Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Fifty-seven

Posted by ilbebe on July 2, 2010

Roxie, my roommates’ rat, is dying in the room I’m sitting in. She breathing, but she’s making weird noises, and she hasn’t eaten in a few days. Roxie’s about nineteen months old, over the hill for a rat, this is nothing that wasn’t expected. Still, Tim’s holding her in a towel on his lap, and he’s on the verge of tears.

Domesticated rats have a life expectancy between eighteen months and three years, compared to about nine months for a rat in its natural habitat. As y probably know, rat’s natural habitats in North America tend to be gutters and swamps. Filth. But we can take good care of them, make their lives easy and clean, and give them the chance to live three times longer than they would under natural circumstance. Why we can’t do that for all of our human denizens escapes me. To see people dying on the streets, screaming…

I remember seeing the rotting carcass of a cow near the sand caves outside of Brentwood when I went exploring out there with some friends when I was eleven. The smell was terrible, and there were flies buzzing around it. Coyotes had eaten most of its stomach, and pieces of its head. It was probably the most grotesque thing I’d seen up to that point in my life, but wow, compared to Market Street or the Tenderloin, all I have to say about that cow is that at least there was only one. Animals are carcasses and people are corpses, because animals are filthy, and humans have grace and compassion.

Tim and Maryam got Roxie the rat on December 4th, 2008, the same day I saw AC/DC at the Oakland Arena. Great show, great day. A week after that, my pal Joe moved back to Christmas City, PA, and the long slow creep of winter began with a vengeance. I got a hacking cough, the kind that makes you cough until yr about to pass out, and soon thereafter lost my shit ran nearly out of money hit a girl in the shoulder on New Years got desperate got a job started it got happy again for a short time got really fucking depressed broke up with my girl felt dead for half a year. Then I flew to Chicago and drove back to Oakland in a Budget truck, helping Jenny move. I saw thunderstorms over Iowa, had a sleepless night in York, NE, ate a lot of Taco Bell, felt more storms coming, saw Wyoming for the second time, Forever West, took zero pictures. Felt like I had a metal heart.

I slowly started to feel better as summer turned to fall, and then Jenny’s grandfather died. At his memorial service, I found out he’d been an extra in The Ten Commandments, one of the muscular dudes carrying the golden calf around. It wasn’t hard to look at that photo, and then imagine his cold body, eyes closed, fifty years later. Jenny still isn’t done talking about how she was glad she could be there the night he died; see his body the last night it was warm. Does a body become a corpse when the soul leaves? Does it leave? Does it even exist?

Does a corpse become a carcass when animals get to eat it? I walked past a crying woman on Market Street the other day sitting under a shitty little tree. She had a horribly infected open wound on her shoulder; it was green and red, yellow and black. This was a block from City Hall, a building with a million-dollar golden dome on top. I don’t know if she stands much more of a chance than Roxie, but I guess none of us really do. Death and taxes, y know. Taxes for golden domes, and death for a release from pain. Carcasses and corpses, buried outside the city limits.

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