Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I see all the people as I’m turning the corner and I think, well, this is good. Somebody has money!

The strip mall anchored by King Sooper’s on Woodmen Road and Lexington isn’t one of those stylish faux-Italian villa-looking things, but it isn’t a Po’ Peoples Plaza with a Big Lots or a Dollar Tree, either. There are a few empty storefronts but Artful Adventures, of all things— a place where toddlers and pre-schoolers can get semi-professional guidance in making a mess with their paints—is still a going concern. 

There are more than a few parents and kids going into the tae kwon do place, which is always thumping with activity when I pass it during operating hours.

So there are parents, mostly of middle-of-the-middle-class spectrum, not necessarily driving shiny Suburbans or anything mind-blowingly expensive, who can provide their children with private art instruction and martial arts training. It seems incredible to me that there are still people out there who have jobs and can take their kids to these places. It’s almost encouraging.

Then I remember that not only am I not of their world, I don’t have any chance of crossing over any time soon.

My wife and I committed suicide, me in November, her just a few weeks back in February. We might as well be ghosts.

I’m crossing in front of the King Sooper’s now. This store survived because the parent company invested money here for renovations. It looks enough like a semi-upscale supermarket that enough semi-upscale people still shop here. (It also helps there isn’t another big supermarket like this for miles in either direction.) I know most of the people who work here by face, if not name. As far as they’re concerned I’m just the guy who comes in once in a while to purchase Powerball and Colorado Lotto tickets. I’ve haven’t done that in a week since I let that guy behind the service counter talk me into buying the ten dollar ticket. Five lines of numbers with the multiplier for each. I matched maybe three numbers across the five lines, which, of course, is good only for reminding me that the odds of winning the lottery aren’t worth my playing.

It’ll be a while before I get over my shame and I come back to try one more time. But not too long. Right now, winning a lottery is still the best hope we’ve got.

Across the service road leading to the loading areas behind the main of the mall is Aerial’s Gymnastics. I see all these guys in shorts and duckbill caps and soul patches taking their little princesses in.

I almost can’t believe I’m seeing this. It’s good, I’m genuinely happy for them.

But it’s just these people. It doesn’t mean anything’s getting better for anyone else. Even for these people it just means they’ve got a little while longer.

Past the gymnastics place, past the hot wings joint, lies my eventual destination: Woodmen Liquors. I’m only here because I walked here. Made it part of my usual three-mile walk through the paved sidewalk trails beyond my neighborhood of crumbling starter homes built in the early 1980s. It was the only way I could think of to justify the calories and the expense.

My six-pack of seasonal pale ale costs nine bucks plus the hefty Colorado sin tax. I keep telling myself I’d have spent the savings driving to the cheaper place. Besides, I don’t want to drive anywhere. Funny, though, how it’s always assumed you are driving because the clerk doesn’t even put my six-pack in a bag; I have to get my own.

The plan is to take this home, go in through the garage door and drop this into the front seat of my Jeep on the way into the house. Once Cynthia goes to bed I can get it out and put it into the refrigerator. She’ll see it in the morning, know exactly what I’ve done, maybe say something, maybe not. Regardless of whether she says anything I know she’s not going to like it and I have to watch for potential flashpoints.

I just don’t want to hear about it tonight. Tonight it’s me and this beer, and the knowledge that the resources for it and everything else are extremely finite.

from Tales of the Second Great Depression
Copyright © 2011 Lawrence Roy Aiken