We Possessed

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The
Possessed Man is not bad, nor is he good. He is terrified, alone – even
among friends and family. He works to support his family, but he
is not sure exactly what he does. According to his Job Description
he “administrates creative product strategies.”

Well.
Well.

The
Health Insurance covers his wife, who also works, and their two
kids, both under seven years of age and subject to all manner of
illness, injury and disease. Then there were the expensive pregnancies
themselves, and the drugs he must take daily to function at his
job without drinking to excess or veering blindly into violence.
Or bursting into tears. True, he’s covered by the Company Plan,
but loopholes open, legal fissures, fish-eye cracks through which
money falls. Deductibles. Co-payments. Fine print scams.

He
is no longer interested in his friends, the few that he maintained
since school, or in having friends at all. What good are they, except
to drink with, and he’s not supposed to drink while on his pills
– though he does anyway. And don’t think this is all confidential,
That They don’t know, the "They" at the Company, whoever
They might be, that he sees a head-drugger to stay on top of things.

He’s
thirty-seven and still paying off student loans.

Graduate
program at the University. MBA. Had to do it. Else how would he
have climbed to even his middling position on the ladder? He’s reached
his final rung. He knows he hasn’t the energy to kill, the visceral
burning to climb further. In fact, the remaining energies of his
life will be directed toward hanging on to the rung on which said
life precariously clings. Long, grim struggle to maintain his station
place on the limitless ladder to the sky. He can barely see the
people at the bottom, but he would need quite a powerful telescope
indeed to even glimpse the Movers and Shakers at the top.

The
kids will want to go to college. His wife, also a mediocrity, but
in a different position at a different Firm, a different profession,
will grow stronger, as women tend to do after fifty, after the sex
and procreation, after the body, just when he is starting to collapse.
Rapid rise from twenty to forty, slow descent, then at fifty the
rolling tumble. Unless you’re at the top of the ladder, in which
case fifty is not fifty, due to special treatments, physical training,
private cooks, drugs, vitamins, surgeries…

He’s
reached the end of things, he knows, but he must see it through,
at least until the kids are out of school. But of course college
won’t be enough. It wasn’t for him. He needed a Masters. His kids
will need Ph.D.s.

He
worries that somehow the system will fail him. It has not failed
him to this point, merely placed him at his rightful position in
the hierarchy. But he fears that the system, based on protocols,
laws, unwritten rules, tacit agreements and technologies that he
can never hope to understand, will collapse of its own weight and
intricacy. He does not understand how the Network works, or how
food gets to the supermarkets, or how the Parent Company trickles
his paycheck down the pyramid of subsidiaries, holding companies
and off-shore Think Tanks and through his department and into his
bank account.

He
does not understand the high level of partnership between the bank
and the corporation that owns it, which is the parent of the company
he works for, and where he will spend his days before being traded
or shuffled off in some arcane corporate deal or merger or is fired
outright. Laid off. And then what? Sending out rsums as he’d done
as a kid fresh out of college and as a young married man with his
expensive MBA?

He
fears limited resources, so he does not read the hard copy of the
City News, but browses the paper’s site on the Network. But when
does he have time to read this, working nine to five as he does,
which is not nine to five at all, but eight to six, seven, sometimes
ten o’clock? By which point he is exhausted, despite his clockwork
consumption of caffeine, nicotine, amyl nitrate.

And
when he does browse the news on the Network, he realizes how small
he and his life are, even within the Corporation, not to mention
significant role of the company in world economic affairs. Good
god. The Corporation is everywhere, in every country. Many of these
countries are at war with each other, and if the corporation’s interests
are seriously threatened, they might go to war against the Nation.

But
the Nation is ALREADY at war. He is glad that the Nation possesses
the most well-trained, technologically advanced military on the
planet. He had not gone to the last war, for he was in graduate
school. But the current war terrifies him, the destruction the Nation
wreaks upon its challenger with missiles paid for with his tax money.
He has been extremely nervous since the current war began. But he
does not doubt that after the slaughter the Citizens will be treated
to parades and celebrations on television and he will watch flag-waving
marchers outside his office window.

He
is neither angry nor satisfied with the affairs of the Nation any
more than he is or could be with the machinations of the Company.
It is all beyond his ken. He is, if not happy, grateful to be able
to rise each morning, take his pills, and begin the commute to his
job and arrive at his job, no matter how dull and repetitive. No
matter how trivial. No matter how wasteful of his time on earth.
The countless meetings, the talk. The talky-talk talk. The assignments
from superiors that he organizes and delegates to subordinates.

Often
he finds himself with nothing to do, no actual work, but virtual
work, deadlines planned for the future, the theoretical possibility
that truckloads of data might soon be dumped, like empty cans, on
his desk-top. So he spends many hours – those not spent attending
meetings – creating plans and memos and scenarios for the monstrous
jobs, the impossible tasks to come.

He
is attracted to his wife. They go to the gym. Together. He forces
himself to work out not to postpone the inevitable descent, but
to make the landing smoother. He’s seen many a man crash. But he
doesn’t have the same kind of energy for his wife, not like he used
to. Maybe once a week, if that. And of course she has her work too,
and they are both busy with the children.

He
feels, given the uncertainty of the world, that he should own a
gun, at least a rifle. The Police exist to protect his property,
not his family – anyway, they are always somewhere when you need
them, but seldom HERE, where they could save your life, if so inclined.
But he is confused by the City’s Byzantine gun laws, and he is not
comfortable letting the Government know he has a weapon. Should
the Government turn for the worse, the gun owners in the Database
will be the first ones visited by the police. But he fears being
caught with an illegal weapon, a mandatory jail term, and the end
of his career and all he’d strived for. Only those outside the system
can own unregistered weapons with impunity.

Truly,
he would rather be dead. He might live another forty years. Forty
years of this. Maybe fifty. Another reason to own a gun. He can
think of no simpler exit. Effective drugs are as illegal as guns,
and the medications the head-drugger prescribes won’t kill him.
Worse, they might put him to sleep, and he’d be caught holding the
bag – or pill bottle – trying to ESCAPE, a Federal crime. He worked
too hard for too long to lose it that way. If he must exit this
earth, he will buy a gun. On the black market. What and wherever
that is. If he makes the decision, it will not matter that his corpse
is found holding an illegal weapon. Of course, if he gets caught
in the act, before pulling the trigger, or chickens out, they will
send him away to an institution. Again, that would ruin him.

But
this is all hypothetical. Daydream talk. He is responsible for his
family. His children. His is the kind of ethic that was instilled
in his subconscious forcefully, frequently, and early on. It is
so part of his psyche that he cannot even attempt to fathom it.
Just accept it, passively, silently, albeit reluctantly.

Nevertheless,
he does think critically about his children. He wonders aloud –
to himself, of course – if he actually loves them. His own childhood
seems both distant and parallel. That is, he often feels mired in
his own childhood and resents the adult, paternal role he must play.
Also, he feels sorry for his children and fears for them. He does
not understand the structure of the world outside his home and office
cubicle, but he believes it is heading for a fall, collapse, chaos.

What
then? What of his children? What right had he and his wife to yank
them from the peace of Cosmic Nothingness and thrust them into Time
and consciousness against their will?

January
22, 2004

Adam
Engel [send him mail]
writes and lives in NYC. He has published essays, poems, and fiction
in numerous magazines, online and off, and has just completed his
first full-length book, Topiary, which he hopes to publish
by the spring.


        
        

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