John Estes

What a waste, reading casual encounter personal ads on the internet. Who are these people? Why does she admire their daring and freedom? But come to think on it, eating can feel like a poor use of resources, as can taking a shit, changing tampons, even sleep. How many precious hours of her life had she expended on self-care, she wondered. How much of her consciousness spent fretting over survival? She sometimes thinks she will get to the end and all she will have accomplished is getting there. How many mornings used up merely recovering from the night? How many nights rehashing or remediating the day? She liked Craigslist, loved shopping on eBay, but it recently dawned on her that she’d been duped, that people were preying on her assumptions and goodwill, that just because a gewgaw is marked great deal, Vintage, or RARE, doesn’t make it so. People, it turns out, will lie in hopes of fleecing you. Just because a dude claiming to have a monster schlong offers hot no-strings-attached sex doesn’t mean he’s not a pencil-dick serial killer. Still, people need stuff—need jobs, food, and love, need to re-purchase an occasional childhood toy—and demand will be met. She’d remind herself: live like you’ll live forever, or else you’d never leave the house or worse become maudlin about plain facts. You’d be forced to approach every taco, every goodbye, every kiss like the last you’ll ever know. You can’t cherish every moment, can’t greet each day like a gift or long-lost friend.

It’s better to let the end come unaided and unabetted, she thought, without reminiscence, without closure, without kneeling prayers. She wasn’t terribly concerned about farewells in general, usually ghosted parties, though she’s punctilious about expiration dates on the 2% and studiously avoiding her father’s gaze. She marveled at how few people, statistically speaking, killed themselves or met terminal illness without pugilistic rhetoric, how obvious, how inevitable, life appeared even to those in great pain with nothing to live for but the continuation of being. This struck her as backwards, unnatural, reverse-engineered like decaffeination. She remembered suddenly the boy who in 9th grade, inexplicably and without warning, she had kicked hard in the groin. Tommy Something-Or-Other. As the sole unprovoked and irrational act of malice she’d ever committed, it remained her touchstone for comprehending the mysteries of evil. So when a mother drowns her children, or a clown-masked rapist roams a small Guatemalan town, or a kid shoots a woman while buying Oxy—she knows deep down how the body with its itch of emptiness (of what else could the soul be comprised?) can get away from us. She feels an appropriate amount of empathy for dime store villains. She remembers walking by a stroller carrying a hammer while volunteering at a community center with her school group and seeing with an artist’s moral vision: I could bash this infant’s skull and change my life.