Two Equals

Task: Write a story revolving around a Lawyer, a Library, a Lighter and Survival.

The End

Before I begin on my self-aggrandizing tirade, let’s get one thing clear – I am a pest, a vermin groveling on the earth, stealing that which is mine, scampering about on soil searching for food and taking it by hook or by crook. By crook, in most cases. Phew! Glad I got that off my chest.

Anyways, I’m fifty-five as of yesterday, and regarding personal information, that is all I’m willing to give up for age is but a number. You might be wondering as to why I won’t disclose my name? So that you can use my personal testimony against me? Oh no no no, I’m far too clever for you. A thought that has just entered your mind, had manifested itself in mine ages ago, I made a case out of it, deliberated on its pros and cons and various consequences and settled on how to go about it. So you see, I’m always a few steps ahead of you. You may refer to me as Unidentified. That word has a peculiar ring about it, don’t you think?

So yes, where was I? Aha! I’ve to justify my unscrupulous life before you. Though there is no need for it, because I’ve already lived my life and to charge me or judge me for what is in the past is something I don’t give two hoots about. Have you guessed by now what field of work I belong to? No? Okay then, I’ll give you some more time. Even though I have no sympathy for dumb witted personages such as yourself, and especially no sympathy for those who have been given ample time to think yet ask more of it. I confess that I’ve already established a slight liking for you. Why, you ask. Is it because I pity your innocence? On the contrary, I loathe it. I despise it. You will never be of any benefit to me. And that puts you at the bottom of the food chain. My food chain. Rather, I like you because you decided to lend me an ear. You chose to listen to what I’ve to say. And that, my friend, can I call you a friend even if I don’t mean it? Where was I? Yes, that my friend, is an admirable trait in a human being – to listen. Not just listen, but to mull over, to consider, and then perfect your reaction appropriately. I see your facial expressions are beginning to twinge because you see me as a worthless being yet you continue listening to what I have to say. What does that tell about you? Aren’t you a hypocrite much like myself? I quite fancy that word. Hypocrite. Hypocrisy. The word itself reeks of its meaning. Language is odd.

You are beginning to realize that I’m not very articulate, and that might flare up your concern for me – for what can a clumsy man be at fault for? You give too much importance to your own preconceived notions. What if my awkward talk is nothing but a guise to gain your pity? Aha! I’ve put you in a conundrum now. You are beginning to think who the real me is. Am I what I am projecting to be? Or am I the exact opposite to what I’m leading you to believe in? I cannot help you with the answer, I’m profusely sorry, because I myself don’t know who I am. Not that I am seeking the answer to that because I don’t care either ways. For some I could be the rogue hero, the savior, for others I could be the insect that courts dung, a groveling non-entity what do they call it? Ah yes, a dung beetle.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been likened to a dung beetle – a reference that provides me with ample amusement whenever I begin to scrutinize my life choices. In fact, I quite admire the title given to me by my esteemed colleagues. They are not much different from me except for the fact that I have already made peace with the idea that I’m a garbage of an excuse of a human being and they all yet have to reach this unanimous conclusion. Oh well! To each his own.

I once helped a murderer get off the hook. He roamed free on earth till, three years after his acquittal, he was killed in a brutal accident. They say they found his eyes squeezed to a mulch under the car tires, it was a Ford Lincoln I think. His brains were splattered on the ground and his genitals lay exposed for all eyes and cameras to see. What a way to go, eh? The driver of the vehicle was a good, old lady in her early forties who had lost her only daughter to the predator she had just run over with her car. Of course she was sentenced to life in jail where she committed suicide after four months. Life does come full circle.

You must be wondering why I recounted this particular story. The thing is, I knew the guy had killed a beautiful nineteen year old blonde girl who had refused to go out with him following a night of drunkenness in which he had assaulted her repeatedly. He was a vicious human being with no sense of virtue or remorse over his actions. In that aspect we were very similar. Not only did I want his money, but I also had a sense of protecting my own kind. We, the scum of the earth, look after each other even if it is only to satisfy our own means. The court proceedings were unfair on the victim’s family but justified for me because with all the money I had accumulated from that one case I was able to rent out a large condo on the fourth floor of a very, very expensive building on Le Paine Street. But I will not divulge further in my material possessions. I’m assuming that you are least interested in my personal acquirement.

