I woke up today, just as I did yesterday, and the day before that, and switched on the radio and heard the usual bullshit from broadcasters, and politicians, and people trying to convince me to buy whatever theory they were peddling in that hour, my brain shut down, because, honestly, it has reached overload, nothing more can go in, and nothing much comes out, I have nothing to say, no words left to speak, I keep a silent vigil in my mind, alert to the lies, the exaggerations, the vanities and cruelties of the world, all of which leaves me numb, and full of fear, there is no gate through which I can escape this network, unless I kill myself on the train track, or throw myself from the nearest rooftop, neither of which is within my power, because I don’t wish to die, I wish to live, but by my own rules, not those imposed upon me by the plutocrats and oligarchs who run this tattered globe.
I woke up today, made myself a cup of coffee, spoke to the cat, who looked at me with those large green eyes, ‘how simple your life is, my pet’, I told her, and she nodded her agreement, for she does not have to listen to the crap or slave like a husky for a scrap of freedom in which to enjoy the fruits of her labours, fruits small and unripe, bitter tasting fruits, meagre, by comparison to those savoured and enjoyed by the rich and powerful. I put on my old black coat and shoes and left my small room and walked to the bench in the cemetery outside my building where I sat and smoked a cigarette and thought fleetingly about the world news – who is trying to become president, who goes to jail for what scandal, what will happen when the taxes are cut and the interest rates rise, and why we are facing yet another period of doom and gloom in our national economy – all of these matters passed through my brain, back and forth, see-saw like, calibrating and recalibrating my fears, my anxieties, my paranoid speculations, until one subject oppressed me above all others, not, as you might think, my intense loneliness, a man, living by himself in a room, driving a bus by day, and by night, under the light of a small lamp, writing his thoughts down in a diary for nobody to read. The issue that got inside my head, and gave me a headache was Ronald Rump, that megarich tycoon who has fooled half the world into believing he’s a good guy who will make an excellent president.
A neighbour sat down on the seat next to me, and chewed on an Entenmann’s doughnut, which made me more than a little uncomfortable, the sight of her lips moving – I dread and fear women, and their motions and emotions cause sickness and unease in my soul. It has been ever thus. This lady she felt she could open a conversation, uninvited. ‘Whaddya think of Ronald Rump’. I looked at her in alarm and said nothing. It was as if she was reading my mind. ‘Don’t you think he’s the world’s biggest shyster?’ It is my sincere belief that Ronald will bring the world to ruin, but was I willing to let the stranger be party to my inmost thoughts? No. Rather, let her have the opposite of the truth of my opinion, and so I said, ‘he’s the saviour of mankind and will bring much richness and satisfaction to the United States of America and even beyond that to the rest of the planet.’ She looked at me as if I had two heads, then returned to chewing her doughnut. ‘You’re nuts,’ she told me, in between bites. Continuing in this contrary vein, I told her that Ronald was a man with an enormous compassion and that he had the interests of the little man at heart. He would find jobs for the unemployed and allow vulnerable young women to carry weapons with which to protect their honour. ‘He ain’t on the side of us women, he don’t believe in abortion rights,’ the doughnut muncher next to me said. ‘I think you will find,’ I replied, that Mr Rump has stated that there will be exceptions to the abortion laws, granted he has not yet stated what those exceptions will be, but the concessionary nature of his statement shows him to be a man of emotional girth, and responsiveness to the plight of the female.’
The doughnut licker looked at me from behind thick lenses, her blue eyes magnified to grotesque proportions, and said, ‘you ain’t one of his campaign spies are you? Cos you know he sends his people out to find out what the public thinks of him.’ I tapped my nose as if to say, ‘sure’. She got up and walked away, and I saw she was wearing brown polyester pants, the sort that those ladies of large proportion wear to conceal flaccid forms. I continued my musings, disturbed by the brief interlude with the neighbour, and I tortured my mind with the notion that Mr Rump would become president of the United States. Someone said the solution is to hold your nose and vote for X, but that didn’t stop the notion of Rump from aggravating my nerves. I got up, left that place of death, and crossed the road to the corner store where I went in and bought a pack of cigarettes. In the back of the store, a TV set blared, and there is Mr Rump himself, talking to a reporter, saying how much he despises Madame X, the only one with the balls to criticise him these days. ‘Think he’ll make it?’ I asked the storekeeper – Mr Wise – who turned to look at me with small, distrusting eyes. ‘Yeah, sure he will, he’s the only hope for America, so why wouldn’t he.’
I left that store and walked back to my building. Letting myself in the door, I crept up the narrow stairwell and found the entrance to my tiny room opened. Police were inside searching my belongings. The cat was gone. I demanded to know what was going on. The younger cop looked at me like I was dirt on his shoe, he said they had a warrant to search the premises on suspicion of conspiracy to harm a prominent member of the political class. They found nothing. I wondered whether it had been polyester pants who had told the cops a bullshit story because she didn’t like the look of my face, or was it the storekeeper, who didn’t appreciate my question about Ronald, maybe he thought I was questioning the legitimacy of the great man and had rung the cops with a cock and bull story about me being a danger to the public? All this, mind you, while Ronald is heir presumptive, and not even elected yet. What will the world be like when he is on the throne?
When the cops left – grudgingly and with no apology – the phone rang. It was a voice I recognised, that of my brother Tom. He sounded angry. His woman had left him again. He wanted to come by – I said no, not this time. The last time he was drunk and started an argument about time. I told him that time didn’t exist, and he said it did, and that we measure all of our lives by time, and I said that’s just it, we estimate using this false idea because we don’t know how to handle eternity.
‘Who you voting for Ed?’ My brother asked, and with the edge of aggression in his voice, I could tell he was drunk already at two in the afternoon. I said, Madame X.
‘You mean you ain’t voting for Ronald? What the hell’s the matter with you? I thought you didn’t like women.’
‘She’s not a woman, she’s a politician,’ I said.
‘What’s the difference?’
‘Major,’ I said. ‘Anyway, I have nothing against women per se, just don’t want them on me.’
Tom laughed and called me a faggot, which I’m not. I have few sexual inclinations one way or the other, and that suits me fine. Human relationships knot you in pain and discomfort, and that I can do without.
After I had put the phone down, I went out on the roof and smoked another cigarette. The apple tree next door was laden with apples, I knew what would happen to them. One by one they would drop off the tree and fall onto the roof to rot, slowly. No one would pick them up or eat them, and the old woman whose garden it was, would hardly notice her tree’s discomfort, overburdened with unwanted fruit.
I knew in my heart then that Rump would win by an overwhelming majority.