Wednesday, August 26, 2015

You Can Call Me Jack

Chapter 1

You can call me Jack. But that isn't important. I am not important. What's important is the truth. So I will tell you the truth. Only the truth. I will not lie to you, so you can believe everything I say. 

Two years before I began writing this I was comfortable. Comfortable in my life. Comfortable in the world I knew. Ignorance is bliss. I was quite pleased.

I sold insurance for Global Insurance Incentive, a small agency outside a town that I shouldn't mention. I only name the company to implicate them. They are a part of it all.

I had the same routine day in and day out. Nothing changed. I didn't ask questions. I kept my head out of trouble and trouble kept its head out of me. I woke up at 6:37 every morning. I showered from 6:43 until 6:52. Nine minutes. I combed my dark blonde hair, pushing it backward with three drops of 5-hold gel and a fine tooth comb. I shaved my face. I wore one of sixteen suits every day.

On Mondays I wore pinstripes. Tuesdays were solid. Wednesdays I wore an argyle tie. Thursdays I wore blue. Fridays I wore red. If it was an odd numbered day in the month, my shirt was solid. If not, a pale tattersall plaid. If the day looked like rain, I wore gray. If sunshine was on the forecast, I wore black. In the fall I wore brown shoes and belt with khaki pants and a jute jacket. Summer I wore something thinner. It was all planned. Methodical. Calculated. I knew that people would react differently to each piece of my wardrobe. I was twenty-nine years old.

I washed my face outside of the shower in my bathroom sink. I used a paste that I made every evening with four tablespoons of baking soda, one tea spoon of coarse sea salt, two table spoons of water and half a tea spoon of extra virgin olive oil. Three minutes on my face. Rinse with hot water. Dab white vinegar. Wait thirty seconds. Cool water rinse. Invigorating.

I always wore a white shirt underneath. No vest. Vests are for pretentious corporate types. Not for me. I was an Everyman. At least as far as you knew. Socks made of cotton. Never silk. Again. It's about relating. Always.

My business card was simple. I never made a big deal of it. Slight off white coloring. Dark blue lettering. Times New Roman. Regular. Never bold. High gloss text. Matte finish 100p card stock. It felt sturdy but not too firm. Nothing on the back. Subconsciously conveyed that I had nothing to hide. I have nothing to hide. 

My desk faced the inside of my office. Never the door. I needed my clients to know that they could trust me. They were always faced with a way out. What they didn't see is that I was in their way. Subtle. Clever. 

Two chairs opposite my own. One firmer and lower to the ground. The other slightly higher. Soft. Gray the lower chair. The other black. I even sliced a few spots in the gray chair. Always a choice. Make the client decide. Always get a decision. I'll make them choose what I want them to. First they choose comfort. Then security. Options, but no freedom. I chose first and they always followed.

I made $76,000 in my second year. I knew people. They were sheep. I was their shepherd. I provided protection. Security. Safety. I could've made more money, but I needed to stay under $100,000 for tax purposes. Everything I did was calculated.

Monday 06 August. I worked from 8:55AM until 5:13PM. Usual day. Four prospective clients. Seven policies. I signed two. Decent for the beginning of the week.

I sold peace of mind. Never piece of mind. I had a carefully crafted procedure. Cold hard facts. Everyone dies. Here are the statistics. Here are the deaths among people your age. Your chances of death increase every day. Instill hopelessness. Now become the light bearer. Here is a glimmer of hope. Your only chance at freedom - not for you, but for your family. Only two options: no insurance meant leaving your family stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in funeral expenses. They will be destitute and you will not be there to help. Your other option was a small monthly investment. Make a negligible payment and ensure security. Your family can live. You will die. Everyone does. Gray chair or black? Your options. My choice. 

I drove home in my black Volkswagen Jetta. Manual windows. Manual locks. Automatic transmission. It was hot outside. I chose the AC over rolling the windows down.

I got home at 6:54. There was ungodly amount of traffic that day. An accident. Not one of my clients.

I have never watched television. At least not frequently. I owned a set for social reasons. Not for entertainment. I prefer exercise. Reading.

I used to read a book every week. I could read more, but I paced myself. I had to absorb the content. I didn't want to seem smarter than my peers either. I had to remain average. I'm telling you the truth. 

