Paul R. Byrne
Jun 26 · 5 min read

Dear god, can we really be here again?

How many revolutions of the big blue marble has it been…one? A million? What is this oily haze making everything dim…how much of this awful stuff have we breathed in. And what are the health implications? Have we learned a single thing in the intervening years?

There are notes all over this place. Envelope scribblings and tea-stained legal pads stacked on the end tables, crumpled napkins-thoughts stuck to the side of the iPhone trash bin. Half-finished conclusions and derailed trains of thought on Politics and Life and America. Great Big Conclusions left to rot on the vine with no energy to pick them or purpose to put them to. A whole vineyard of Truth gone entirely to seed.

Truth. A thing I haven’t thought about in a while. Some vestigial term from a simpler time — one we crawled out of when we bathed in this toxic slime, becoming things far stranger than we ever could have imagined. Our brains changed forever by the microscopic power of that remarkable ooze.

Now here we are, with the doomsday clock at two to midnight. About to sink back into the glass-eyed stupor of addicts in an off-track betting parlor — tired workers clutching paper slips in our grimy hands, swigging from paper-bagged bottles as we gamble all our futures for the pure adrenaline rush. The thrill of watching one stumble, hit the mud of the track and slide in a heap to be trampled by the pack until they are euthanized politically and sent to the Great Ranch In the Sky to appear on cable news for all time. Well-fed stallions with broken limbs that never healed right, known by the limp in their voices as they strain in dressing-room-practiced sound bytes in the hopes that they could claw back a few brief minutes of re-heated fame.

I was supposed to make something of this. There was supposed to be more time, damn it!

Scrambling to the trash. Digging through tossed-out grapefruit rinds and energy bar wrappers. A dozen bottles of antacids and candy-pink-crusted Pepto containers chug-a-lugged in the decaying light of America’s dusk.

There must be something here. Something that could save us.

Ripping through trash bags with the alley rats. Frantically scanning notebooks and scraps for any shred of sanity or conclusion. Men in suits…email servers…hair weave conspiracy theories…lunatic ravings read frantically and tossed, banging through dumpsters and dripping cold sweat in the summer looking for THE ANSWER to all of this. Some half-dead idea that could inoculate us from doing this whole thing over again and failing.

But no. Drivel, every last bit of it. So it would seem we are entirely unprepared for what’s to come. Standing empty-handed with the blindfold slipped down around our necks, staring at a high-powered media cannon with a 20-shot rail — a weapon of awful power, fully loaded with enough dry nonsense and political tinder to tear every last one of us to pieces. Not even so much as a slingshot to protect ourselves from the viral Goliath who is coming.

The only thing to do now is to wait, like helpless cowards. Batten the hatches. Steel our porcelain souls for what is sure to be a king-hell of a storm. A slow unfolding National Disaster fed, conveyed, and supercharged in the heated waters of outrage and opinion—currents clashing and spinning off cyclones that rip land and houses apart, and fling warm bodies from their living rooms onto brightly-lit debate stages as Special Guests and icons of Real America.

Must start gathering supplies. Get to the store before the buzzards pick it clean. What will it take to get through this? Two dozen flashlight batteries. 60 yards of plastic sheeting and nine rolls of duct tape. A bundle of pre-2016 New Yorkers. Two hundred candy bars. All the legal pads, pens, and ink in the place…but will I use them? Is there any way to write with this impending doom hanging overhead? Who can work under these conditions? Is there still time to escape, or anywhere to escape to? Or is it all on this same bad floodplain?

Yes, the road from here is sure to be long and stupid. Marked with potholes of political missteps and ignorance, vicious backbiting and greed. A slow journey of idiocy with traffic backed up for miles, rubberneckers slowed to a crawl as they crane their heads out of windows to gawk at vast, scenic overlooks of violent civic wreckage.

Along the way we will face brutal fatigue and true Jesus-in-the-wilderness temptation. Whispered invitations to stop and rest — just for a minute — nodding off for months, awakened only by the floodwaters already lapping at our mouths. Bouts of pure madness—the sudden urge to run screaming into the forest and be peacefully lost in its quiet, dark depths. Who can say how many will resist and survive the journey. Who will make it until the end, or be lost along the way.

Grabbing a trash bag. Sweeping the end tables clean. Countless hours of hopeful essays and self-important fever dreams finding their ends unceremoniously at the bottom of a garbage heap.

The only thing for certain, is that to make it through will require a massive commitment of will. A heroic tolerance for nonsense and psychotic dedication to wading through the daily quagmire, trudging forward with the steely reserve of people who have lost all hope but continue moving forward anyway. The insane grit of finely-tuned minds, or those clinically unable to feel pain.

And there in their shadows, skittering like roaches with nervous ticks and dangling cigarettes, will be us. The ones sick-headed enough to join for the ride. Keeping pace through a steady diet of uppers and downers, scribbling notes as we squint into the dimming sunlight and search for that final, impossible high of revelation in the madness. And despite the dark clouds on the horizon. The depravity of this whole sick bloodsport. The sure feeling in our guts that this could really be the end, we cannot help but grin in the face of this trouble and impending doom.

After all, we are going to the track. And it’s race day.

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