back to tomorrowland
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by Miracle Jones
“Hey, can I borrow twenty dollars so I can buy a bar of soap and a bag of rice and eighteen cans of beans?” I ask my roommate.
“I don’t have any cash,” she says, shivering, staring at the wall with doom in her eyes. There is a plastic bag beside her. She has been puking non-stop all night, it seems like. Some kind of stomach flu. Surely infectious. Every time I leave my room, I wash my hands. I am running out of soap, in fact. It is legendary and brave of me that I am talking to her at all.
“You don’t have any money?” she asks.
“I have plenty of money,” I say. “The problem is that the fuckers at the bank have frozen my bank account and now I am fucked as the dickens, ardently, comically, and with great care.”
“What did you do?” she asks. “They don’t just freeze people’s bank account for no reason. That is a thing that happens to dictators and war criminals. Don’t be offended, but you are not important.”
“I got this letter about some hospital bill that I didn’t pay,” I say. “I didn’t know they could come after you for hospital bills. Aren’t hospitals like, you know, home base, like in freeze tag? It’s not like I wanted to go to the hospital.”
“I should go to the hospital,” says my roommate. “Maybe I have ebola.”
“Licking the oozing face wounds of any international corpses lately?”
“No,” she says.
“Then it is not ebola.”
“Ecoli then,” she says. “Minimum-wage people sneezing out crusty bile from their sinuses into your sandwich. Can’t trust anybody.”
I wash my hands again.
I go back in my room and sit down on the mattress on the floor where I sleep. I am so angry that I am not even angry, just defeated-feeling.
I admit that I am partially honored to have my bank account frozen. Getting your bank account frozen is something that happens to advanced, adult scumbags. I know I am a scumbag, but I have always felt larval, primordial...a scumbag nymph. No longer! I have clawed out of my scumbag pupa and as soon as my wings dry, I will triumph over morphogenesis and programmed cell death, finally becoming a delicate scumbag butterfly.
I think back to the years when I stalked lawyers on social media for a living, working for a legal recruiter, scanning through all the calcifications of their secret online lives just to find an angle. I try to remember if any lawyers owe me favors. Surely there is one out there that I hooked up with a good job that is willing to fight this ludicrous financial pantomime for me.
Then I remember that I don’t have any money to hire any kind of lawyer, no matter how cheap. I don’t have the money to even get to a lawyer’s office. All the money that I have is on “hold.” My accounts are zeroed out. I can’t even buy a subway card until I pay what I owe. I have negative money, because even when my direct deposit comes in from my job, it will also be frozen.
“Fuuuuuuck,” I say, kicking one of my shoes across the room. I hear my roommate moaning through my door.
I return to where she is now lying on our couch, staring at the ceiling.
“Why don’t you lie down in your bed?” I ask.
“I am getting food delivered,” she says. “I can’t hear the buzzer in my room.”
“What should I do?” I ask her. “Should I call this lawyer who says I owe the hospital money and who is suing me? Or should I just go down to the bank?”
“You aren’t going to be able to get out of it,” she says. “But you might be able to get on some kind of payment plan if you sweet talk them in person.”
“I am too angry to be charming,” I say. “If I go now, I will just come off as some kind of shrill asshole, speed-talking all kinds of Bolshevik nonsense, straight-up ranting about patrimonial capitalism, growth coefficients, and illegitimate state coercion.”
“Then sleep on it,” she says, shivering.
I watch her shiver. It is impossible not to feel bad for her. I envy her.
“Man, it’s incredible and so fucking dangerous that they can just freeze people’s bank accounts like this without any warning. What if I were sick like you? I could be in the middle of nowhere out of gas, or there could be a big freak snowstorm coming. I could need to buy insulin...or fucking heroin for that matter. Babies could be depending on me to buy quality fruits and vegetables. What if I was renting a storage unit full of organs that needed to be climate controlled, you know? They should at least text you to tell you: ‘hey asshole, just so you know we are cutting off your entire ability to provide for yourself tomorrow. Probably take all your shit to Coinstar if you want to eat calories. Sincerely, your bank and lawyers you’ve never met.’”
“Yeah,” says my roommate. She doesn’t look very good. I go back into my room while she vomits, heaving fiery contagious chunks of stomach lining and sports drink into the plastic bag beside her. As soon as she sounds like she is done, I go back out and sit in the chair across from her.
“You want a glass of water or something?” I ask.
“I got Thai soup coming,” she says. “But thanks.”
That’s when it hits me. I realize what I must do. I realize the only way I will be able to get out of this quickly and by paying the least amount possible. I walk over and pick up my roommate’s plastic bag of vomit.
