I tell Syd I’ll commit suicide as soon as I finish this story, and with a toast I’ll be toast. That way, being free of me, maybe she’ll be free herself. Psst: Between you and me, I know there is no Syd. Not really. I do have a sister, though. Her name is Enid. Enid calls me every Sunday morning at 8:30 to ask if I want to go to church. I say no, partly because it’s too early. Church used to be at 11, now it’s at 9:30 because people want to watch golf on TV, or get to the buffet before it gets too crowded. I haven’t gone to church since mom died, either, and I don’t appreciate Enid trying to take mom’s place. I don’t say this part aloud, of course. What I say is I’m tired, and that I stayed up late watching television.

Not that I have a television, per se. What I have is an old monitor, which used to be a TV and is not now connected to any digital box. So all I can do, really, is watch the DVDs I get from the library. Mostly these are foreign art house films or documentaries. The only DVDs I actually own are some old TV series: season two of The Wild, Wild West, season four and five of The Rockford Files, and all seasons of Alias.

I like Alias because it’s so sad. What makes it sad is realizing how bored viewers are with their real lives. You can imagine all the lonely people just like me, sitting here on this couch and not believing a single plot segment on the screen, but watching all those elaborately staged fights and betrayals anyway. Sydney Bristow can’t trust anybody–not her boss, her friends, her lover. Not even her own father or mother. They could all be working for some alliance out to conquer the world. Or pollute it. In fact, she can’t even trust herself. Maybe she’s a triple agent clone, programmed from infancy to wear disguises the rest of her life?

I understand the way she felt. Or rather feels, I should say, because she’s real to me, like a secret friend to someone who has no friends. In fact, I talk to her from time to time, around my apartment, ever since I retired from the railroad. You could even say that I’m married to her in a way, too. Because she doesn’t trust me, either. Because I lie to her all the time. Because I lie to myself as well. And I suppose I’m getting better at that.

I should confess that I never watched Alias when it was first being broadcast. I was working at the time. But I did watch The Wild, Wild West as a teen, and then Rockford right before I started pulling freight. Jim Rockford’s situations seemed more believable to me than James West’s, of course, but there was always a neat tie-up at the end of most series back then that made you feel good about the world. And even in the more unlikely plots there was some nod toward plausibility. In Alias, and the world we now inhabit, all happy endings are suspect, loyalty is for sale, and people believe anything imaginable. To me, this is sad. But then we come to like our sad stories. We even become them.

When Enid called me this week, for example, she asked me–for the first time–exactly what I was watching so late. So I told her. Then she told me she was hooked on I LOVE LUCY, which they’ve been watching nonstop in Cuba, but had stayed up late to watch LOST on DVD…which Cuba will be watching soon, along with the LOST American family who call themselves The Kardashians. She’d never seen it before, she said, but was intrigued, and thought I might like it too. Upshot is, she’s giving it to me on my 54th birthday in August, along with something else. Last year her “something else” was the entire Bible on CD, although I never took the plastic wrap off that “something else to save me.” If they ever make a video version of the entire Bible, I may watch it, although I’m not sure if it will be a happy or sad experience, since this would remind me of mom. Mom, who always told me Jesus loved me, yet in the end couldn’t remember how to pray anymore, and instead asked for chocolate Ensure.

Oh, well, I better go. Sorry to be so abrupt, but Syd is complaining how she’s been betrayed by everyone she ever believed in, and when will it ever end? I tell her that I know the feeling. Even sports legends and trusted talk show hosts are apparently not who they’d seemed. Who can trust politicians anymore, either? More people believe in UFOs than believe Social Security will survive. And there are religious leaders, right now, who say a giant space ark will rescue anyone who sows a seed of faith and offering to support their ministries. Everybody else is so bored and has such short attention spans, they can’t wait for the world to end.

Syd listens to me say all this. She nods. She even smiles a bit. She understands what I’m saying. But I can tell she doesn’t really believe I’ll be here for her, when the end does come. Or that I can be trusted to keep my word.


See, this pistol’s not even loaded.  -0-


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