Jer @ SBS Presents 15-30 – 006 – A Town Full Of Kevins – Prologue
I opened my eyes and stared ahead at the eggshell white wall, devoid of any color, pictures, or trinkets, and wondered what in the hell I might have to do in order to go back to sleep. Days are long enough to begin with, but lately every single second seems like it comes along with a weight that tries to drag the future back into the past. I’ve been treading water in life. I’ve been avoiding all of the things that could have potentially made me special one day. I’m not old, but I’m no longer young. I am Kevin, he me roar.
It’s extremely hard for things not to seem robotic, or automated. Once I’m done staring at the wall, I’ll get up, I’ll put my clothes on, I’ll brush my teeth, I’ll say goodbye to my wife, and I’ll be out the door, doing exactly whatever it was I did yesterday. There’s so much nothingness involved in each and every day that even if I closed my eyes and stopped staring at the blank wall devoid of meaning mocking my very existence straight ahead, I couldn’t really remember what occurred yesterday, minute for minute, could I? Clothes on, teeth brushed, said goodbye to my wife…and out the door I went, only to come back hours later, feeling like I had accomplished absolutely nothing at all. But I did do something, didn’t I? I must have had lunch or stopped into an office…several offices probably…and I’ve been employed for how long now? I feel like I wouldn’t even recognize anyone I met the day after I’d met them anymore; every day was filled with taking a meeting for this place or that place, trying to get myself a new career.
System rebooting. Sometimes there’s actually an odd comfort in feeling robotic or automated. Like life is completely beyond my control, and going through the motions is the only purpose that I truly have. It’s called many things nowadays…de-realization, disassociation, detachment…depression…I try not to get too caught up with labels or dwell on the reality of the personal hell I’ve been stuck in too much – but suffice it to say, the world seems so much less real to me than it ever has before, and I’m genuinely perplexed as to how to go about making it make any sense, ever again. It’s such a strange planet if you look at it up close…I’ve felt alien here every single moment I’ve been here from the second I opened my eyes. I don’t feel the comforts of family & friends like most people do – I just feel nothing, all the time.
So I exist to exist another day, and do whatever it is that I do, hoping I’ll find my purpose. I am Kevin.
I got up and grabbed the last shirt I had hanging in the closet, with the pants, socks, and underwear that had been thoughtfully laid out for me the night before in preparation for this morning. Everything else was already packed up, loaded, and ready to be moved. There isn’t a piece of furniture left in the place now – nothing but these white walls, a wrinkled pile of blankets that would make the drive with us to our new home, the clothes I needed for today, and my wife Kimberley still asleep on the floor in the middle of the heap. I’d go into town today for the very last time, close down the accounts, say any final goodbyes required to any neighbors I would see in between point A and point B…and if I was lucky enough, tomorrow would actually be different than today for once. To say I was excited to start my new job would be a massive understatement – I was bursting at the seams ready to put the many miles of road underneath my tires, leave this place I called home for good, and pursue whatever comes next.
I am cautious by nature. I try not to do anything in a rush in fear of getting something wrong, or even worse, having some kind of preventable accident. A lot of this ties into my depression of course – an accident is okay – a preventable accident, even dropping my keys on the floor when I could have caught them, can send the entire day into a tailspin. That’s if I’m lucky and it doesn’t send me into a complete week of chaos. I’ve been down this road so many times in my life that I’ve learned the more I can do to simply avoid what will tank my mood, the better – and that’s the path I choose to ride on, every day. Far better to take five extra minutes to be careful about doing something than rush & have to do it over again, or cut off a finger if you’re the woodworking type. Being cautious has kept me alive for years.
