Living the Lie

Throughout my life, I've always watched as others raced ahead. It hasn't been easy. Keeping my head above the surface of the ocean known as life. Every moment, I fear a wave crashing down on me, or when my strength fails and I stop treading water. Worst of all is when you see people posting up their picture-perfect lives and outstanding achievements on social media when you're all but drowning in a dead-end job that had nothing to do with your degree or the hopes you fostered as a young child.

No one needs to reminded of their failures. So, please take your bullshit and spam it on someone else's wall. And don't, for the love of God, downplay it in your bid for the most likes! I can tell when someone's fishing for compliments and I won't abide by it.

You might be wondering where all this vitriol stems from. The answer is simple. It comes from a deep well of antipathy and frustration. Of being listless and rudderless. Of having no aspirations when you graduated high school at the top of your class and watched as all your dreams were dashed against the rocks of reality before they even had the chance to bloom.

No. This is no fairy tale full of happy ever afters. This is reality. This is truth. Where those with direction and purpose are able to find fulfilment while their silent and unsuccessful counterparts fall prey to their insecurities or keep it tightly tucked away under lock and key. And then suffer the repercussions with sleepless nights before they turn towards drink or prescription drugs to ease their suffering.

It was not always like this, you know.

I remember a childhood filled with dreams. Of jumping between obsessions as if they were Halloween costumes. One day, I fancied myself an esteemed surgeon of some repute. Another would see me shredding tunes on my plastic guitar.

None of that was enough to prepare my young self for the despair and doubt and fear involved with surviving in a world that does not have your back. And which is always eagerly anticipating your fall into destitution.

Because the fact of the matter is: no one cares. No one ever will. You're just another number falling through the cracks of welfare. A bottom-feeder trying to wring what's left from the upstanding, proper tax-paying civilians.

Over the years, in order to survive this cruel world, I've clung to whatever job that came my way. Lived pay cheque to pay cheque. Constantly concerned with what the future held and green with envy with the respectable lives of my friends.

It was enough for anyone to contemplate the unthinkable.

The entire world owed me. And if I wanted to live in this world of unfamiliar faces and sacks of meat with their wallets full to bursting, I would need to take everything that I wanted, consequences be damned!

The job I had in mind was simple in concept. It was the execution that turned out to be my downfall, as you'll soon learn.

At the time, I thought my plan was full-proof. I would use others just like me. The downtrodden. The world weary. But even the most meticulous and well-laid ideas can fall through.

Much as it did in this instance, considering that I'm penning this even as I await my final verdict at court. But neither the judge nor the jury will delay me from my magnum opus. This will be my final piece of work before oblivion greets me after the next few hours. The weight on my shoulders is unbearable but press on, I must.

It started off as innocuous as could be. I was the perfect friend, eager to help. And so, when my friends were putting down for mortgages and then taking expensive holidays overseas, they would invite me to house-sit. It was a simple task and some of them even bothered to bequeath me with gifts for taking some time out of my week to look after their precious belongings.

Slowly and surely, though I am loath to admit it, I became greedy. Seeing all the things that they had but I did not, sparked something in me. They did not know it, but I would squirrel away trinkets that I knew would not be missed. Maybe a Rolex here, or a few hundred dollars that they had hidden underneath the mattress. It was so easy and simple. And none of them the wiser.

But as the years dragged on, I found myself grow ever more listless. What was the whole point of living? Everything was all so routine. Nothing could surprise me. And with that came the dread of waking up every morning, knowing that life was meaningless.

There was some trouble at work.

To numb myself from it all, I started drinking. First, it would be a bottle of beer with my co-workers every Friday night. Then, it would be two shots of whiskey every night. I knew that I had a problem when I was chugging down three cans of piss-poor beer just so that I could function for the day ahead.

It came as no surprise when the severance package came. I took it, hoping it would be enough to pay my overdue bills as well as indulge in my alcoholism.

Gradually, though, I realised that trying to drown my doubts solved nothing. The peace I sought was a lie. If I wanted to make something of myself, I had to act.

Two years it took me. Until I finally landed an enviable sales position at one of the leading security firms in the entire city. Though I had my fair share of problems, it was my fair share of connections and skilful networking that ultimately won me the part. Having landed the job I so highly sought, I began the second part of my plan – unable to be satisfied with the paltry salary that I was expected to live off.

