The sweaty vendor selling hotdogs at 29th and Madison sounds like he’s been here his whole life. I hear Nixon trying to justify his distorted innocence through the black and white static at the newspaper stand. I take the stairs down to the subway. You know, I’ve never really trusted this old bastard, but I know I have to take it. See, I work on the other side of Upper New York for some bullshit publishing company. I’m a regular, or in other words, my name might as well be embroidered on this goddamn seat. Turn left, seventh seat next to the pole, turn right, wipe the dust off of my jacket, close my eyes.
I sleep through the first three stops, and I’m awoken by the familiar scent of booze and failure. I don’t even have to look, no one does. Sam found his way onto the train. Sam and his piece of shit pet he calls a cat. Every day he somehow manages to board the underground caterpillar without a ticket. Someone probably lets him on out of pity. Hell, I pity Sam. You know, besides the awful smell, and that demon cat he has, he’s a nice enough guy.
Well it was that time of the morning, my least favorite time mind you. Stand up, pull jacket down, adjust tie. I had this down to a science, a goddamn science. Flip penny into fountain, hope to be anywhere but here, reunite head with cap, walk across North Broadway, open doors, put on a bullshit smile. It was promotion day, but for my sake, more like judgment day. A day that consisted of people who actually seemed to care getting a pat on the back. Stare out the small crack between cubicles to the window.
The fourth floor of Twin Brothers Publishing Inc. is always gray in the morning. But then again it could just be me, because I’m sure as hell not a morning person. 9:47, stand up, walk past the secretary counter, head into the lounge, fill up coffee the intern made, walk back to desk, sit down, drink the shit. Every day, the same two pigeons like to sit outside my windowsill. I envy them. Such freedom. I bet they never have to drink shit coffee and wear a tie that slowly chokes you to death. One of these days I think I’ll just jump out this window and hope I sprout wings and fly. It’s only four floors.
Walter, my cubicle partner, was the only bastard I could stand in this place, you know? Until his wife gave birth, that is. Now I don’t see much of him outside of the office. Reasonably, he tries very hard at his job. Why wouldn’t he? He has a kid to feed now. I could never have any of those things. They constantly need attention and only seem to point out all the bad things about the world. Even when things are swell, they can find something they don’t like and cry about it. Needy sons of bitches.
Tap pen, tap foot, hum quietly, lean back in chair, run hand through hair, put hands above head, whistle out loud. A goddamn science I tell you. Stand up, walk to drink cart, grab a glass of scotch. In all honesty I don’t actually do anything here. I had when I first started, but then I realized to hell with it. I can’t complain. I can only hope no one catches on. Sometimes I turn my radio on and listen to a little Frank Sinatra and imagine myself dancing with a beautiful woman in a swank dress. There I go again, wishing. What a childish thing to do.
I grew up catching fly balls in the backyard, and pretending I was Micky Mantle. I had the whole world in front of me, you know? Now all I have is this piece of shit job, and this piece of shit desk. 12:23, stand up, put jacket on, walk down stairs, open doors, smoke a cigarette. Poor Old Abe must be drowning in his grave. I’ve thrown so many pennies into that fountain. Sometimes I wonder if Sam follows me everyday and scoops up my donations. It would make sense. I mean, my wishes haven’t come true yet. Walk down a block, buy sandwich from the deli, walk back, wait until 5:00.
I was a Princeton man. I had graduated with my degree in English editing and a minor in business. I always thought that where I went to school would give me some kind of edge in this world, but apparently it didn’t. I’ll never forget the days of hauling my piece of shit car up the hill on the outside of campus and watching the sunset. I did it alone until Elizabeth came along.
Elizabeth was charming, lemme tell you. She was one of those girls that could really lay you flat out, you know? The way she’d hold a cigarette up to her lips and puff the smoke out, it could get you going. She had this little freckle right above her lip and big brown gems for eyes.
One night I was making my routine trip up the hill to watch the sunset when she asked me where I was off to. I don’t talk much, you know? I told her my plans and she asked sweetly if she could come along with me. Man, she could really take your heart quick.
But you know, after about 5 months of happiness and stability, I just up and left. Yeah, can you believe it? Maybe I just wasn’t meant to be happy.
Those pigeons have the right idea, hang your toes over the edge and look straight ahead like you fear nothing. Boy I tell you if I had wings, I’d be out on that ledge in a heartbeat. I’d watch all the dead beats inside slowly wither away into nothing while I glide across the sky. Maybe I’ll start wishing for wings with all my pennies. Something has to work eventually, right?
That’s just it. Yeah. That’s it. Abe had been granting my wishes all along, I just hadn’t tested him yet. What’s that thing those Jesus people say? Oh right! Leap of Faith! That’s what Abe was waiting on at the bottom of the fountain. I just have to trust him is all, you see. I had made up my mind already, this was it. I’d just have to stand up and run at those windows and bust through ‘em.
That’s what I did. I busted right through those goddamn windows from the fourth floor, and what the hell do you know, I got my wish. I was flying. I was soaring, and time finally seemed to stop and focus on me. Those goddamn pigeons sure looked confused as hell though, let me tell you. And then my other wish came true too. I ended up dead on the pavement outside of my office. “Anywhere but here,” I whispered to myself before I hit the ground. It finally came true. I guess they were all just wasted pennies.