncture of heroin, but that moment of bliss always last just as long as the high. And that’s the best part about being a person. We keep all of this shit stuffed into our brains so we can pull it out at any time and get high whenever we want. High on the sick, the sappy, the sublime. The nostalgia. That’s my favorite feeling. Because whenever I look back, I only remember those moments of happiness that life so rarely gives.”
Frank pushes the door to the Alibi Room— the victim of Frank’s ramblings— and pokes his head out the door to say, “Now, get the fuck out of here!”
Tanner Armatis (he/him) has been published by No Contact, the Daily Drunk, and the Royal Rose Magazine. He was a reader at the North American Review. @tannerarmatis for sleeper tweets.