Belden K. Bok sat at his kitchen table, eating a sandwich and reading a newspaper.
Then he woke up.
The blaring air-raid-siren sound of his phone alarm ripped him from sleep as if he were being aborted via the suction method. And now he had to get up, shower, brush his teeth, and face the living nightmare that was his life.
No one knows what dreams really are. We don’t even have a clue about what ideas really are. Until someone develops a machine that can capture thoughts, we won’t even be sure what a thought is. But at this moment in his miserable, chaotic life, Belden’s only solace came through extremely boring dreams. Boredom seems like heaven when your life is a nightmare.
First there were the job problems. And then there were the money problems. And then there were the health problems. And then there was his ex.
Before he hopped in the shower, Belden checked his phone to see another fusillade of hostile texts from her:
poor excvse [sic] for a human.
Liar…Loser…Wake up and go to the shrink, you fucking little freak
Ill NEVER believe you…BTW—you’re SO fucking depressing. I’m shocked i haven’t ended my life after eleven horrid, wasted months with a piece of crap, like you.
Waste of sperm and egg—and not good ones to begin with. Worthless, lazy, self-absorbed, LOSER.
Hope your shrink makes you feel human…asshole.
I don’t care about you. You’re worthless. Go fuck another chunky lass. It’s all you’re good for. And barely…
Busy fucking a fat, ugly, 1 step from homeless prostitute AGAIN? Loser…
pig. what’s next?
Too much of a pansy to respond to a text? Youre [since] worse off than i thought you were. Hope your shrink can help you—NOT be a freak.
They’d been broken up longer than they were together, but she refused to leave him alone. She also refused to admit that it was a solid year of unbridled jealousy and constant false accusations that he was cheating that finally drove him away, despite of how lonely he was without her. And still she exposed him to the same psychotic merry-go-round that always followed the same maddening pattern. She’d send him little trinkets and reminders of their brief time together. She’d tell him how much she thought about him. And then, after he inevitably ignored her, she’d tell him what an ugly failure he is and that he’d better watch his back because she knows some people who could take care of him very quickly and efficiently. She’d been in and out of asylums and had an explosive temper, especially when she felt ignored. And there was no reason for him to believe, given the current climate, that the law wouldn’t side with her no matter how ridiculously false her allegations were.
Belden put down his phone, hopped into the shower for three minutes, then stood before the bathroom mirror to brush his teeth, comb his hair, and shave.
He looked so tired and beaten. All the pressure was squeezing his head like a giant pimple ready to pop. And when that pimple popped, Belden knew there would be no one around to clean up the mess.
When he walked into the kitchen that was the site of his recent boring dream, he saw two opened letters on the table.
One was from the IRS reminding him that since he failed to file taxes for 2013, he had committed a federal crime that they fully intended to prosecute. And once he was out of prison, they would make him pay back what he owed—with compounded interest.
Another was a letter from his doctor stating that according to his most recent blood tests, there were signs that the tumor that had been removed a dozen years ago was returning for a repeat engagement.
This was too much horror to grasp. It felt like he had almost drowned out in the middle of the deep black ocean, then came up for a gasp of air, and now some invisible giant hand reached up from the deep to pull him down again, this time for keeps.
He grabbed his keys and walked outside over the crunching snow to his car, motoring his way to work through the browns and grays and squares and triangles of Elkhorn, NB, a painfully bland town with brutally hot summers and soul-crushingly cold winters, with maybe a couple days squeezed in between those extremes that could reasonably pass for spring and fall. As bad as the summers were, the face-bitingly cold winter is what brought out his hibernation instinct. Once more, while wide awake, he sought the dulling comfort of his dreams.
In many of these dreams he would be quietly sitting and reading.
In others, he’d be doing mundane chores such as paying the bills.
In one dream all he did was slowly iron a shirt, spraying on the starch and gingerly working out all the creases as if they were knots in his back muscles.
Yes, these dreams were boring. But they were chaos-free. Belden craved boredom. Nothing would make him happier than an entire season of boredom, ninety days where absolutely nothing happened.
He pulled up to the hospital, got out of his car, and crunched his way through the snow to the emergency room, where he’d be working the next twelve hours as a security guard. Twelve straight hours of dealing with gunshot victims and heroin addicts and cancer patients with no insurance and schizophrenics who were convinced he was Satan. And all the blood and germs. And everyone who calls him a “pig” who only wants to beat them with his nightstick. Being a security guard was a thankless job, because you only get noticed when you make a mistake. And if, at the end of another 12 hours where at least no HIV-positive lunatic bit him hard on the wrist, he went back home to those two letters sitting on his table. And another inevitable barrage of taunts and threats and sweet talk from his ex-girlfriend.
When he finally got back home, he realized there was a difference between excitement and chaos. There was nothing wrong with excitement. But this chaos burned him up with so much stress, he could almost feel his flesh sizzling. It was tiresome. And exhausting. And it eventually put him to sleep.
And this brought the ultimate dream of all.
He dreamed that he was sleeping. He could see himself asleep on his own bed. It was the ultimate dream, the perfect fusion of reality and fantasy. Everything was safe, serene, and as boring as a fly crawling up a drape.
And then his alarm went off again, yanking him straight back into the nightmare.