The Lucky Ones

She envied the people that went truly insane. The ones who finally snapped because the pressure of functioning in this society as an “on the grid” member is too great to withstand any longer. So they just let themselves be crushed. Born from the rubble of themselves as “the crazies.” Branded by those still in their secreting societal vesicle as “the unfortunate.” The ones who weren’t strong enough to survive–a vast tumble from the “accolade” of being deemed a “good citizen.” Which is to say, “productive.” Except that what constitutes productivity is to be determined by the oppressor. And the oppressor damn sure doesn’t think that “sitting around” creating “art” all day is that. One supposes that’s how some people end up on the streets. But maybe the truth is, the “discards” who take to the streets are surviving in their purest form. As humankind was intended to be: living off the land. Alas, capitalism and “progress” saw fit to render the land as a concrete jungle in even the most suburban of places. And the only way one can seem to find the genuinely pastoral is by dipping into the depths of Southern France. But then, who has the money for that when they’re too busy fishing through the garbage cans of San Francisco? 

That’s what Elaine pondered as she took her daily dreaded route through the Tenderloin, ignoring the sneers and snickers, or even the breaking into of parked cars as she ambled down the sidewalk to get to her apartment at the end of Ellis Street. Every evening when she ran up three flights of stairs, locked the door behind her and bolted it, she said a silent prayer of thanks to a nonexistent god. As terrified as she was of them, she wondered if she might one day become one of them. Perhaps that’s what, in part, scared her about them. Or perhaps what she secretly admired. That level of freedom that comes from going absolutely batshit, turning positively rabid as you bare your teeth venomously at societal expectations. She knew, of course, that she couldn’t ever say this out loud to anyone: that she envied the homeless. They would scold her for being a naive little white bitch, trying to glamorize and romanticize something “horrible.” But Elaine, these days, couldn’t imagine anything more horrible than the side effects of bending to society’s will. 

Every day, as she took the bus to her middling office job at a publishing house she worked at on Second Street, all she could see around her was the misery on people’s faces, the barely stifled resentment that suggested they were all equally as tortured and tormented by the setup of life as she was. Yet there was something within them that separated them from the “crazies” that comprised the homeless population. They had decided to chew their cud and adopt the bovine aura that came with an overpriced apartment and the occasional ability to afford something “decadent,” like a middle class trip to Hawaii or the latest version of some Apple product. This was it. These were the options. Swallow the pill and put on the facade required, or take off your already noticeably peeling mask and let your inner “crazy” rage. Go join the others in the Land of the Tenderloin, where “primordial” doesn’t even begin to describe what goes on. 

Drugs, murder, rape, violent brawls over territory–these were the daydreaming fantasies she had of the Tenderloin while she sat at her desk at work, reading an aspiring writer’s odious book proposal, designed to appeal to someone as “corporate” as Elaine, therefore coming across as grotesquely obsequious. She wanted to vomit all over every manuscript, a sentiment that grew within her each day. Until finally, it happened. She did just that. Vomited on the slush pile. It was as loud, boisterous and deluging as she had hoped, prompting a number of coworkers to run to her cubicle to find out what was going on. When they came around the corner to see what was happening they all backed up in revulsion. Soon after, she was called to her boss’ office to be “politely asked” to go home if she wasn’t feeling well.

Elaine laughed and said, “Mr. Chauncey, I’m never going to ‘feel well’ in this place, and if you honestly think I should stay home until I do, then I probably ought to never come back here to read any more vomit-inducing submissions.”

Mr. Chauncey’s jaw practically dropped to the floor. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing from her. “Elaine I–up until now, you’ve never seemed unhappy.”

Elaine sneered. “I’ve never seemed like anything, because you pay me to be docile. It’s a built-in part of the already nominal wage, right?”

He couldn’t find any words to respond, leaving Elaine the chance to leave. “Best of luck to you, Mr. Chauncey,” she called out to him at the door. 

He returned with pity, “It’s more likely that you’re the one who’s going to need the luck, dear.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me, honey, I’m about to become part of the lucky ones.” 

So it was that Elaine proceeded to take her rightful place there later that week. Sure, she might have played into the whole squatter’s rights thing at her apartment, but why bother keeping anything from a world she could no longer pretend to function in? She was going to let the crushing weight finally snap her. She would be liberated into urine-drinking insanity, where nothing matters and everything is free–including the pain you’re expected to pay for in Capitalism’s realm.

Initially, she thought she might be murdered by the end of the first night–or laughed right out of the tent she had diligently worked to assemble all day (her last indulgence in bourgeois comforts–for she had bought it from REI). The dirty, rough-hewn men jeered at her, and she feared sexual assault was imminent, which is precisely why she had come prepared with one of the kitchen knives she took along with her from the chopping block she had purchased from Ikea, back when she was a good little ducky who swallowed society’s numbing pills.

But after a few days, it was as though she had transcended into one of them. Accepted. It was solely to the others–the sort of people who embodied what she once was–that they were hostile. After all, there’s so little terrain left in San Francisco (and on Earth) that hasn’t been overtaken by some cockamamie pursuit in service of making money. One has to protect what’s left at all costs.

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