My name is Jason Maslow and I used to be a bum, a worthless bum. My wife cheated on me with my brother, I lost my job, my parents died within a month of each other, I got evicted and had to fight for my unemployment in court—no other family member answered or spoke to me because of my brother’s shit-talking and bastardizing—and, of course, I had no money. Not a single dollar to my name.
It all seemed to happen out of nowhere, I walked into the office one day to a pink slip–no warning or anything, just get-the-fuck-out-and-we’ll-send-your-check-in-the-mail. I went home that day and found my wife in the bed getting fucked doggy-style by my brother—and enjoying the hell out of it from what I saw. My brother didn’t give a shit because he’s a dick and has always wanted to fuck my wife; he used to hit on her at every function right in front of my face like I didn’t exist, and it bugged the shit outta me. So, when I saw him going at it and not stopping, I wasn’t surprised, but my wife, Mandy. . . it hurt like hell. Hurt like a thousand sledgehammers to the nuts. I stayed in a hotel for the night.
When I went back to my apartment the next morning there was an eviction notice on the door and keys on the floor. I picked them up and used my own keys to open the door and found all my wife’s stuff—well, all the stuff valuable to her—was gone. All that was left were photos of me and her that were now meaningless, the dining room set, needless paintings of flowers on the wall, and a bunch of other shit I paid for but don’t remember doing so.
Two weeks later after I applied for unemployment, they mailed me back saying I was denied—my severance check hadn’t come through yet—and I was running out of cash. I went to the unemployment office, which had a long line, and waited three hours then got into an argument with the clerk to the point I flipped her off and told her to stick the denial up her ass and cough it up then left. A week later—after calling family members I hadn’t spoken to in a while with no answer—I ran out of money.
At that time, I got a call from a distant cousin and when I answered she started cursing me out; she called me the scum of the earth and a worthless bum that’s gonna die in a ditch for cheating on Mandy and canceling all her cards. I didn’t bother to explain because I knew it was my brother’s doing and I hung up—rather, she hung up first because she was so pissed. My phone bill was due in a couple of days and I had no way to pay it, and since I had no one on my side, I just turned it off and sat on a curb.
* * *
I didn’t think my life could get any worse until about three weeks into being a worthless bum. People walked past you like you didn’t exist and only gave you a single dollar bill and sometimes pennies. What the fuck was I supposed to do with a penny?! Nothing on earth costs one cent. I didn’t say this out loud because I didn’t wanna seem ungrateful but come on a penny?! God! I grabbed my cup and cardboard and went to a different spot with more people.
While I was walking, I happened upon an alley and felt strange when I approached it. I didn’t know what it was, but something was telling me to go in, so I peeked. Turquoise smoke washed over my face like a cool tropical breeze and had a natural, earthy and citrusy aroma to it. I looked both ways then went in. When I got to the middle of the alley there was a door on the left. A mahogany door with a gold knob that looked like a door to a mansion rather than the middle of an alley in New York City. I twisted the knob, opened the door, then walked inside.
The place was narrow and dimly lit with a bunch of candles. Various incenses and sages burned from all over, giving the room a smoky and mystical feel like I was walking through a misty forest on a summer night and beads—dangling from a little arch serving as a separator—hung on nails and hooks hammered into the walls. I walked through the beads and entered a small room with a kitchen on the left, a desktop computer on the right, and a small table in the middle with pillows for seats on both sides.
I looked around to see if anybody was here, but it was silent, the smell of sweet incense mixed with strong and powerful sage penetrated my nostrils until it was all I could think about. I turned away for a moment and pinched my nose and when I turned back, I saw a woman sitting at the table in front of me.
“Holy shit!” I flinched. “You just about scared the Jesus outta me, lady!”
She sat cross-legged in silence and took slow, deep breaths with her eyes closed, her hands rested in her lap. She wore a robe and head wrapping that was a concatenation of dark gold and purple with plaid patterns of green, red and yellow. Her skin was a deep, chocolate brown and a scent of cocoa butter emanated from her. She looked completely relaxed and at the same time was filled with a deep sense of effervescence while I was the polar opposite. I was all over the place, a worthless bum who lost his wife, his job, his apartment, his unemployment, and his family. Someone who was unraveling and didn’t have the first idea on how to stop it. Then, she said something that spooked the all fuck out of me.
“You’ve experienced great loss over the past few weeks, haven’t you?” She started. “Your energy is neurotic, and your heart is unbalanced.”
“What?” I asked. “My energy? What are you talk-”
“I have unfortunate news for you, Jason Maslow.”
“How did you know my name?”
“Your mother, Marlene Maslow, has passed.” She said. “And your father, Peter Maslow, isn’t far behind.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked fearfully. “My mother’s alive and kicking. She and dad were just at the Bahamas a month ago and everything was hunky dory.”
“Did she tell you she had stage four cancer and only had a month to live?” She asked.
I thought I felt bad before, but my heart literally dropped to my stomach when I heard this. “You’re lying! She’s not dead. She’s fine. I’ll call her right now and prove it to you.”
I took out my cell phone and turned it on then brought up my mom on the contacts list and remembered my service was discontinued, “Shit!” I put the phone back in my pocket. “You gotta phone in here, lady?”
She turned her head without breaking her posture–her majestic and god-crafted profile accentuated even in the dim light—and I saw the phone on the desk and went for it. I dialed mom’s number, but I got no answer. I tried two more times and got the same result. I called dad’s phone and he picked up and asked who it was. I told him it was me and asked how mom was doing. His voice was shaky at first and it sounded like he was crying—sobbing, actually. It took him ten minutes to tell me mom passed away at six this morning and tears flooded from my face with no warning. My legs gave way from under me and the only thing holding me up was the desk. At that moment my entire world collapsed. I felt like I was falling deeper into a void I could never escape.
After fifteen minutes of intense crying and sobbing, I asked dad how he was doing. With that news he was more stoical, he told me straight up that he had about another month to live, as well. That he’s not too far behind mom. My heart was in my stomach when I found out about mom and now, I felt like it was gonna carve a hole through it and hang itself with my intestines. I tried to hold back my tears—to be a man like my father always told me—to no avail.
My eyes became the Niagara Falls when I realized my life was over, that the reason my parents didn’t answer when I called them was that they were dying. That they were fading from existence and wanted to create one last memory together. My dad told me it’s best we don’t speak again, that it’d be too painful. That he could handle his own death, but deep inside, he couldn’t handle leaving his children behind despite all the differences we’ve had as a family. I couldn’t even hang up the phone because the grief and sorrow drained me. I was alone and homeless. Not a soul in the world to support me.
“That is where you’re wrong, Jason Maslow.” The fortune-teller said, her eyes still closed. “You are never alone in this world, that is just how it seems.” She continued, “No one is ever born, and no one ever dies. We are all one with the universe because we are the universe. It is your ego that thinks your mother is dead and that your father is next.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?!” I said. “I just heard my mother passed away from a fucking psychic and that my father’s next, and now you want me to listen to your goddamn enlightenment, one-with-the-universe bullshit?!” I continued, “Listen, lady, I don’t know how you knew my mother passed and that my father was next nor how the hell you knew my name but what I refuse to believe is this spiritual mumbo-jumbo you’re trying to pass as half-ass condolence!”
“Sit down,” she said, without breaking her posture in any way.
“Why the hell should I?!”
She took a deep, slow breath, “Sit. Down.”
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