While I had suffered a few casualties among my side-job of house-sitting, in my extensive friendship circles, I was still a trusted and respected member of society. It was no difficult thing to convince them that I had shed my old ways and had devoted myself to keeping their belongings safe from undesirables – and at a discount that they could hardly say 'no' to.

Slowly but surely, I built up a most trusted portfolio and sent off bits and pieces of information to my accomplices. With the job already cased and the codes to the alarms provided, it was a simple affair of waiting for the right opportunity to strike.

The first few jobs were a resounding success. Thousands upon thousands began pouring into bank accounts before being evenly distributed through private transactions.

But it all slowly came apart when the others became greedy.

I remember one incident at the office. It was late and I had stayed back to fix up some paperwork. Even though I had almost a million dollars tied up in investments, I could not draw attention to the vast amounts of wealth I now had. It had to be used sparingly. A little here, a little there – if I wanted to keep the tax agents off my trail.

His name was Doug. A stupid fellow, really. More of a hired muscle than someone I would have deigned to initiate cerebral conversations with. In he barged into one of my most innermost sanctums, caring not that at any moment he could have disrupted our tenuous business network – demanding more. Always more.

More, more, more, more, more.

You can imagine how maddening it was for someone of my intellect having to rely on such individuals for my masterplan to work. And yet, rely on them I must for it would not be detrimental to everything that I planned if I was seen in the midst of a crime scene.

Still, Doug had made his point clear and I strived to find more lucrative targets. Who was I to deprive my employees of a bonus or a raise? Not if it meant that I was beaten to almost an inch of my life. Besides, more money for Doug also meant more money for me.

For two months, we managed to rake in far more than the quotas that I had set. I will admit, the success we had found had made me giddy. I wanted to keep pushing the boundaries – take on more risks, for the reward when we had overcome all obstacles was a high that I never wanted to come down from. The rush, the thrill…

And that was the fatal mistake I made.

Instead of being satisfied with what we had managed to do and laying low for a time, I was eager to do something much bigger. I allowed my base greed take control and dictate my actions rather than heeding caution, even when my security business was hit by an audit and was under much tighter scrutiny than it had ever been.

Yet the thrill of it! Oh, I could wax poetic about how invigorated I was during the last several months as I played the elusive mouse. To steal a quote from the deplorable detective known only as Sherlock Holmes, the game was very much afoot. And I was eager to win it.

To show everyone I was more than the dowdy middle-aged man with a growing bald spot.

Alas, you know how the story ends. I won't trouble you with the details that were splashed across the newspapers for weeks on end. What I will reveal is that in those days leading up to my arrest, the betrayal struck a deep blow to my confidence. I knew it had been foolish but I had thought that over our long acquaintance, I would have been able to trust Charlie.

The gun feels heavy in my hand. I bought it soon after my encounter with Doug at my office. A means of self-defence should something similar happen again.

I kept it strapped to the underside of my desk. An insurance policy for dealing with my less than savoury associates. One could never be too careful and I had learned that the hard way.

They say that to take one's own life is an act of cowardice. But as a I stare at this carefully constructed piece of metal, I cannot help but think that the old adage is a lie. Perhaps it is my pride but there is something beautiful about going out on my own terms instead of wallowing inside a prison cell.

What is important to leave behind is not my wasted body but instead my legacy. To have others know that they are not alone in their fight against this oppression of the mind and soul. I could have been a successful businessman had the fates looked kindly on me. I could have lived my life with a smile on my face, spread out on a beach towel on Venice Beach. I could have been the one that had both a wife and loving son.

All of it could have been mine. Had not others stolen the happiness I could have achieved!

It is nearly seven. By eight thirty, I will be bundled into a police vehicle and escorted back to court. I know that any form of resistance would be futile.

But I am so tired…

Tired of what this world aspires to be. Tired of the expectations placed upon all the young boys and girls as they are constantly reminded that they are special. That they have purpose and meaning. Only for them to find out several months before graduation that they will only be a very small cog in a very large machine.

To the first responders that will find this: I apologise for the mess. In the end, it was not as easy as I had hoped. I dithered on the cusp right until I saw the first flashes of red and blue.

To those that were hoping to recoup their losses: again, I apologise. Perhaps you will be able to sell some of my assets (little though they may be).

And finally, to the jurors. I will not hear how you have judged me. Or my actions.

Still, let it be known that I, being of sound mind and body, do enter in my final testimonial. To shed some truth on the world and cut away the lies we weave around ourselves.

I may not be a good man. But I am my own man. How many of you can say the same?