I recognize symbols and patterns and signs where no one else does, and I do my best to ignore them. The more I acknowledge them, the more I feel the need to communicate what I see, hear, and feel with the rest of the world around me. The rest of the world does not understand this type of thinking – they label it crazy without a second thought. Like I told you earlier, fuck labels – we are who we are, period, full-stop. I keep what I know to myself, because there isn’t anyone I know that would ever understand it all. Not even Kim, my beloved wife. She’s a wonderful person, but a thinker she is not. She’s the last to ever judge anyone though, and she’s an incredible sounding board for me personally; she might not understand a single word that I’m saying, but she’ll listen. Sometimes that’s all the comfort I need, and it’s come to be the only comfort I ever really seek out. If no one has ever been able to understand or make sense of the thoughts in my head, including myself, then I’ll take a partner who is always willing to listen. Regardless of what I say or what I do, Kim has always been there for as long as I can remember.
As I pulled the car out of the driveway and made my way downtown, I was feeling that familiar early morning freshness mixed with a sense of renewal – I was on my way to better things. After an easy day of tying up loose ends, I’d be on my way to the life I had always felt like I was supposed to be living from day one. I rolled up to my usual left turn and found it littered with construction – I was going to have to take an alternate route just to get downtown today by circling around through the back by taking the highway. These aren’t the kind of signs I’m normally talking about, but they kind of are too. I instantly recognized that taking a different route meant a different routine…and normally, that puts me on edge immediately…I become hyper-aware of my surroundings and examine everything for potential dangers I wouldn’t normally encounter. This morning, I tried to put all that aside and enjoy my final trip into the downtown core, even if that meant a few extra miles. It was sunny – super bright for the morning, to the point where I could sometimes barely see the road. I had granola bars with me on the passenger seat, a hot coffee in the console – and a new life on the horizon. I turned the on the radio at random to find R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” playing on the station, turned it up loud, and pushed down on the gas pedal. Every second I spent on my old life right now was a waste of the time I had in the next to follow, and I was more than ready to finish this current chapter.
The last days of any job has got to be one of the most excruciating moments that we can go through – is there anything more pointless? I would fill out my final forms, say my final goodbyes, and I wouldn’t even remember this place in less than a year’s time – there was nothing redeeming to be found here, and as a result, every day, I’ve found myself completely devoid of purpose. This year, I would change. I would practically dance my way back out into the parking lot and the bright burst of sunshine with a renewed sense of freedom that I had never known before, and pursue my own dreams, finally at long last. Five o’clock couldn’t come fast enough, but once it did, I was loaded up & ready to go, out the door within seconds – this past who-knows-how-long spent in the world of accounting & numbers & bullshit had come to its end – and though I hadn’t written a single, solitary word yet – this was the moment that I became a writer. I would pursue my own dreams with the pen as my sword, and carve out a new life.
As I put the keys into the car, a nice shiny purple one of some sort that Kim had picked out in celebration of the upcoming move and our new life ahead, I took one last look at the overhead sign that read “The Bottom Line – Full Accounting Services” – honestly, I couldn’t have been happier to drive away. There was no person on the inside of those doors that I would miss, there was no customer so life-changing that I’d want to remain in contact. I had spent years here, day after day, and I couldn’t wait to leave it all behind forever. I turned the keys in the ignition and felt the roar of the engine spring to life, echoing the spark & vigor I wanted to drive away from this building with – and like an immature teenager quitting their very first job, I took the extra time to leave a big rubber patch in the parking lot as I stomped the gas pedal onto the floor and began to head towards my future. The sense of freedom was immediate as I turned out of the parking lot and back towards the home I knew for the final time, ever.
It’s a feeling that you want to stay forever, and that’s what I was bent on creating in my life, permanently. I’d spent far too many years working towards someone else’s dreams and goals, but never my own. I wanted to build the life I was meant to lead and actually live it. With the windows down and the sun shining like it was destined to illuminate the pathway forward, the feeling of freedom at 5:00 hit different today; it was like I could smell change in the air like it was being cooked in the delis and restaurants that I was passing by in our shiny new purple car. While I wish I could tell you that it lasted forever, an endless row of taillights coming up ahead of me in the thick of the downtown core proved I was still trapped in the cycle of the daily grind, if only for a few moments longer. Taking a more involved look at the construction and lineup of chaos, dirt, and machines in front of me as I slowed the car down to assess the situation, there’s no doubt that it looked like I’d be trapped for more than a minute or two. Any other day, maybe that would have been okay. Maybe I would have enjoyed a bit more time to think and clear my mind on the way home from the office. You know how we kind of both simultaneously absorb the information from our day after it’s over, and begin to start the process of forgetting it just enough so that we can somehow do it all again the next day? Those moments. They’re so much more important than we realize…without that calm & that clarity, even if it’s achieved from the pour of a stiff Jack Daniels or large glass of wine at the end of the day, I mean – it is crucial to our survival. We need some kind of closure to the events we go through, so that we have room to process the next, and so on.
