big rig exhaust hangs like grey ghosts in the slant light of morning. the roadside shrubs are all thirsty, reaching upward for rain that never quite makes it to the tough earth: dirt and thistle are the only contenders in these drought days. the stink of just laid, hot asphalt reminds me of fathers and husbands; of good men, and not so good men; of men and women working for a few dollars that meant something more a couple decades ago:
for some, it becomes easier, and somehow more rational, to buy whiskey or beer than to pay bills, and sometimes the bottle just isn’t big enough. they find that drowning the patterned, day-to-day tragedies starts to contain simple meanings that are easier to swallow than working for very little, for very long, for something that feels unholy and unnecessary.
knowing more, in some fashion, is a hindrance, as it’s never enough to solve the problems that are too close to us; that we helped create.
yet, those who have the big enough bottles want to crucify these individuals while they themselves piss and moan of tiny troubles. of dilemmas that aren’t at all: of dust and heat; sweat and spoil; broken AC’s and garden hoses; loose doorknobs; crooked trashcans; rust on the concrete; thin coyotes scavenging their old hunting grounds that are now half-vacant business parks, or housing developments with almost identical names for every street, court, and nondescript circle, lined by tan, brown, and beige houses. the complacent ones sit in armchairs, flapping gold wings with great fervor, while their asses never rise except to tyrannize those citizens who are not equipped to deal with a realization that doing what’s right to get ahead is much harder of a sacrifice in a society that not only elevates, but champions, bad men, doing bad things, for unfounded dumb glories and petty war devices: war not only on a global scale, but a local scale; a human scale, where we cheat the cheated to give more to those who already have too much.
the unluckiest at life, those who fail at participating in an existence they cannot, and will not understand, will end up in programs, institutions, and hospitals that are underfunded; run by the underpaid. they will be treated for all manner of harmful chemical addictions, with more harmful chemicals (which eventually, they will also become dependent on) that are pimped by more complacent people who are more interested in far away vacations than sound health and honest solidarity with the human spirit. it would be wise to bet all the unfulfilling college degrees of all the unfulfilled professionals that the bigger lot of substance abusers became so because they were first addicted to love and decency; the idea of all things fine in life; the idea of possessing the same amenities that most people desire. but when these seemingly uncomplicated wants wane further from the common grace of human dignity, drugs, alcohol, and other vices work well for small periods to fill the dark gaps in heart and head, until finally the nights turn blue, glued to even darker days. it’s a hell that can only be understood from the inside. it’s a hell with unseen flames; without rules, or reason. it is the worst kind of war.
perhaps the long and the short of it is this: hope is an illusion. mankind’s biggest curse is that we are men. to avoid the gutters, jails, and hospitals, we must learn to become capable of anything we need to be capable of. we need to draw a good laugh whenever, and wherever, we can. we must tune in to the fact that life can bare its fangs at any unforeseen moment, at any one of us. we simply are not very kind to one another. our bravery is weak. we would rather knock our neighbors down just to elate our own pitiful egos, when it would be much easier just to be good.
the evil is not in our illness. the evil is the illness.
words and photos by Jay Halsey