Porkchop peeled off his sunglasses so that he could smile with his eyes, too. For in his hand was a crisp $100 bill, handed indolently over to him by a young man in a crisp, blue blazer, whose other hand firmly gripped the heated steering wheel of his ice-white Tesla.
As the wave of traffic passed with a sudden light change, Porkchop felt escape him the cold sensation that had been gnawing at his toes like a teething infant on a hard object, despite him being quite aware of the fact that this was not merely a faze that he would outgrow. Provided the opportunity to re-assemble his life, out of the shambles that it had inadvertently degraded to over the short course of a year, Porkchop understood he could, in fact, perhaps turn this single stroke of luck into a grandeur fortune. From this sudden downward spiral, moreover, he had gained a distinct sense of apathy. Apathy for the carelessness that comes with bad genes, and, accordingly, the aversion of accountability that comes with bearing a full plate. But, perhaps more importantly, apathy for how he continued to live, as a man without a name, and hardly a face, as another flurry of vehicles passed by on their respective jaunts into, and out of, the city. Apathy, coupled with his few material possessions, was all that he had left to his name.
Porkchop’s stomach began to rumble, feeding off the idea of hunger as a tangible sensation; he realized he must act deftly, at least swiftly enough for his camp-bearing counterparts to not comprehend the magnitude of what had just happened.
However it was to happen, the haphazardly-kept fellow birthed by the name of Terrell Wiggins – but christened ‘Porkchop’ for his incomprehensible ability to stomach raw meats when that was all that there was to consume – Porkchop had a distinct, inexplicable understanding – akin to a lucid premonition of one’s death – that this was to happen at some point. That he would be lifted from the fifth and scum that came funneling in from the declivity of the concrete underpass of that screaming Texas highway, under which he and a handful of other grizzled veterans slept interchangeably – by way of a stranger, no less: someone who simply saw the deed as a strange sort of attempt at effacing old sins. The sequence, moreover, seemed only fitting. For it was the same flicker of lightning – an irrevocable flash of fate – which had imparted a bout misfortune into his life in the first place. First it was his wife being swept away by an astute office-colleague, after a single night out, and taking with her not only the sacred agreement to bear the first of his offsprings, but also the small fortune she had inherited shortly after they married. Second to strike was the almost immediate circling of fickle third-party lenders, each of whom flocked at the scent of blood like sharks, and rendered him, rather promptly: volatile, as if the word were stamped across his forehead like an expiration date. From there, the rest of his self-worth slipped away so suddenly, expiring with one swift jibe; employment, discipline, desire.
The potential death, then, of this oddly embraceable lifestyle, at a moments notice, felt to be quite fitting, indeed. That $100 bill was still cold, and crisp between his fingertips; Porkchop counted all the treats it could buy on his way off the curb, whilst his feet carried him toward the ubiquitous bodega that was affixed just below the underpass, where his friend Arik worked. It was still closed. He would have to kill some time before the OPEN sign flickered on.
But before making any serious strides back to the heap of discarded plywood, steel shopping carts, colorful tarps, cracked kitchen tables, and over-stuffed carrier bags that were all, at various times, claimed by his crew, Porkchop paused to consider the utterly astronomical odds of procuring such a piece of paper; that crisp, $100 bill elicited in him an escapable, yet now most decidedly foreign, exaltation. After all, money could buy happiness; at least, for short lengths of time, with the right people. Surely, Arik would understand if Porkchop were to blow it all on individually packed ice-cream sandwiches, cold beers by the case, lottery tickets; as it went for the latter, Porkchop had done something of the sort before, when given a small fortune by his fellow man.
Salivating by the second, Porkchop started to thumb through the lone belongings in his front pocket: a single pocket watch without its chain; a crumbled stub from the bus ticket that brought him into town, kept as an homage; the spare set of laces for his boots; and, at last, a mess of loose coins that clanged at every step forward. It wasn’t much, but this same fellow realized early on in his woeful wanderings that material possessions – and man’s unbreakable obsession with them – were merely projections of his spiritual shortcomings. And so, as the urge sunk in, to surrender to that inherent itch to indulge in everything elicit all at once. For the rest of the morning, as he awaited Arik’s arrival, Porkchop put much effort into keeping his mouth shut, as he made small passings at the men in his camp, whilst subduing any impulse to divulge the sudden depth of his pockets to those battle-tested men. Could they sense it, he feared, in the smugness he felt was all but ensconced in his mannerisms, as he continued to pace the putrid, piss-painted boulevard, barely making eye contact, nor acknowledging a solemn nod from someone behind a wheel, unwilling to give anything more?
To distract himself, Porkchop took time to reflect upon the squalid life he inherited; standing on its foundation, he thought about how his own had crumbled at first fissure; a small crack quickly became an abyss of empty, infinite space. But, having been on the other side for so long, Porkchop understood that this was just the way life went. Some get all the fixin’s; others, just the crumbs. Crumbs were, after all, how he had made his way through his past life, betting on a violate market, with invisible means, collecting his coins week by week – until it all burst. Like confetti in a balloon, his milestones were enamoring for the eyes, but they quickly fluttered and fell away, before being swept up by the swift, hard-handled broomstick of society, which seemed now more intent on keeping going than picking up the pieces it left behind.
Here, in his current existence, he hardly made an impression. A life where each day equated to the mere flashing of a thumb. That thumb, the one not lethargically jingling those few coins around in his pants pocket, was firmly stuck out, waving to the traffic that came tumbling forward. As it went, so did this pattern, with Porkchop indolently mouthing the words ‘thank you’ to the few crumpled bills that were intermittently tossed his way.
What felt like an hour had gone by before Porkchop found himself walking toward the betting parlor, right next to the bodega where Arik worked. A few of the letters on the parlor’s neon sign had since lost juice; now, and on any given day, it only flickered different fragments of the word BINGO. As he looked down, Porkchop saw the time on his wrist flicker: 9:01. Arik would be behind the counter now. The parlor could wait.