A Day In A Life

Well, I hope The Beatles won’t mind much the way I’ll borrow the title of one of their songs, but it is one that’s quite fitting. I guess it’s all right; the group is half a goner since a few years back, and truth be told, what remains of them look as if they’re about to wave this world bye-bye any moment now (I apologize for my bit of macabre humor, buy I’m having one of those days. Sigh). The title certainly fits this small account of any given day in my life for the past 15 years (and counting).

2 AM: I wake up to the wind echoing through the main hall of my little house-in-the-jungle. It’s pitch dark, as you’d suspect… and there’s no electric power. I get out of bed and pull the fridge’s electric cord of the wall socket, just to protect its motor in case electricity comes out all of a sudden. It has the tendency of coming back with a bang down here. Next? I won’t go back to sleep, since I’m the sort of man who finds it hard to return to bed once he’s awakened. I’d probably turn and toss in it until I nearly go crazy. So the best thing is to write by candlelight.

4 AM: I discover I just wrote for two hours, filling two notebooks. Still no electric power. My plans now are to stare into the dark for the next hour and a half, since I’m trying to save a bit on candles, as they’re now hard to come by these days. The worst part of the following 90 minutes will be having to put my mind into neutral, since all my brain does nowadays is remember the times when I had a chance to modify my destiny. That drives me up a wall.

5:30 AM: Enough with trying to stop my brain from going into overdrive. Sunrise is up. Time to numb my mind with a more innovative and productive way: I dress up, grab a bunch of mesh bags and lock my house; time to go out and scavenge scrap metal. There is a highway about five miles from here, and a small liquor store sitting by its side where I can rummage through its wastebaskets. I usually can gather two or three pounds of aluminum cans (about 2 bucks is local currency), which serves to pay for the day’s online expenses.

I do my best to fool myself into thinking that the half-eaten sandwich sitting on top of the garbage can isn’t yummy-looking enough… Not yet. Not yet. Perhaps next month, who knows, but not yet. I grab it and toss it into a corner for stray dogs to find it. Best to avoid temptations. Time to head for the supermarket, anyway.

8 AM: Well, I arrived in the supermarket’s parking lot. I’m here to see if it’s worthy to form queue for whatever the locale might be selling. There’s a strong food shortage these days, and you never know where the next meal may come from. I’ve hidden my mesh bags full of crushed recyclable aluminum cans in a culvert covered by overgrown bushes. Yep, there’s a long queue already formed in front of the supermarket; if I join in I may have to stand in line until noon. I find out the people in line are (hoping) waiting to get a liter of vegetable oil. Since my pantry holds three bottles of the stuff, I pass this time. I go back to recover my bags of crushed cans. I walk to Caucagua (another three miles as the crow flies) where I’ll go to sell the aluminum. On my way there, I find a week old newspaper. I go to the Jobs Offered page. There aren’t many offerings in a Modern Day Third World Country That Has Suddenly Turned Communist Overnight (proudly a MDTWCTHSTCO since 2006, mind you!). And the few there may be won’t be interested in a middle-aged guy with a resume that barely fills half a page…. And that’s if you manage to find a way to stretch it that far. I know there’s Burger Helper; has someone invented the Resume Helper?

1 PM: I’m back at my house, completely bushed. I grab a bite and take an hour-long nap. There’s still no electric power. When I get up, partially rested, I go outside the house and do some backyard work, mostly tending my neighbors’ abandoned houses (they pay me a little monthly fee to keep an eye on their property)

5 PM: Most of my chores are done. I grab a pen and a notepad, going to a near hill that I favor to watch the sunset. It’s hard to concentrate in writing when the back of my brain knows there is a world out there, where guys whose life didn’t go somewhere terminally wrong, and they’re going to get drunk, laid and killed during the coming night. Is it wrong to admit that I’m starting to envy those who won’t see the next day?

6 PM: The sun goes down literally with a crash; in the tropics it doesn’t spend any time loitering in the sky any time more that it is required. By 6.15 it’s almost pitch dark. Still no electric power. Nothing left for me to do than to get into bed and go to sleep.

Ironically, I’m awakened at midnight by the harsh purring of an old electric clock I forgot to unplug from the wall. Maybe I’ll have enough juice to run the fridge long enough to have a cold drink tomorrow.

That would certainly be a change of pace…

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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