For exercise, one hundred push-ups. Not all at once. Twenty-five. Rest thirty seconds. Again. Again. Again. Same with sit-ups. Pull-ups and chin-ups. Nothing more. Jogging was done only on weekends. Two hours of jogging at medium pace. I didn't care how far. Just jog. Any direction. Walk home. Three hours usually. Cold bath. Eat. Hot shower. Sleep.

I never broke from routine. Never.

I lived alone. No romantic interests. Women will only cloud your mind, break your heart and take your money. Same with religion. In fact, in many ways, women are a religion all their own. Devote your life to them. Pay your dues. Serve. Sacrifice your own Freewill. Talk about them with your acquaintances. Women are religion.

I was twenty-nine years old. No time for that. Only myself. I had no policy of my own. No need. There was no one to leave anything to. Except my family. But I'd be dead, so what did it matter?

It was the evening. My friend came to my house. He was not invited. You may call him Bruce.

Bruce was sloppier than I. His dark brown hair was barely combed and off to the side. I don't recall which side. His glasses had a few scratches. His shirt was untucked. He'd been drinking again.

"Can I come in?"

I obliged. I wanted to enjoy the solitude, but I wanted more to appear hospitable. Humans can only do that which we most desire.
 I closed the door behind Bruce as he made his way to my sofa. Black leather. He sat. He created more of a depression than I would have. His frame was larger than my own. I estimated that he was around twenty pounds heavier too.

"I have to talk to you, man," his voice was shaky. I assumed the liquor on his breath was the likeliest culprit for this visit and the uneven tone in his speech. "It's all a lie."

He was baiting me for a reply. Again I obliged, feigning interest. My strategy was simple - draw out his reason for visiting and then urge him to go home. I was not interested in harboring a drunk for the night.

"I have proof," he annoyed me. "Aliens aren't real."

Of course they weren't. I knew that. I didn't need the ravings of a liquored up lunatic to inform me on such obvious matters.

"They're a hoax to goad us into believing in the globe and the ancient universe and the Big Bang and the lies they've conditioned us to believe. Red herrings. Lies. All lies. NASA, Bigfoot, evolution, space, planets. Lies. The devil."

My face betrayed the contempt with which I met his absurdity. I said nothing.

"It's all a lie," he got up and started pacing around my living room. I had taken my seat on the floor opposite the couch.

"Say," he paused for a moment. "Do you still work at the bank? Can you help me get a loan?"

It had been over half a decade since I left the bank. Bruce's question reminded me that it had been half a dozen years since we last spoke. I asked why he'd come to me. He said I was the only one who would listen.

But listening is the last thing I wanted to do. An old roommate from college who was too drunk to tie his shoes - which I noticed he hadn't taken off when he came into my apartment - was not the sort of company I had planned on entertaining. I looked at my watch. It was 10:38. I was over an hour late getting into bed. My routine had been disrupted by the musings of a madman.

"Look and ye shall find," he raved. "There's a lot that doesn't add up."

A lot. That's true. Like why it had clearly been a few days since his last shave. Or how long ago he'd spilled mustard on his shirt. I was always good with details. I noticed the little things.

"Take a closer look at the world, Jack. You'll see what I mean. Just gotta look for it."

He was right. He was describing confirmation bias. Humans are prone to that sort of thing. We're always going to find exactly what we're trying to find. If you look at a blurry picture with a smudge, you'll either see a ghost or a glare depending on your disposition and presupposition. Arguments are never won with facts. They're won with emotions. And something had clearly persuaded Bruce that aliens were a lie from the devil. I didn't care. They were as real to me as the devil who made them up. And Santa Clause. And the Easter Bunny. I knew one thing - my routine. And it's all I cared to know.

"Think about it, Jack," his voice started to weigh on my nerves. "The government faked Roswell, Area 51. All that stuff. They pretended to hide aliens. But aliens were never there. Reverse psychology. Tell us the truth but do it so it sounds like a lie. You'll be careful if the devil says he's God. Makes sense he'd say that. But what if he says he's the devil? What happens when the devil starts telling you the truth? Then who do you believe?"

His nonsense had gone on long enough. It was late and I was tired. I turned him out. Let someone else listen. I wasn't going to.

I went to bed late that night. 11:57. Almost midnight. Too late to be staying awake. Nothing good happens at that hour. You can call me Jack. I won't lie to you. 

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