Anyhow, a few months after the killer was cleared of all charges, my subconscious began to prick me. I would often lay awake at nights in my $20,000-per-month condo bedroom – fully furnished with cutting-edge interior furniture, 47″ inch plasma TV, a $5000 custom-made king size bed with a view overlooking the expensive properties on Paine Park. I couldn’t get the mother’s face out of my head. For some reason her last look had always haunted me, and it still does. My client had just been exonerated, and I was over the moon, my ego burst with pride and in my head I was thinking of how to celebrate my win. I was planning of treating myself with an expensive dinner followed by gratifying the carnal appetite with a gorgeous escort who would often visit me, I fail to recall her name. I think it was either Lucy or Lucia or Louisa, oh to hell with the whore’s name. So where was I? Yes, as I was planning all this in my head and as I was walking down the stairs, I happened to see the victim’s mother who was accompanied by some of her relatives. They were consoling her and as a man, I’m guessing the victim’s uncle, embraced her, her eyes fell upon me. I was at a considerable distance so her family hadn’t noticed me yet but I was close enough to be in her line of sight. Her white hair were disheveled, and her eyes, whilst soggy, had a bewildered look about them. I had never seen such hatred pour out of a set of eyes. Her facial expressions were that of a deeply grievous woman yet showed no signs of abhorrence but her eyes. Oh those eyes still trouble me. As if it had a mind of its own. They vented out the animosity that her face had failed to register. But all this lasted for a moment, and when I blinked again, she had looked away. I made haste out of the court and drove to Glutain Restaurant where I treated myself with an over-priced albeit tasteless dinner. For some reason, I have always associated that look with her when she had crushed her daughter’s murderer under the screeching tires and when she had electrocuted herself in the prison cell.

After a year or so my subconscious began to ease on me and as time passed, and as I won more and more cases, I gradually began to forget all about her. I began to sleep peacefully despite all the criminals and scandalous felons I was helping set free. Until of course, three years later, Adam, my secretary, happened to tell me that the good old woman was sentenced to life for a hit and run. I followed up on her case via the news and I even had once made up my mind to attend one court session but at the very last minute I decided to cancel and meet with another client instead. This particular client was being sued for corruption and he was a steel magnate which meant only one thing to me – big bucks were hurried my way. Soon after I won his case, I became the most sought after lawyer in the tri-state area, charging up to thousands of dollars for just an hour. I had assumed an air of self-importance and my already inflated ego was reaching out for the stars. Then one day, whilst watching a documentary on dung-beetles I received a text message to turn on channel 24, the local news channel which was infamous for its mediocre news coverage, and that’s when I got to know the convicted mother, the good old lady had committed suicide.

Suicide, in my opinion, is a coward’s act. And one thing I hate more than innocence is a weakling. Up till now, I have had the lady in my good graces. If she had ever come to me for any assistance, this is of course just conjecture for she would have never approached me even if her life lay on the line and I was the only person who could save her from the devil, I would have most happily helped her perhaps even free of cost. And that, my friend, coming from me, means a lot. But soon after I found out about her disgraceful act, she fell out of my pity. From there on, I did not regret the murderer’s discharge nor did I feel sorry for her unfortunate life which was bound to cruel fate. She avenged her daughter’s murder, and nature avenged her cowardice. Like I said, life comes full circle. So does justice.

 The Justification

You laugh, my friend. Why? Are you amused by my usage of the word “justice”? Like I said before, language is odd. Meanings are tangible only in dictionaries my friend. Each word has a different connotation, depending on the context it is used in and also depending on the perception of fellow beings. For me justice is that which is done right by me, for me and to me. I see, you withdraw in disgust. It’s quite apparent in your facial expressions. I’m pretty good at reading them. I didn’t get where I stand today just by hard work though that’s another term whose definition must vary between the two of us. I know how to manipulate and that’s why I am good at what I do or should I say was good at what I did. Tense is relative too. Anyhow, as I was saying, connotations vary greatly. So far, I’ve referred to you as a friend, but do you really think you are my friend as defined by your dictionary? Perhaps in your mind, yes, but for me you are but a temporary companion, a quiet listener of my tales and our kinship exists for a certain passage of time and as soon as the moment is gone, I shall fling you away like a stranger for then you’ll be of no use to me. For me a friend is whoever has to provide any benefit to me even if it’s fleeting. I bet no dictionary states this. See for yourself. Look around. We are sitting in a library surrounded by enormous amounts of knowledge yet not one book can state my personal, my very own definition of the word friend. Some books might allude to it, but nowhere can you find it specified in accordance to my perception. Think over this.

What I’m saying is that we make our own life, we shape our own destiny. And to be able to do that successfully, you have to manipulate life as it comes to you. This is why the legal institution allured me the most. Why must I be bound by formulas and concepts when I can pave my way as I please? Two plus two will always be four. What if for me two plus two is five? I shall mold my life according to my own adage, my own principles, bend moral ethics to suit myself alone. And I did. Let me warn you, my friend, that I’m not a philosopher. Philosophy collapsed when it failed to assert that two plus two could be five. Could be, that’s the key word, my friend. I’m a realist. A practical man who lives for the self alone. You may call that selfish but that doesn’t do any good since our definitions of selfishness differs too. I don’t see it in a negative light as you do. I call it Survival.