“Hey,” she says, suddenly protective of -- and embarrassed by -- her own communicable egesta. However, she is too weak to fight me.
“I don’t want to get you sicccccck,” she says.
“Shhhhh,” I say. “Don’t worry about it. You need to rest.”
I take the plastic bag full of warm vomit into the kitchen. I retch a little bit, but then the flames start up in my head and my Manic Glee Bad Idea Chemicals hit me and I grab a spoon from the kitchen drawer and suddenly I am spooning vomit out into a glass and filling it with tap water all the way to the top and I am chugging the tap water down and I am feeling so victorious and smart and I swear I SWEAR I can already feel chills and disease crawling up my spine and GODDAMMIT THE LAW SAYS I AM TOO IRRESPONSIBLE TO BE TRUSTED WITH MY OWN FUNDS WELL I WILL SHOW THEM JUST HOW IRRESPONSIBLE I CAN BE THIS IS WAR AND MY ONLY WEAPON IS THE ONLY THING I HAVE LEFT WHICH IS MY OWN BODY WHICH IS WHAT THEY WILL GET AND I AM LAUGHING AND MY ROOMMATE IS MOANING AND THIS IS THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I HAVE EVER DONE BUT I ALSO FEEL FREE AGAIN LIKE THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO CANCEL OUT THE PERMANENT FEELING OF PSYCHIC INVASION AND DEPENDENCE THAT COMES WITH ALL OF THE MONEY I HAVE EVER EARNED BEING SEQUESTERED BY THE GOVERNMENT BY SURPRISE I AM TAKING CONTROL OF MY OWN PHYSICAL TRAJECTORY EVEN IF IT MEANS NOSEDIVING IT AND TURNING MYSELF INTO A WHITE HOT VECTOR FOR CONTAGIOUS DISEASE.
The vomit water doesn’t taste bad or anything. It doesn’t taste bitter or anything like that. It just tastes like regular water.
I was probably going to get sick anyways.
My roommate feels terrible because she doesn’t know I infected myself on purpose. I could tell her: but I am a little embarrassed about it, frankly. She is physically feeling much better, but I am now peaking.
I can barely stand up. I have been puking every hour on the hour, like some kind of vomit clock, and it is a ten minute walk down to the bank. Every time I throw up, I am able to convince myself that it will never happen again...that I have defeated puking altogether because I momentarily feel normal. I’ve got the chills and a little bit of a headache. There is puke up my nose and it is making my nose whistle. I have a low fever, but mainly I just feel like I shouldn’t even be standing up.
I throw on a t-shirt and a sweater and put on two pairs of pants and socks. I know I only have about an hour before the nausea will come back so strong that there will be no way to fight it. I shuffle out the door and shuffle down the stairs before I can second guess myself.
The bank is not crowded, but there are a few people ahead of me in line to plead their cases before the holos. I shuffle forward dutifully, my hand curling in my pocket where I am crumpling a plastic bag that I can whip out just in case.
There are attractive human beings in tight suits working behind the glass, but in the center of the bank are four massive, glowing ten-foot-tall holograms: the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America. The AI holos are sorting out people’s problems, performing bank triage and sending people in different directions: to various windows and offices. All the holos are hooked up to the bank’s big permanent, I assume.
Captain America opens up. I step up to Captain America when it is my turn and blink up at him.
“HELLO,” says the giant Captain America. “WELCOME TO BANK OF AMERICA. HOW CAN I HELP YOU?”
“I am...very ill,” I say.
“I AM SORRY TO HEAR THAT,” says Captain America. “HOW CAN I BE OF ASSISTANCE?”
“My account is frozen and I need to get it fixed so that I can pay rent,” I say. “And possibly buy a piece of dry toast.”
“HA HA HA,” says Captain America. “WELL THEN! LET’S TAKE CARE OF THAT IMMEDIATELY. CAN I HAVE YOUR ACCOUNT INFORMATION?”
I hold up my deck and the hologram scans it, hands at his hips, his giant shield at his side. I am right at about cock level, but I am too nauseated to find this funny.
“Could I please see a human being?” I ask.
“HA HA HA,” says Captain America. “I AM HEARING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE THE ASSISTANCE OF A CIVILIAN. PLEASE BE PATIENT WHILE WE FIGURE OUT YOUR NEXT STEP.”
Captain America says civilian. Thor says mortal. The Hulk says meat-thing. Iron Man says Banker-American, and winks.
