It may be the title to a catchy song by R.E.M., but I don’t feel fine.
It seems like every year that I have put this blog together tends to have a theme. 2014-2015 was mostly spent on laying out all of my notable experiences with or about women. This was done in part to get them into another medium besides memory, and also to analyze them. Even to present them as evidence as to why my romantic quest was hopeless and doomed from the start. In 2017, the theme was definitely about a sense of Zen. Well, if 2018 has a theme, it is anxiety and genuinely “real” worries and struggles that make the topic of this blog seem moot. I dislike typing about topics which don’t technically involve my love life or romantically themed musings, but it’s hard not to when it is something which effects everything in my life, including that. I touched upon it in “Dateless-Man vs. Life,” and suffice it to say, everything since has caved in.
Remember how I got that city job in October last year and kept fretting that I wouldn’t last past my year long probationary period? I mentioned in nearly article since how I was amazed I made it that far and could feel the ax fall at any time? Just weeks after my last article in September, it happened. I was only 3.5 weeks away from passing probation. I was late a few times and there were a few odds and ends I didn’t do perfectly, but there was no ONE reason why I was canned. Nor was there any warning. It was just another typical Friday, and my supervisor asks me to pause out for a moment. Nothing unusual, until she says the floor manager wants to see me. This only happens if there is a major technology problem, someone complained about me personally, or some other serious matter. I asked if I was in trouble; she said she didn’t know. Said floor manager then said I suddenly had a “meeting” scheduled in a room typically used to hand out checks on payday. A part of me wondered if it was something good, like an orientation thing since I was on month 11 of 12. But my gut knew it was bad, and I was right.
At this job, the mass firing of probationary employees once they hit months 9 to 11 is fairly routine. They literally hire more people than they have work space or locker room space for. There will always be a steady stream of newbies to replenish the ranks. And not even the union cares because either way, they get dues. On my own team I saw two other employees “vanish” once they hit months 9-10, and one of them took every overtime shift possible. For the sake of maintaining “morale,” nobody is told when someone is axed. After the hammer fell, the floor manager told me “not to make a scene” as I went back to my desk to shut things down and get my stuff. Looking back, I regret not shouting it from the rafters. What were they going to do? Fire me more? If they badmouthed me to future employers, that’s lawsuit territory.
To say it was a blow was an understatement. This was the first job I had in a decade which had any kind of figure. And at my age, it felt like my last chance. And now it was gone. I cleared some odds and ends afterward, and then spent about an hour or two at a public park just laying on a bench. It was a peaceful autumn day, amid the pigeons, trees, and at least one very large spider. If I could have willed myself to die in that moment, I’d have had no regrets. Unfortunately, dying isn’t that easy if you actually want to. I know. I’ve been depressed many times before, and suicide is something I have extensively researched. My dilemma is doing it in a way which is relatively painless without access to firearms or hospital grade drugs.
On top of this, my housing situation has gone to critical mass. As mentioned before, my slumlord of a landlord has been trying to evict my mother and I from our “new age tenement” apartment since May. My apartment features such massive violations such as plumbing that doesn’t work, a non-flushing toilet, black mold for 5-10 years, cracks all throughout the walls and ceiling, and spotty wire-work. But my mother and I have too many belongings, so it’s considered “hording” and grounds for eviction. But the real motivation is that my mother and I have been there long enough that our apartment is “rent controlled,” which means it is way below current rates. And as typical in New York and elsewhere, landlords are greedy bastards who look for any and every excuse to kick out people with low rent — legal or otherwise. Every day at work 1-3 people would call me with similar problems. One old woman lamented to me, “I never killed anyone, I don’t steal, what did I do to deserve this?” It almost broke my heart. But now here we were.
We have been given a devil’s bargain. Accept a buyout to move, with a chunk of money which at best might pay for rent elsewhere for 1-2 years, or possibly be evicted later in the year. Even if we threw out everything, the repairs are so severe that the entire apartment would likely need to be gutted and rebuilt board by board — and the landlord has no intention of paying for any storage or hotels, or being reasonable on deadlines. All of this has effected my already ill mother’s health (and frankly, sanity) even further, and she wants out. Every attempt at legal or agency health has failed, and some would say we’re lucky to have even gotten this far.
So, very likely before December, I will be out of the only home I have ever known. Our options elsewhere are slim and mysterious. My mother has family in California, and a pal in Florida. She has an eye on property in Pennsylvania. All three of those states have an equal if not higher cost of living than where we are now, and similar rents, with lower minimum wages. Florida still has the federal wage, which stands at $7.25 an hour (which has not kept up with inflation since 1968). All of those would require learning how to drive, and then still somehow finding a vehicle. On top of being in an unfamiliar city, state, town, and needing to obtain new ID and everything.
We even discussed splitting the buyout and going separate ways. It is an option, although a part of me does not want to abandon my mother. Everyone else has, and she is not well. I would worry about how she is doing. Most of her options involve relatives who don’t give a damn about her, or pals who are either older and/or in worse health than she is. In theory if I wanted to stick to the apartment no matter what, I could stall things. But then it wouldn’t be the landlord making her life miserable, it would be me. And I can’t do that to her.
The next 45-30 days are likely going to define my life, which is already in a downward spiral. It will be double or nothing, and every time I rolled those odds, I wound up with nothing. I was born with nothing, and I still have most of it. That’s an old joke, anyway.
