“I don’t think I believe in any of this anymore,” I say, looking out the window, as we pass a cluster of three fast food restaurants, an oil change place, a check cashing center, a grocery store and a Wal-Mart.
“Don’t believe in what?” she asks, shifting into second.
“Any of it. I don’t want to be a part of our society anymore. I’d rather go insane living outside of it than go insane living in it…look at them…they all look so miserable.”
“Maybe you’re just miserable. You sound like a teenager.”
“Good…that’s about when it started going downhill, anyway. I didn’t want to be a so-called ‘responsible member of society’ then and I sure as hell don’t want to now.”
“So what do you want?”
This empire to meet it’s fate and collapse on itself, weighed down by it's decadence and false idols, like the Egyptians and Romans before us. To go backwards, so far back that we’re operating under a barter system and waiting weeks and months to hear back from drifting lovers, so far devolved and detached that our society actually fosters the discovery of the self, if that’s possible. To run off into the woods before their jaws get any more of my soul’s marrow. Everyone to strip naked in the streets and fuck indiscriminately like the dogs that we are. To fall in love every single day with someone new who will eventually fade into oblivion, a myth passed down from lie to lie, selected pieces of their fabled soul swirling with my own for the rest of whatever existence I envision next. Something enduring.
“A slice and a beer sounds good right about now.”
“This place hasn’t changed since high school,” she says, shaking cheese onto her sweating golden pizza. The slick tablecloths are checkered red-and-white. The same short-haired Italian woman wearing an apron looks on from behind the counter, smiling whenever our eyes meet. “So you never answered my question.”
“What do you want to do…in life?”
“I told you…living the dream as we speak.” I hoist up my limping slice and flash a smile.
“Be serious for just one second.”
“I don’t know…does it really matter?”
“Listen to yourself.”
“Seriously…what happens when your tits start to sag? What if the Fed went broke tomorrow and money became nothing but kindling and toilet paper? Who would you be and what would you want then?”
“That’s a cop out.”
“So is letting the world make a whore out of me,” I say, tipping back the last foamy remnants, twirling the empty and looking at her through it with one eye, her face warped and green through its lens.
I want to kick back my chair and run. Run from everything — her, the old Italian woman, the banks, the cops, the phone lines, the houses, the cars, the shopping plazas, the corporations, the mom-and pop shops, the debts, the credits, the network news, the clothes, the make-up, the perfume, the bad acting, the good acting, the notions of romance and lust, the cartoon hearts, the aspirations to be sitcom characters, the adjective ‘hot’, the office parks, the penthouses, the crack dens, the cannibalism, the greed, the envy, the hatred, the whole fucking charade. I’ll take my chances out in the wild, thank you very much. At least out there they flash their teeth and growl before they jump for the throat. Just run, man, run.
Instead, I slide my only wrinkled dollar into the jukebox and play Katrina & The Waves, like I used to back in high school, and coax her into dancing about the empty place, gyrating and and leaping around as if we felt like Katrina sang, as if the Italian woman weren’t rolling her eyes, as if we were in love, as if nothing else mattered but right here, in this very moment. As if everything we knew about the world could end right now, and it would be alright.
As the manic song tails off, she draws herself so close that I can taste her breath, butting her forehead to mine.
“Don’t let them do this to you.”