Not today though – today needed to be different. Today symbolized a new kind of freedom that I had never known, and thus had to be treated accordingly. I cranked the wheel around to the right after realizing the calamities of constructing and building new residential homes would keep the traffic piled up for blocks & blocks throughout the city streets, and began to make my way back to the highway stretch that brought me to work in the first place today. I should have been thinking about which way I was going more, but I was excited from finishing the final day of a job that meant nothing to me, and simply drove. If I had thought about it more, I would have remembered from the morning’s drive in that there was no hope of taking this route back home afterwards. Normally, I would have been frustrated, and likely berated myself a bit for not thinking out the situation in-full, but today it didn’t matter – today was about embracing a new freedom for myself, my family, my career, my life…and it had already started. An extra block or two through the side streets would put me right onto the highway, and though it would be a bit more of a roundabout way of getting home, the added time was going to be okay – there wouldn’t be another reason to ever drive these roads again, so perhaps it was best to just enjoy the ride.
For the incredible sea of taillights I’d seen only moments before, it was like every vehicle in the city had needed to be downtown for some reason today, and the highway was strangely clear for it being at the end of a weekday work-day for the majority of people living there. Suited me just fine. I pushed the pedal back down on the gas and eased the purple beast onto the highway, quickly finding the top gear, and taking in the moment. As cliché as it was, the wind rushing through the cab of the car and my hair was damn exciting, and felt like the newfound freedom I achieved was flowing through the aura of the atmosphere all around me. It felt like things were finally on their way to being how they were meant to be…like the life I always knew was waiting for me had arrived to wrap me in the embrace of its wide open arms of opportunity, possibility, and the potential for whatever may come next. That was all that was important to me now – whatever comes next. ‘The past’ is just a quaint label for the things we’ve already done; the future is undefined, exciting, unpredictable, and completely unknown. Especially in this situation – up until this point, most of anything I’d written was a series of numbers on spreadsheets that have no artistic value or merit, and contribute nothing meaningful or positive to the world – and I was about to become a writer? I’d written the occasional short story or two in school if I remember correctly…a few musings on my computer over the years to come that I’d never follow through on or start enough to feel like the ideas needed finishing – but a new career, as a writer? I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all – what on earth was I thinking? Was I thinking? Maybe that was the real problem. Where doubt was most assuredly supposed to creep in, relief made itself known instead, and the comfort of the unknown provided a more enticing feeling than anything I’d experienced in the past ever could through nostalgia or memory. I needed a change – not just a little, but a lot – this was survival.
As I contemplated my new life to come, a couple cars sped past on the other side of the highway, and way up ahead I could see the taillights of a few more, and the length of a long-haul truck carrying some kind of construction machinery…some kind of dirt digger on big massive wheels from the looks of things. Had I been thinking more clearly about actually driving as opposed to all the existential life-stuff, I likely would have recognized the fact that you really don’t ever even see trucks on this stretch of the highway, because most of’em can’t squeeze underneath the low ceilings of the old bridges that lead towards the residential areas of the city outside of the downtown core. Do any of us really think about the logistics of truck driving while we’re out on the road? To be fair – I don’t think that we do – I think we just drive. I think a ton of life is completely automated by our routines, and we act on most things without thinking.