I remember when in grade four we were assigned the task of reading the first three chapters of the science book during our summer vacations. We then had to summarize each chapter in five to six lines each, highlighting the most important concepts in each unit. Chapter one began with the usual definition of science, its kinds, its types, examples in daily life around us, its uses and misuses and other claptrap each book vows to begin with in order to get the child’s attention. It failed to get mine. I wasn’t interested in the cheap colorful illustrations of the human anatomy or the labeled diagram of an atom. Second chapter was appropriately titled “Living Beings” and I had decided to skim through it. A page or two later, my eyes fell on a lone phrase that was typed in bold and set off from the rest of the paragraphs. It indeed looked like a complete message of its own, with no relation to the text. It simply said: “Survival of the Fittest”

Now that had caught my attention. I wondered what survival meant and what fittest meant and I ventured on to look for a description. The text that followed, very loosely stated meaning of the phrase, aided with some simple diagrams of the food chain, and the food pyramid and the food cycle. I wasn’t satisfied with the gist of the word “fittest”. However, to summarize I just wrote that lone phrase in my notebook. Of course the teacher wasn’t very happy. In grade ten, I did a six-page report on the phrase for English class and by age nineteen it had become my personal motto. The only problem was that I was still struggling to find the true meaning of the word “fittest” – a meaning that most satisfied me. The maxim was there but inundated with external meanings under the light of science, and evolution, and biology, and sociology – all rubbish. I was seeking a practical meaning and not until I did my Masters in Law, did I manage to get the gist of the dictum that my entire life had revolved around.

I have a twelfth edition of the same science book in my hand. Now you know why I asked you to visit this library. They are the only ones that have an academia section dedicated to scholastic books. Which comes as a surprise because no other library keeps academic books taught in classes and lecture rooms. That just means knowledge passed on to one over years has no need to be revised later in the age. Make whatever you will out of that. Knowledge itself is duplicitous. What does that tell you of the human condition? That you are no better than I am. I will get a chance to expound on this later. Anyways, here take the book. Don’t be alarmed, I’m just passing you the book. Turn to the contents page…What do you notice? Imbecile. Turn to chapter two, page 15. Now tell me what do you notice? Ah see, your eyes are wide open. So you do see. The chapter is titled “Survival of the Fittest” and not “Living Beings” as it once was. Poetic, isn’t it? What do you make of that? Don’t bother me with your insight.

Here let me show you something. It’s in my pocket. So don’t be alarmed when my hands reach out for it. You are timid, I noticed that by the way you jumped when I was about to hand you the book. But that doesn’t make me like you any less for you are still listening to me. You are cordial in your undivided attention and that is worth my time. Here, see this lighter here. I carry it in my pocket at all times. But, I don’t smoke. I loathe smoking. Another thing I hate besides innocence and helplessness is bad odor. All my colleagues smoke and they leave a trail of whiff behind them which is perhaps the most unpleasant odor known to me. They reek of pretension, of their paltry desires and insignificance and trivial dependence on artifacts such as a cigarette. The smell of a fag is the stench of failure. I once dismissed my client for contaminating my office with that horrible stench. I was running late and the miserable idiot had made himself comfortable in my office room and despite a clear sign, typewritten in bold and red that said “No Smoking”, he had gone ahead anyways. Of course I had to decontaminate the room after firing him.

 The Means

Is this funny to you? Do I amuse you with my silliness? You wonder how a cretin like me can feel so strongly against an abhorrent habit. You are a fool then. For let me tell you about how I acquired this lighter which I now carry with myself at all times. I don’t consider it a good luck charm for I fell to disgrace when it was in my pocket. I first lost my reputation and then my wealth over a period of twenty-five years. I shall not indulge in the particulars because I know that you are aware of them already – why else would you have agreed to listen to me all this time if my failure hadn’t tickled your curiosity in the first place? Don’t be cheeky, you cannot coerce me to immerse in the details of my ruin. You may threaten to leave but that still won’t make me budge. Anyhow back to the lighter. I was reduced to being a mole in one of the shabbiest legal offices known to mankind. I was living in a dilapidated apartment consisting of two rooms four blocks down my office and working part-time for a legal advisory company whose name I shall not reveal because of professional integrity and responsibility. Like I said, all filthy creatures tend to watch over each other. So this company I was working for had a client, let’s call him Mr. Brown. He was a smug bastard with quite a bit of money which of course I had my eyes on. I wanted to get a warm water heater installed in my bathroom anyways. So he was chucked my ways…

I sense an impatience in your eyes. Your thoughts are no longer following what I’m saying. Are you still hinged on my fall? Classic display of humanity’s fascination with tragedy. You really want to hear about the events that led to my fall from my own mouth. Why? Tell me why? You are no longer interested in how I came to procure this lighter which I assure you makes much more of an interesting story than to narrate the particulars of my failure. Oh I know what this is. You see me as a villain, a scoundrel and because I am the scum of the earth you take pleasure in the assurance that I failed. Yes, I did fail. I admit to that and I forever shall. But if you think I can gratify your senses by submitting to your will, then you have another thing coming, my friend. Never, shall I yield myself to assure you that all evil leads to ever-crippling consequences. I shall not be put in a position where I am to verify your claims that wickedness is punished. Because that just heightens your own sense of righteousness. I knew that from the very start. Why else would you agree to hear me out if it was not to appear more goodly, more virtuous, more moral in your own mind’s eye – to gratify yourself that yes you indeed are honorable and just and, in comparison to me, deserve more than I ever did. I can see your eyes glimmering, you have indeed put yourself on a higher pedestal than me. Aha! My friend, we are chalk and cheese. I know what you are thinking. Conceit. One of the finer transgressions of life. Pride – a mortal sin. You are no better than me. Didn’t I tell you I already knew you? That I will always be one step ahead of you…


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