No Number To Save A Soul

And to Dad, a brand new Cadillac.

Among the increasing plethora of predictable dreams that you now share with everyone else is the lottery dream. You know, the one when you wake up and all your problems are financed.

Such a delusional Hail Mary became for so many a valid retirement plan. Or the portal to a brand of revenge against mounting indignities, sore defeats, curses wronged lovers had in store for them.

It creeps up on you as your own hopes of difference and originality face annihilation after too many wasted years, neck-deep in mediocrity, and a million pointless subway trips.

Like many a nasty habit, it begins with that changeable list of great things you would do with the money. An always noble start, full of goodwill towards your fellow man: no family member left behind, friends moved to tears with your new, purchased generosity.

While everything is still a grandiose vanity view, why not throw in a few treats too? Like crossing the ocean to surprise that special (fill in the blank) ex-lover, buddy, lost sister, forgotten teacher.

Another sleepless night rewinds the sequence to add trips to faraway lands and a higher education for the kid, engraving this tenuous thread of self-sustained insanity on some glorious capitalistic fabric.

Until the point when the center inflates so much that no amount of lucky winnings can pay for such whimsies. Time to cut off those distant relatives, who’ll curse at you either way, anyway.

For such an alternate bias, how many of us are eager to suspend all beliefs in exchange for that photo op that will be fleetingly seen around the world?

In William Reich’s therapy exercises, there’s one when the patient lies down on a mattress, as if on his deathbed, to find out what he’d tell some of the people in his life. It’s a way of readdressing long lost opportunities, words never said, feelings never fully expressed.

There’s the final talk to the parent, who passed away without saying goodbye. There’s the righting of some catastrophic wrong of the past. There’s the always-tearful talk to the son who won’t see his dad at his graduation.

This method is also adopted, with variations, by other, not too sound therapies, from 12-step programs to lose weight regimes. The tabloid culture’s version is known as the Oscar acceptance speech.

To win the lotto would thus be, as the impossible, made up talk with a long lost friend, a way of finally restoring, or at least pretending to mend, long ruptured emotional ties, the deep cracks on our public persona, the negative balance in our banking accounts. And to be commended for our moment of redemption, never mind the trampling of a lucky strike over the sweat of our brows.

Which even a cheap feeling of remorse would be prompt to flag as a cover-up for self-loathing and a bloody thirst for revenge. Look at me now, you suckers. Look at me, mama, I’m on top of the world.

But luck is always flickering and runs away even before the sun sets on your nerves. Relationships that defied past betrayals begin to strain. Loving couples create new secrets and start sleeping solo. Or elsewhere.

Beyond the increasing procession of strangers turned friends, swelling your doorsteps for more; apart from the unknown relatives who didn’t get the news in time and showed up too late; and despite that misguided initial goodwill, there’s the matter of your own emotional expenditure.

The daily load overflowed your reserves. The usual reasons to get up from bed no longer apply. The kid pried opened his education fund, and is protected by legal counsel. He’s downstairs now, in a daze, and you wouldn’t tell him apart from the strangers that come and go at all hours.

Make no mistake, though. The rich sleep well, eat well and live well, no matter what they say. Just the silence of their dwellings, the serenity of being in charge, the comfort of paid bills, are enough ammo to load to the hilt their insulated lives with the proverbial bliss.

But in Las Vegas, there’s a group of lottery winners who gather annually. Their numbers vary but they have something in common: they all won money that was neither negligible nor enough.

Everyone they’ve ever met came by to receive their allotment, only to be told there wasn’t anything left. In a rage, they wound up driving the short winners out of their neighborhood.

And the new acquaintances were only attracted by the smell of wealth. When that proved to be just a sniff, they we were fast departing, in search of their own kind.

The Vegas group still gathers; last year, they were at the basement of a local church, meeting right after a 12-step program session, when a fight erupted. They all wound up in jail and no one had the cash for the bailout.

There’s no furniture at the three-store house you’re ordered to vacate. No cheerful sound of glasses and laughter echoing from the empty rooms. Your rented friends are gone for good.

The only one who remained solid was the one whose daughter introduced you to long ago. You call him Dad but he still prefers his old green Buick. The Cadillac is gathering rust, parked on the curb.

One thought on “No Number To Save A Soul

  1. I love your fiction. It may be the truth.


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