The last time things looked this economically bleak was in December 2010 to about fall 2011. I was without a job, and unemployment ran out. Grandmother was dead, and her meager resources were no longer available. I didn’t get a job until July, and even then it was part time at that time. My bank account went down to about $12. As of now, it stands at $50. And I will admit, in 2011, I was often depressed and contemplated suicide many times. I can’t remember how many times I was tempted to leap in front of a train coming home from a job interview I already knew was going nowhere. And there were hot agonizing emotions about it. But then again, at that time I was in my late 20’s. I still felt entitled to things. I still thought I had a chance.
Now things are different. I am older and wiser. I see life as a burden, something I have to endure, not experience. My mother and I have lived through some rough times, and every time we survive one round, years down the road when we face worse, we all but reminisce about the past. That is what has happened now. We make jokes about the miserable times of 2016 or 2011 or 2010 or 2009 because they still were better than now. And I genuinely don’t want to see what comes next. I don’t want to see what comes next that is so bad, that sometime in 2019 or 2020 we crack wise and go, “Yeah, remember when we were in that crumbling moldy apartment being evicted and scared for our lives? Weren’t those the days?” I don’t want to go there. Life itself is not worth it enough for me to want to endure this.
My story does not have a happy ending, and never has. It has endured for two reasons; my masochistic sense that eventually the odds will tilt in my favor if only because no streak endures forever, and because I have been too cowardly or lacked the opportunity to end my own life. This time I have shed no tears. There is no hot emotion beyond occasional bursts of anger or frustration. I am now older than a slew of historical figures, from Jesus Christ to Jimmy Hendrix. I am old enough that nobody under the age of 65 would claim I was in “the prime of my life.” If this was the prime, then it’s time to cash out. I am just spinning my wheels and waiting for the end. And I feel it coming faster now. I honestly didn’t expect or want my sickly mother to still be alive for it, but then again, not one moment of my life has been what I expected.
It’s probably for the best that I never had a romantic relationship. I’m a basket case and eventually I would have made a woman miserable, needing to be reassured every day. It would have been nice to experience, but so would have no end of experiences. I suppose in theory, if we did move to another state, in theory this is one area where I might see an improvement. Outside of NY, people get nicer, so I hear. And suddenly I would be the interesting out-of-towner with the different accent. At least two people who reply here have suggested I move in part for this reason, so who knows. But honestly, dying a virgin is the least of my worries now.
Every time I feel I don’t have anything left to lose, I realize I did. About all that’s left is my mother, and my health. I fully expect one or both to go before I realize it. I am tired of losing. And I am tired of people who blame it all on attitude or a lack of skill or a lack of will. I have endured and survived without a father, through over 30+ years of abject poverty, through watching the only parent I have ever known die by inches for almost 20 of those years, through one demeaning job after the next, and through assuming blame thrown at me by either my mother, customers, clients, or teachers for things I never did and had nothing to do with. I left a dead end job I was very comfortable in for a better life, and just as I feared, it all turned the poison when I got close. There is willpower, and then there is stubbornness. There is no winning this match; I have already lost by TKO about 15 rounds ago. All I want is to leave the ring without being slapped down and drug back in for more torment. I just want to leave it behind me. Maybe that is why I always had a sense of humor and some inborn skill at devil-may-care, spontaneous comedy. I wanted to wrangle some enjoyment and happiness at my own miserable cesspool of a life. I want to die with a smirk and wisecrack on my face. I want to meet the Grim Reaper and tell him his ass looks pretty bony, he should work out more. Then I’d ask what kept him, since I’d been ready for about a decade or so. It’s like another song, this one from Blue Oyster Cult — I don’t fear the Reaper.
Whatever contacts or opportunities I have are in New York, and even those would be short term. Outside of that I have nothing, and no one. Just another bum who couldn’t cut it in the Big Apple who was flushed down somewhere else. I’ve seen the bottom of one city, I don’t want to see the bottom of more. Nobody who has to start over past 35 ever gets anywhere near anything decent. Not without some miraculous skill or luck, neither of which I have so far. And above it all I failed to bring my mother out of poverty, either. I failed her as much as I failed myself, if not more. I was always the person who was told had potential, but never was able to make it work. So what good was it?
I may still be where I am by next month, but after that, who knows? This isn’t good-bye, because that would mean I know it is good-bye. Maybe things will work out and I can regale everyone with angst about trying OkCupid in a new area or seeing if the dive bar has any women dumb enough to fall for a guy who sounds like a New York cop. But more than likely things will cave in and I may not post for a while. Life’s supposed to be about the awe and challenge of not knowing, right?
If you’re someone who was like me, an older male virgin looking for a shared voice in the wilderness, I am sorry I could not become a success story for you. I am sorry I could not find a way to escape my own pit and deliver what wisdom I discovered to you. I am sorry I couldn’t then package said wisdom in a few hundred well pitched words and charge you $9.99 for it or something similar for “personal coaching.” But maybe in my own way, I can fulfill another need. There is a lot of Pollyanna, saccharine baloney out there in the realm of dating advice for older virgins, with no one willing or brave enough to say or confirm those worst fears. That sometimes life doesn’t get better. That sometimes all you are and all you do won’t be enough, that you can still fail every time and wind up in the gutter. That such a fear is not as illogical or impossible as the Confidence Gurus (TM) will insist. And while I suppose it is worth it to try, always try knowing that failure is an option, whether you want it to be or not. Life breaks all of us in time, some sooner and worse than others. One day it will come for you, when you least expect it, in a form you never prepared for. I thought I’d already been properly broken, but every time a boot came to stomp the shards further when I wasn’t looking.
So I guess despite my lamentation near the start of this blog in 2014, my best role is that of Jacob Marley — someone to avoid becoming.
And I am still tired of being Jacob Marley.