At six a.m. Dennis Rogers arose from his car seat to begin his day. He wiped the dust from the shattered window to see what the weather was like.
“Shit. Another day of fog so thick I can’t see two feet in front of me.”
Wearily he put his keys in the ignition and attempted to start his pile of parts.
“What are you trying to do? Wake all the rats or something?”
“It’s about time you no good son of a …”
He backed his car out of the shipyard and found his way back to the highway.
So began another dreary day in the life of Dennis Rogers. Nothing special, it began just like every other day.
Occasionally, he wondered how he ended up living this way; no job, no home, no family or friends — only this beat up old thing he called a car and the shirt on his back. At the age of 27, he felt he should have something to show for the hard life he’d led. His mother was killed when he was ten. He never knew his father; his mother denied the guy’s existence.
For years he hung around the streets, making some kind of living by begging and stealing. When he turned eighteen he finally got a job, scraping the floor of an Italian restaurant. With money enough to buy a car, he quit and left the city to see what else life had to offer.
That was three years ago; since then he had roamed from town to town, making money off con jobs and leaving before he was caught. Somehow he knew this was all he would ever do with his life. It bothered him sometimes, but usually just getting from day to day was enough to worry about.
He drove down the highway now — not thinking about anything in particular, just watching the fog wrap around his car.
He pulled over to the side of the freeway as his car slowly died. He climbed out, lifted the hood and gradually realized how useless any of his efforts would be. He’d just have to try thumbing it for a while and see where that got him.
Six hours and what was probably hundreds of cars later he realized that this too was useless. Wet and miserable, he walked back to his car and scribbled something on the inside of an old cigarette carton. He then pried off a piece of glass from the broken window and slowly, methodically slashed his arms and wrists.
When the fog lifted one man finally pulled over to snoop around. All he found were a grey car, a corpse, and a note on the inside of an old cigarette carton which read:
“I cant longer live in this cold life. maybe if I die someone notice.”
Well now, that was a bit depressing, wasn’t it?
I wrote this piece of fiction for a college class assignment at UC Santa Cruz. The professor’s note reads in part:
I imagined that this story was inspired by the section in The Authentic Writer? It was a fine story, and did indeed fill in a human experience.”
All I can find now on “The Authentic Writer” is an Amazon link to “The authentic writer: Freshman rhetoric and composition [unbound]“… which I am tempted to purchase a copy of just to jar my memory.
From what I found on an authentic writing workshop web page, “Authentic Writing directs writers to return to their most essential, personal material – the content of their actual lives – and to render those stories not in pious ephemeral terms, but in tough, concrete ones.” (I have no experience with that website, I’m just giving them credit for the quote.)
That makes sense in the context of my life at the time that I wrote this. I was in my freshman year of college. I had just abandoned my father’s idea of getting a degree in physics, and was pursuing my dream of writing. I was putting myself through college with a part-time job and grants and loans, and my love life was — to put it mildly — sucky, sporadic, slutty and sluggish. (It was that same love life that would cause me to drop out of college one year later and flee to San Francisco to start my life over.)
From time to time I would think about suicide; although not seriously. Just in the dramatic way a twenty-something has of seeking the easy way out of a difficult situation. Obviously, this story was my way of processing those feelings.
Tell me what you think.