Step Two: Canceling yourself because you've been stolen.
After I graduated from Stanford I spent some time working in the Bay area before I realized that I was getting nowhere and didn't like myself much. So I did what every good American kid does. I fucked off. I traveled the country in search of that thing that America is supposed to be. You never find it of course, but at least it made me realize that the 'thing' everyone's always talking about never really existed. It's just Saturday Evening Post memorabilia bullshit. How in the hell do you have a country where the cradle of our government and historical fortitude exists in a vacuum with the highest crime rate in the union? Figure me that one. The first world is a farce. It's a comedy about a comedy where perfection re-enacts day to day life and then feeds itself to the populace and convinces them that it's a reflection of continental reality. Everything's okay, damn it, everything's always a-okay. I'm sure there will come a time when we're on the other side of the fence and others will view us with pity. There will come a time when our greatness resembles that great snake which feasts upon it's own tail because there's nothing left for it to eat. We will, in short, consume ourselves through consumption. Thus is history. Just a spinning wheel that we're tied to blindfolded. And what no one knows is that the guy throwing the knives is blindfolded too. So that's what I learned in the two years that I traveled this great land. That and the fact that I should have just stayed in San Francisco and stopped complaining.
But that's how I ended up in New York. A friend of mine from college was an ad-man out there and I looked him up. At the time I was broke, looked like shit, and had two changes of clothes to my name. I explained to him what I'd been up to and it didn't seem to bother him much. You can never tell how people from your past are going to react when you show up penniless on their doorstep and they're well to do. He was one of those guys that went in for all that 'success equals happiness crap'. He and his wife had matching Mercedes with signature plates. One was 'Jack B' and the other was 'Tara B'. A little scary if you ask me but I wasn't about to bring it up. His sofa was more comfortable than any bed I'd slept on in over six months. He'd changed since school, as most people tend to, but I wasn't about to judge him for it. After all, who they hell was I anyway? So there I was. Showered, shaved, and ready to hit the town. Jack had made reservations at an upscale place near the park and had conveniently done it on a Tara's bridge night. So it was just Jack and I. We had dinner and then proceeded to get drunk at a nearby bar. That's when I began to realize that everything in Jack's life wasn't as perfect as I had suspected. He'd had affairs with younger women, was a boarder-line alcoholic, and was so in debt that bankruptcy might be his only way out. Tara knew nothing about any of it of course. Wives in situations like that rarely do. They just keep doing whatever it is that they do and don't really care. Because there's always another Jack out there. And like most Jack's, they're always good for ten years of comfortable false happiness. But that's how I ran into Eli again. Puking my guts out in the alley next to the bar.
It's expected that people you knew in your youth become things that might make you look at them differently. Take Jack. I would have never thought that he'd move to New York and live that sort of life. In school he was the guy the stayed at home and listened to heavy metal all day. But things are never what they seem most of the time. And as for the future, it never is. So there I was, puking my guts out in an alley when I caught a glimpse of someone jumping from the bottom rung of a fire escape. Now the fact that I was in New York sobered me a little. When figures jump from fire escapes in alleyways you tend to get a little wary. It wasn't until I heard my name that I calmed down enough to turn around and see who it was. And, of course, it was Eli. He was standing there with a strange grin on his face, and I say strange because I had never seen him smile or make any other facial gestures for that matter. He was wearing his usual attire accompanied by a beige trench coat. At first I thought there was a design on the coat. And then I realized that it was blood. Lots of blood. So, I did what anyone in my position would have done. I puked some more.
Unfortunately Eli wasn't in the mood to stand around while my guts churned and anti-gravity forced itself from my insides into the open world. By the time I realized what was happening I was being shoved into the backseat of some shit box half a block down. Jack was nowhere to be seen; though I would later learn that he had met a young accounting intern and had spent the night wallowing in her arms somewhere in midtown Manhattan. Coincidentally, Tara had been doing the same thing in New Jersey. It seems that she had been sleeping with some rather famous defense lawyer for quite some time. But that comes later. At the time I was concerned that Jack wouldn't let me stay with him if I was rude enough to skip out on our little get together. I was lying in the backseat of what I thought was Eli's car when we came to a sudden stop and Eli motioned for me to stay put. Chancing a quick peek out the front windshield I realized that we were somewhere near the water, but where I couldn't be sure. Some time passed before Eli returned and pulled me from the backseat only to shove me into another one. He then proceeded to pour gasoline in his car and set fire to it. And that's all I remember about that night. When I woke up the next morning I was lying on a sofa in a small apartment somewhere in the Bronx. Eli was sitting at a small table drinking a cup of what I guessed to be coffee and cleaning a variety of handguns. Oh God, what had I done.