Sunday, February 1, 2009

Are You Happy?

I'm not. Winter has always depressed me. Although I'm glad the syndrome has a name--SAD, or Seasonally Affected Disorder--in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and in spite of the fact that a lot of my friends seem to share my symptoms, this is a case where knowledge is not power.

SAD is a lot like depression. There's anguish, fatigue, endless procrastination, and a deep need to isolate from my fellow humans.

The economy isn't helping. I recently went to a financial seminar that, among other subjects, dealt with the effects of the present recession on the psyche. Again:L sadness, anguish and panic, a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness as my next egg vanishes.

This is normal, say the experts. Small (and large) investors have essentially been betrayed by the people to whom they had entrusted their money. I'm sure not all brokers are rotten sumbitches. Mine is a nice guy who for 12 years has been telling me things are peachy, and he never did say things were getting rotten I have a note from him dated a few months ago that reads :"Looked over yr. portfolio. Everything is FINE."

FINE, I guess, really means Fucked up, Irreversibly so, Negative returns, Errors on my part. I did not learn this secret acronym until very recently.

And of course these feelings of inadequacy and angst are un-American. Lets face it, we are supposed to be happy. Isn't this the greatest country in the history of the world? The one with the most comforts? More TV channels than anybody; stores bursting at the seams with goods and merchandise; a new regime upon whom we have heaped hopes that would make Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy blush. Being unhappy in the States is simply not an option.

Our expectations of comfort have taken a lickin'. Many of us are the product of the postwar years. We were told and believed that doing the right thing--working, saving, investing, spending--held the keys to a safe future. We neither knew nor understood the various machinations that enabled money to be made or lost. To our shame, we might even have been somewhat reticent to ask too many questions. We were greedy, trusting and foolish, a truly tragic combination of attitudes that made preying on us far too easy, and we were willing prey.

Here's installment 66 of Wasted Miracles'

When the Zulu returned, Comfort watched him hand the pipe to Josie, watched him light it. The girl sucked hard, the rock glowed a bright red in the glass bowl. She held the vapors in her lungs, reluctant to let go, and her body relaxed as if a length of steel had been removed from it. Her eyes found the Zulu’s and he lowered himself to a squatting position next to her. She said something Comfort could not hear, repeated it.
A small smile broke across the Zulu’s face and Comfort noted not for the first time that his employer’s teeth were extraordinarily numerous and amazingly white. The Zulu rose, searched a pocket, withdrew three small vials of drugs, handed them to the girl, dropped a book of matches on her lap. Then he signaled to Comfort and they both left the room.
“Patience,” he said, “wins out again.”
Comfort raised an eyebrow. “She told you?”
The Zulu nodded. “Of course. I knew she would.”
Comfort was impressed. “As usual, Dingane, you knew best.”
“Yes. I did.”
Comfort watched the Zulu climb the stairs ahead of him, watched the man’s ample rear, smiled thinly. The Zulu’s final gift to the girl would kill her, but that, in the end, would be preferable to all concerned. Certainly it would be better for her than dying without, racked by pain and sweating blood.
Comfort hoped she would not take too long to die, hoped her overdose would be quick and pleasurable.
Josie held the treasure in the palm of her hand. Her vision was blurred but she was cognizant enough to realize that her every problem had been solved, that unlimited happiness, total contentment and an end to her pain was in her grasp.
Deep in the recesses of her brain, a small insistent voice tried to cry out a warning, failed.
With the nail of her little finger, she scraped clean the bowl of the glass pipe, turned it over to dump any residue. She fumbled with one the vials trying to open it, finally stuck it in her mouth and pulled the stopper with her teeth. Carefully, she tipped a rock into the bowl. She struck a match, inhaled. The smoke hit her with the force of a fist. She dropped the pipe, watched uncaring as the nugget fell from the bowl, burned through her jeans and into the flesh of her leg. She sighed once deeply. Her hands unclenched and the two remaining vials rolled to the ground. With a monumental effort, she reached down to the floor, pushed them beneath the beanbag chair were they would be safe from harm. Then she smiled.

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