“Do you have any idea how boring it is to be both filthy rich and lacking in ambition?” he asked, butting out his smoke in the potted plant on the restaurant table. We sat near the window in a Mexican place on Main. He wanted that seat so that he could keep an eye on his gleaming sports car parked out front. Something about ‘never being too careful’. I didn’t have a response to his question, though I figured he was going to tell me the answer anyway. He never invited me out unless he had something to get off his chest, and I was all too happy to play the part of counselor, so long as there was a free lunch involved. I just waited and sipped my Corona. “It’s fucking bo-ring!”

“I can’t imagine it’d be all that bad,” I said.

“And that’s always been your problem, Jack. Lack of imagination! Let me tell you and tell you truly: it’s as dull as dogshit. You play video games, right?” I admitted that I did. “You know how when you figure the game out? There’s always this place on the power curve where you kinda go over, right, and then suddenly the challenge of the game is gone and you’re just plowing through content without any fear of losing. That’s what being wealthy is like.”

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You want to go back to the feeling of being powerless?”

“No. If I want that I call up one of several people who specialize in putting me in my place. You ever tried anything kinky, like BSDM? Or is it BDSM? I can never remember, plus I might be dyslexic. No, it’s not about the feeling of power. Even back when I was still struggling, the feeling of power was there. I think that’s separate from wealth, or at least it’s a different type of power. If I wanted to go back to being broke I could in a heartbeat, but that would be just stupid. It’d be like deleting your maxed out character in the game and starting over. I guess there’s some appeal to that, but in a game the time from zero to hero is short. It took me over forty years to get to where I was when I first felt that true listlessness of boredom. At best I’d have one more run in me, and the strain of it would probably kill me before I rebuilt everything. Nah, that’s not at all what I’m talking about.”

“Then what are you talking about?”

“I want to feel like I’m really working toward freedom again. I think that’s the real curse of having this gross financial excess: it’s only an illusion of actual freedom.”

“Actual freedom?”

“Right. Being free to buy whatever you want or go wherever you want to go isn’t true freedom. Because wherever you go, you’re gonna end up being bound by the rules and regulations of the place you end up at. I’m talking about law, here.”

I was starting to feel confused. It probably had more to do with the beer I was dumping into an empty stomach, coupled with the heat of the place, but I continued to humor him. “You want to be a politician?”

“Oh, hell no. I’ve never wanted public scrutiny, you know that. That’s why I don’t have any of that social media crap. But I think having invisible influence would be great.”

“Wait a minute. You’re disgustingly wealthy and you’re not a member of the Illuminati?” I said with a chuckle. I felt a sudden irritation at the Corona bottle’s lack of a peelable label.

“Very funny. Maybe my invitation got lost in the mail or something. But yeah, that’s more what I’m getting at. Becoming rich, topping the game, maxing my level, and realizing that the world is a boring place once you’re above the rat race.”

“But what about all the good you could be doing? Philanthropy and the like.”

“Oh sure, I give a ton to worthy causes. But that’s another thing: there seems to be nothing but problems to solve. Once you’ve gotten over your own little concerns you see that everyone else is suffering. And while sad, to me it just contributes to the boredom factor.”

“Other folk’s suffering bores you?”

“I know it sounds cold, but yeah. At first it got to me, right? Like I was able to help and see people through to where they wanted to get to, but even that lost its charm after a while. You end up looking at it like these little pits with people at the bottom, and you fill those pits up with cash so that they can climb out, but there’s a never-ending field of pits and the longer you look out over that plain of desperation the bleaker and, yeah, more boring it all becomes.”

“Wow, yeah. That is cold.”

“Is it? What would you suggest I do, then?”

“You know I don’t have an answer for something like that,” I said. “I’d have to have the same problem to have even the slightest bit of insight. Me? I’m worried about whether I’m gonna make it through the year with my little start-up, whether the love of my life is still gonna feel the same a decade from now. Whether there’s life on Mars. Shit like that.”

“I could help you out with your business, but—”


“But I know how much fun that shit is!” He reached across the table and punched me hard in the shoulder. “Okay, enough of this shit-talking, there are far more important questions that need answering.”

“Such as?”

He grinned and opened the menu. “Should we have tacos or burritos?”

2015.01.13 – 2023.08.14

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