The storm of life

The coming of the storm had been broadcast with as much fervor as doomsday prognosticators announcing the Second Coming of Christ.

And when you had given up all hope of its arrival, from out of the black sky suddenly flashed the lightning and the thunder crashed.

You had been waiting for the storm like a husband awaits the arrival of a plane carrying his wife who has been away too long. 

You hoped your wife would come down with the rain.

Admittedly she would be drenched but it was like when you lived in Miami Beach and she was taking the bus home from work (where was the car? in the shop perhaps) and suddenly the sky opened and the rain came down and she took shelter in a bar near the bus stop and phoned you to say she would be late for cocktail hour because she was going to wait in the bar for the storm to end and you grabbed an umbrella and walked to the bar in the rain and sat down next to her and you had several cocktails and waited for the storm to pass.

And on this night, thirty years later as you listen to the rain on the roof and the wind blow, you wait for the phone to ring so you can grab an umbrella and walk to the bar and be with your wife until the storm passes, but the phone doesn’t ring and you sit there and listen to the rain. And you wait.

What are you waiting for?

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My own private nursing home

Nurse Bella lets me sleep till noon. I then have my orange juice and coffee. I turn on the iPad and scan the morning papers. 

The phone rings. The bank again. Every day now. Collection department. Several months behind on my loan. I’ve lost track how many and how much. They remind me. I haven’t got it, I say. All my money is gone. The two hundred and fifty thousand dollar portfolio. My wife’s pension and social security. Dust to dust, I tell them, ashes to ashes, everything went at once. Hospitals and nursing homes got it all. I’m old and broke. Like Hemingway said, ‘A man goes broke gradually, and then all at once.’ I tell them I only have enough money for food. (And gin and Jack Daniels and brandy, but I don’t tell them that part.) They tell me pay up or else. Or else fucking what? I say. They hang up.

An hour later, another bank calls. They keep calling. I’m old, I tell them. My wife is dead. If you want to dun an old man for a lousy thirty thousand dollars which is a minuscule fraction of a penny to a billion dollar bank, then go ahead, keep calling and I’ll keep telling you the same thing: I don’t have the fucking money. They hang up. But they’ll call tomorrow at the same time.

I call a bankruptcy lawyer and he says he’ll make all my debts vanish. No shit, I say, just like that, huh? He says, Absolutely, just send me a check for eighteen hundred dollars and the debts will disappear. How the hell, I tell him, can I write you a check for eighteen hundred dollars when I have no fucking money in the bank? He hangs up. I’ve noticed a trend here. If you say the word fucking to creditors and bankruptcy lawyers, they hang up on you. Good to know.

Before I know it, it’s cocktail hour. Where has half the day gone.

At five o’clock in the afternoon, Bella and I have cocktails and treats—catnip ‘Temptations’ for her and Tostitos and salsa dip for me. And quietly flows the gin, a dash of tonic and the comforting clink of ice cubes. I slide a TV dinner in the oven. Sky-high cholesterol, forty percent sodium. Who gives a shit in the hermit hovel.

To paraphrase Thomas Bernhard: Susan’s dead, nothing matters.

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Thank you Rod Serling

How to save the life of a lonely widower over a long, solitary ‘holiday’ weekend

Imagine, if you will, a widower living alone in a bungalow in Upstate New York. He is going out of his mind with thoughts of his dead wife. He doesn’t know if he can survive the long weekend. Then, purely by chance, he turns his TV to the Sci-Fi channel, where he discovers a marathon of continuous, nonstop episodes of The Twilight Zone.

The award-winning series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, was created by Rod Serling, who wrote more than 80 of the 156 episodes. Rod Serling was a man of brilliant and unlimited imagination, sadly a chain smoker who died in 1975 at the age of 50. [Rod Serling was a U.S. Army paratrooper with the 11th Airborne in World War II who saw an unforgettable amount of death in the Philippines — but that’s a story for another time.]

Let us return to our lonely widower in the bungalow in Upstate New York, where, incidentally, Rod Serling was born and died, respectively, in Syracuse and Rochester, New York.

The ever-bereft widower (it’s been three years for godsake!) spends the entire weekend — how many days? two, three, he doesn’t know — watching back-to-back episodes of The Twilight Zone, consuming countless shots of gin and becoming swept up in an other-world of ‘reefer madness.’ He truly, and as far as he knows, enters The Twilight Zone.

He becomes the lonely astronaut marooned on a distant planet; the writer who can bring people back to life by describing them to a tape recorder; the bitterly unhappy actor who becomes the blissful character he’s playing in a movie; the loser who can stop time with a magic stopwatch…

And from watching these episodes, our widower — anti-hero, madman, loser, alcoholic, solitary inhabitant of a planet that in his case is the planet Earth — comes, in an epiphany-like haze, to the startling and possibly life-saving conclusion (at least for the time being) that if he cannot be with his wife in reality because she is dead and unreachable and always will be since oblivion is an unreachable destination, then he will be with her in his own gin-soaked purple haze now known as — thank you Rod Serling — The Twilight Zone.

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