New Year’s Day and the people are lining up at Macy’s. Eight on one entrance, six on another, 5 on yet another. Every entrance surrounded like a SWAT team ready to kill an innocent person. Waiting for the doors to open. Waiting to buy things.
New Year’s Day and the machine rolls on. Any half-way decent country, in the wake of a national holiday, might declare a national day of rest. Of recovery. But the machine rooooooooolls on.
As it rolls on we must awaken to fulfill our roles for the machine. Up at 5am. Late. Running to work across wet grass. Opening boxes. Stocking shelves.
“How many pallets we got coming in?” The truck driver won’t answer. He asks again. “How many we got coming in?”
“E-eighteen? Son of a BITCH.” Eyes above dark bags, half-sunken and half-asleep buck at the load. “And we don’t have more people?”
“This is all we got.”
So it goes.
The night before Kim Jung Un warns the President of the United States that a “nuclear button” was always resting on his desk, ready to strike North America at any moment. Top US officials say a nuclear war with North Korea is “closer than ever” and that they cannot see any diplomatic solution to the crisis. That it could have popped off last night.
New Year’s Eve. In the middle of our drunken revelries, totally unaware, our lives could have been wiped off the face of the fucking planet and nobody would’ve been the wiser; the officers in every hotel along 7th Avenue, leading to 42nd Street in Manhattan, placed specifically for rooftop or hotel room shooters would be powerless to save us. They tried I suppose. Umbrellas, backpacks and duffel bags were prohibited. But the raging hot oblivion would still have reduced us to ashes.
And we’d have no say in it.
Our material safety, our security, our very existences are in the hands of people who we have no influence over, who we don’t know, and who can decide whether we live or die on a whim. Internationally there is a gigantic game of chicken being waged between two assholes and we are completely dependent on them.
Our lives aren’t our own.
Even with the threat of radioactive fire peeling the atoms from our bones the machine goes on. The stores must open up. The trucks keep coming in, the boxes MUST be opened. Put on the shelf. So that other people might buy them with money they’ve earned from the machine.
We aren’t in control of our lives. We aren’t even in control of our own deaths. Shuttled around from place to place.
“When the time comes,” I say to my co-worker, “when someone comes in and shoots us all you have to promise me something.”
She looks puzzled. “And what’s that?”
“Please don’t let me die in my uniform. Take my workshirt off and let me bleed out in my undershirt. Tell my wife I love her. Drag me out of the building if you can and let me die near a palmetto rather than on this shitty-ass floor.”
She laughs, thinks I’m kidding. She gets serious. “As long as you promise to do the same for me.”
I saw a bag of cereal today, a quick meal for the worker on his way to the machine. It was nothing more than popcorn sweetened and sold for $2.24 a bag. Corn, a type of grass. Funny isn’t? The same diet we feed to domesticated animals sold to weary eyes and hungry faces. Grass. Millions of people running around and doing as their told, herded from pen to pen; waiting blankly, munching contentedly, as one shepard argues with another.
Line up. Don’t want to miss a sale. Forget the lives of all those people far away our leaders plan on killing.
Amazing. If North Korea were ever to strike the United States with any kind of nuclear weapon…what’s to gain exactly? The United States would wage a war of extermination. There may very well not be any kind of Korea left. The United States wouldn’t bat an eye and not a single person outside that Macy’s would give a shit. The most abject and naked brutality could be indiscriminately hoisted upon an entire population and these motherfuckers wouldn’t lose a single wink of sleep.
I stand here, stealing my owner’s time, wondering if the North Koreans don’t feel the same; that even if they died, even if everything they loved got wiped off the fucking map, would they at least be vaporized contentedly knowing they had inflicted some measure of pain on us? That they’d hurt us?
What kind of world is this where all we can hope for is some modicum of revenge? Where the only thing that counts as victory are small droplets of blood drawn by a hand only vaguely associated with you? Whose actions spelled your own death?
What kind of world are we living in? That we’ve created? What kind of existence is this?
The television and internet are ablaze with images of other people like us, humans who think and feel. We parade their corpses around like elephant tusks. We play show after show filled with mugshots and chained bodies on grey plantations as a threat to those on the outside. Follow the rules, don’t make a ruckus, and you’ll be alright.
Unless of course you aren’t. Unless of course those same rules send your entire family into a nuclear hellscape, unless of course you watch the flesh peel off small children, eyeballs dangling down their cheeks because their still attached to optic nerves. Unless of course the smell of vomit and piss and shit and rotting corpses fills every place you once thought beautiful.
But today’s a holiday, so we don’t worry, leaving such thoughts to the voices of the horrified. It’s New Years Day and the people are lining up at Macy’s.