Envy like rust, envy like a tumor, nested inside him, spreading its dark fingers through his dreams of a better life, the life beyond reach, the life you can't borrow your way into, the unattainable life of casual spending. He would never have enough money to ever be casual about spending it. He wondered how the two things were related, or which came first, his poverty or his heaviness of soul. He wanted to be rich and lighthearted and graceful, but he was poor and leaden and awkward instead. Money was always a problem, not having enough of it. The good life lay behind an insurmountable wall of debt and he was too effin tired to climb it.
He drank like a fish and ate like a pig and bought quickie hand jobs from cold women in public parks. He worked on a loading dock at night and slept in a room in Garfield during the day. He was always awake, smoking and listening to the talk radio and the humming traffic on I-80. He hardly ever spoke. He became a stranger to his own voice. Sometimes he showered, sometimes he didn't. He lay in bed and let the envy and bitterness settle inside him like burning coal. He tasted ash and he smelled like it. And no one wanted to be around him.
Occasionally he thought of his brother the fool. His brother was some kind of Christian zealot, always reciting scripture, applying a biblical verse to every crippling situation like a spiritual band-aid, averting his eyes from the muck and mirage of the world, trying to avoid damnation, on perpetual watch for his soul. He scoffed at his brother's religion. Where was he now? An effin store manager at QuickChek with an apartment off Anderson Avenue and a used Ford. I'm glad he keeps me in his prayers if it does him some good cause it sure doesn't do me any good.
On Fridays when he got paid the shop steward came around and collected pool money off the top. You played no matter what. Some of the guys they carried guns. He didn't have a gun and was glad. The temptation to use it would be too great. Shooting fantasies washed over him, scenes of him aiming down from the roof of the warehouse into the crowd below and firing away, scenes of him hunched behind a brick wall as the law moved in and feeling a great warmth spreading inside, the satisfaction of having murdered somebody and now facing inexorable fate. He would run for it and get shot in the back, or he would wait till the last minute and commit suicide. Christ, the clichés, it was worse than Hollywood, the movie running inside his head made up of actual old movies.
He didn't go to the movies any more, it was too expensive. And he couldn't afford cable. So he closed his eyes and saw himself firing away. He used to read books when he still imagined his heart could be light and that there was some effin slice of the good life he might grab onto. But books were just as nerve-wracking and fake as the movies, especially the bible. He was sure there was no god, no retribution, no turning back. You are what you are. You can't be someone else except in your dreams. Without money, you're nothing.