I closed the gap between the big-ass truck-trailer combo and the new purple car, right as we were both about to head underneath one of those way too-low bridges, just as I realized there was no way the massive height of the gigantic digger on the back would never be able to make it without colliding into the cold, unforgiving concrete structure above – and I gunned it, right as I heard the crashing. A sound like I’d never heard before, and a feeling like the whole crash went straight through me like a subsonic shockwave sent out from some kind of explosion. The truck and I had practically been side by side – I had just barely made it around from the back of him and passed through just in time, luckier than perhaps I’d ever been for that one crucial moment in time. I suppose I should have stopped or pulled over, but the shock of the moment took hold, and I continued to drive on, thankful to have avoided the carnage and observing the sparks & small flames of the truck’s engine & heap of twisted metal in the rearview. It looked horrific – the whole mid-section of the bridge was taken out, leaving an enormous gap that couldn’t be traversed, and a pile of wreckage & rubble below that would take days to clear out. For the amount of grating sound the moment generated, the pure force I could feel from the impact, and the sheer ton of damage I was watching fade behind me in the rearview mirror, it was somehow like it hadn’t even happened at all…like I was already learning about the event from watching the nightly news. Unscathed as far as I could tell, I drove home quickly, doing my best to forget the accident behind and scurry far away from the responsibility I had as a witness to it all. Staying one more second in this city was not an option any longer, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna risk my new life awaiting to give the police a series of never-ending statements that won’t confirm anything other than: Truck. It smashed.
Admittedly, as I pulled into the driveway of the home I’d been living in with Karen for as long as I could remember, I found it intensely strange that my pulse didn’t even seem to register at all, let alone be racing as much as it should have been after such a close call. I noticed it, but whatever – I was home. An empty box of nothingness, that only now held my beautiful wife and a scattered pile of blankets before the big move – all it would take would be one more sleep, I’d open my eyes, and we’d be off to our brand-new life. I put the car in park, grabbed my briefcase, and headed towards the front door, grabbing my keys from my pocket to let myself in for that final time. I hit the car alarm to arm it before the last sleep, and for whatever reason, it didn’t do the beep-beep thing it’s supposed to do to signal that the system is on and protecting the vehicle. “Battery must be dying,” I muttered to myself as I turned back towards the driveway to walk back & get a better signal for the alarm to register. I clicked and clicked but it wouldn’t turn on. I finally got around the corner to see the car sitting there in the driveway, right where I parked it, waiting to be alarmed so that it could rest for the night and carry us on our journey forward tomorrow. I pointed the clicker directly at it, pressed down, and heard it beep twice as it was supposed to, brightening up the car for a moment as the side signal lights flashed as well to prove that the alarm was functional and working. It was already much darker outside now after the full trip home, but that quick surge of brightness managed to really shed light on the car, and for a moment, I stood there just to admire it. I didn’t give Karen any input into the decision, I told her to buy whatever it was she wanted to buy for that new life we had waiting for us, and to buy whatever she thought would take us both to it the most quickly. She did a tremendous job. Not only was it fast, but it handled like a dream. So smooth on the road. Were it not for such a great car, chances are I wouldn’t have been so lucky speeding through the accident earlier on. Moments of reflection like this sure make a guy take stock of where they are and how lucky they are to have lived to tell the tale…part of me just wanted to live within that moment and preserve it forever.
I took one last look at the extraordinarily sparkle of the beautiful blue finish of the paint job it had – what a knockout color to have chosen. “Say what you want about her taste in men,” I said out loud to myself, “her taste in cars is freakin’ exquisite.” I headed back out towards the door of the house, this time to find the door unlocked and ready for me to go straight in. Strange, I thought – I was sure that I hadn’t unlocked it yet, but perhaps Karen had risen from her sleep after hearing me drive in, and was kind enough to open the door for me. I went into the house, found her still asleep, removed my clothes, and fell asleep beside her. Technically, it was still early in the day, probably pushing no later than seven, but the dark had come quicker than it usually seemed to, and rather than fight off the extreme desire to start my new life right at that moment , I chose to drift off beside my amazing wife, and wait til morning.