by Chris R. Morgan


Every day, for the past two years, a man and a woman take what I presume is their mutual lunch break at the same time (late afternoon, somewhere between traditional lunch and school letting out) and in the same place (at the edge of our most recently built park). There they are, without fail, in their folding lawn chairs, bags of food at their feet, conversing by the wall separating the park from the railroad tracks, or among a rather dispiriting array of large boulders. I know this because every time I walk that way and at that time, I see them. Where they work, what they talk about, what their names are, if they are a couple or merely friends, or if I am as privy to them as they are to me, I have no idea, and I hesitate to ask. For one thing, it is entirely possible that they might not be able to provide answers. Though I feel the ratio never seems altogether stable, varying wildly in proportion from day to day, this town often feels more spirit than man. And who’s to say that these two are very much of the necrotic persuasion, if not placed there to haunt me in their subtle way, then to carry on their happiest business, a celestial broken record, because maybe some people really are without, or at least light on, sin?

Understandably they’ve become fixed in my life plan, the aim of which is not to be crushed overhead by the numerous other moons of stress revolving around my mind, or not to drown in an ever deepening pool of compulsory solitude. It helps that they stay as they are, not abstract but unmoved all the same, almost waxen. The voyeurism that we are compelled to engage in other situations, public displays of affection or tension, bodily exposure or harm, any kind of spontaneous or coordinated exhibitionism, fails to be stoked here. Of all of these things, this duo is routinely innocent. And I show my appreciation by refusing to inquire further, though it is as much for my sake as it is for theirs.

When it comes to investment, on a practical level, I have no record to speak of. I have never found myself piqued by the sport of financial self-betterment through market trade and speculation, nor have I found myself lulled into it by outside fellows, whether to be guided or preyed upon. Investment on an emotional level, however, is very different, in fact I am very adept and wholly unafraid to jump in those choppy waters and fish out more than a few shares. It’s very easy, getting caught up in emotional investment, but be assured that I am no fool. Spend enough time practicing and one is bound to find any number of low risk investments that yield medium, even high, reward: a book, a song, a friendship, a new brand of coffee. Yet I am also human, and as such I am just as susceptible to the temptations of greed as anyone else. Did I, in finding this couple every day in their chosen place, purchase some emotional shares in interest of their situation? Yes, who wouldn’t? Did I, in independently assessing through sheer force of instinct the relative splendor of the couple as mostly robust and long term, make myself the majority emotional shareholder of their happiness? I cannot lie that I haven’t. Is this in keeping with my low risk emotional portfolio? Not necessarily.

It seemed for many years that I would be steeped in a vague bitterness, or indeed that it would fester and mutate into a scolding magma of rage against any old knave that gets in over his or her head seemingly for the pathological kicks. But life is comical and cruel, so like the artificial pleasure servant achieving final self-awareness I have stumbled into final empathy. When you make subprime-level emotional deals, you start to feel deeply and sensitively for the real life counterparts. I, too, understand the temptation of high risk-high reward investment, and I, too, know the gnaw of fear, ever increasing in its depth and sharpness, that it will all come apart.

People who know and care about me have told me time and again what I need to do, that I need an exit strategy, that I need to dump my emotional shares, that I need to walk in the morning or in the early evening when they are sure to be absent. How adorable they all are that they think it is so easy. No. I may lack the basic coolness and control in my investments, but I am not heinous or unethical. This is my burden, my responsibility. I will walk into town every day as I always do, and on one of those days I will find not a couple but a single person, silent, outwardly peaceable but inwardly gnarled. I can only hope that no one I know will be present on that day (likely, seeing as I know fewer and fewer people here). The ensuing breakdown, always inevitable, will also be cataclysmic and irreparable. Truly this couple will be to me what the beaten horse was to Nietzsche.

What more that I have to add I don’t really know. Consider this my example. Some people are more fortunate and even-keeled. They can live life within the bounds of reason and advise others to do so through careful theorizing of the supple enigmas of their own conduct. Other people, however, felled by some strange demon, or just lacking a concrete togetherness in their shit, teach others through their real time failings, whether small and periodic, large and monumental, or a magnificent symphony of both. Consider this also my testament. I wish the sight of my enfeebled future on no one, not even the people I actively sought to unnerve while sane. I would hope that friend and foe alike would remember me for my intensity; for I, for one, see nothing wrong with intensity, burning and resolute as it often is, nor that it would lead me to gamble (in a way) on love (of a sort). You are welcome.