“You ever look at yourself in the mirror and wonder why you’re still alive?” he asked as he cleaned his razor under the hot water tap.

I didn’t even have to think about it. “Of course. The older I get, the more often such a thought occurs to me. It’s funny how we used to joke about not remembering the things we did when we were younger, because of all the drugs, and maybe was true at one time. Now I’m reminded daily of this or that death-defying situation that I’d just barely managed to scrape out of.”

He grunted and scrubbed a palm over his cheeks. I could hear the stubble rasp from where I sat at the kitchen table. “Fucking disposables,” he said, and spat into the sink.

“You ever think about why you were even born in the first place?” I asked. “Now there’s a trip.”

“I know why I was born,” he said. “Pop wanted a son because he didn’t feel like he’d completed his duty as a man. He told me as much, just before he croaked last May.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.

“Don’t be. He was a bastard who’d long overstayed his welcome. Left us with nothing. Good riddance.”

“Good riddance, then.”

“What about you?” he asked. “Are you confused about why you were born?”

“I think about it in the grand scheme of things. Like how we rose as a species. How just the right combination of factors came together to produce us, human beings, and then on down through the ages, constantly evolving and adapting until this,” I said, spreading my arms to encompass the dingy apartment.

“I don’t know if I buy all that,” he said. He wiped his face on a dirty towel and joined me at the table. “And before you throw science in my face, just remember that everything you think you know about evolution and the rise of the species is based on your trust of what you’ve read and heard. You’ve never done the research yourself, not the real hard stuff. Not the digging in the dirt and operating high-tech machinery to divine the secrets of the past.”

“No, but how many have?” I asked.

He tapped a stubby finger on the tabletop. “Exactly.”

“Come on. If you’re rational you must, at some point, rely on the work of others to enhance your own perception of things.”

“Do I?” he asked. “Why? How does it serve me to know any of it? Is it going to help pay the rent this month? Find me a business partner that won’t fuck me over? Let me lead a long and healthy life?”

I thought about it. “That’s overwhelmingly pessimistic, but you’re right. It’s all just fluff, isn’t it?”

“Personally, based on my own fifty-odd years of trudging around on this planet, I think we probably sprung whole cloth from vats somewhere, and we’re living in a complex simulation for some greater intelligence’s amusement.”

“That is a popular theory,” I said.

“Not as popular as the evolution one,” he said, and chuckled. “Either way, the deeper you think about all of that the more you come to realize that there are forces beyond your reckoning that are making things happen, and you’re forever at the mercy of their whims. And at the end of it all, unless you’re a scientist doing research for a stipend, hoping you stay employed long enough to write a popular book, it’s not helping you get through the day.”

2015.01.11 – 2023.08.12

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