“PLEASE BE PATIENT WHILE WE ANALYZE YOUR ACCOUNT INFORMATION,” says Captain America, admonishing me with one raised index finger. I shift around on my feet. I look around for a chair, but there isn’t any place close by where I can collapse.
“IT APPEARS THAT THERE IS A LEGAL HOLD ON YOUR ACCOUNT BY THE STATE OF NEW YORK,” says Captain America. “IN ORDER TO PROCEED AND CLEAR YOUR HOLD, YOU WILL NEED TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THE LEGAL ENTITY WHO HAS PLACED THIS HOLD. THE CONTACT PERSON FOR THE HOLD ON YOUR ACCOUNT IS CARLA ROSCOE FUENTES, REPRESENTING ELMHURST HOSPITAL.”
Captain America gives me a number to dial. I try to write it down on my hand. I get him to repeat it a few times.
“Can I please speak to a human though?” I ask. “I feel really really sick.”
“HA HA HA,” says Captain America. “THANK YOU FOR USING BANK OF AMERICA. IF YOU NEED FURTHER ASSISTANCE, PLEASE HAVE A SEAT IN OUR CUSTOMER LOUNGE AND WAIT FOR THE NEXT AVAILABLE REPRESENTATIVE.”
He points. Fiber optics light up along the floor, indicating where I should go.
“Okay,” I say.
I shuffle over to the bay of plastic chairs and couches, where several projectors are playing cartoons about saving money. I sit down in one of the chairs. The room is so clean and climate-controlled that I realize how disgusting I smell and how sweaty I am. A mother steers her children away from me, chastising them in Spanish for veering too close.
I take the plastic bag out of my pocket and hold it in my lap. I remember that I am supposed to call the legal entity that has actually placed the hold on my account. I stick a bud in my ear, closing my eyes.
“The law office of Carla Roscoe Fuentes,” says a woman on the line.
“Yes, hello, you have frozen my bank account and I would like to unfreeze this bank account so I can pay rent and perhaps buy some chicken ramen,” I say.
“Let me pull up your file,” she says. “First and last name, please.”
I tell her. She clears her throat.
“Okay,” she says. “Looks like there has been a judgment against you on behalf of Elmhurst Hospital.”
“I heard,” I say.
“Are you agreeing to remit to Elmhurst Hospital the amount owed?” she asks.
“I have to pay my rent and eat food and not die,” I say. “Get me to that place.”
“Okay then,” she says, typing. “In that case, I need you to go to the bank and they will have the appropriate forms for you to sign there, remitting the amount due to my client, in which case we will remove the hold from your account.”
“I am already at the bank,” I say. “Actually, I think I am about to throw up. Hold on.”
I get out the plastic bag from my pocket and hold it open, staring into the bottom of it. The woman on the other end of the phone is silent.
“Nope,” I say. “I’m good.”
“Listen, the justice system works for you, too,” she says. “We are collecting on a legal judgment. I am sorry you are not taking this seriously, but as soon as we hear from the bank we will remove the hold and your debt will be discharged.”
“Oh awesome,” I say. “I hate debt and debtors and all that. What if I only pay half though? I mean, I am right here in the bank, sick with some kind of infection, puking my guts up and all, and I can’t get to a doctor unless I have money. What if I just pay half?”
She is silent for awhile.
“Ask the bank about me,” I say. “I swear I am sick. I swear I am so sick I am actually dying and yet I am walking around at the bank so I can get money to buy healthful soup.”
“I am going to transfer over to a bank representative,” she says. “We’ll see what we can do.”
She hangs up.
I hang my head, crossing my arms over the back of my neck. I try to breathe in one nostril and out the other. I can’t help but imagine the cilia of my stomach as a roiling wall of infected flesh, bubbling and frothing, a latticework of churning cottage-cheese and pink meat slime. I burp, and taste the powder from the guacamole-flavored tortilla chips I ate for dinner.
To take my mind off my insides, I look up Marvel superheroes on my phone. There are ads for Marvel everywhere in the bank. I try to find the shittiest superhero with the shittiest stats.
I find a dude called “Tatterdemalion,” who is technically a supervillain. Also known as Arnold Paffenroth, from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a tapdancer who got swindled by the Las Vegas mob, and so now he is insane and hates money. All his stats are 1, the lowest they can possibly be. His only superpower is that he has special gloves treated in acid that he uses to dissolve cash and ruin people’s nice clothes.
I guess he tapdances while he tries to dissolve the dollar bills from people’s wallets?
I imagine the Tatterdemalion trying to fight the Hulk. He tapdances up to him and dissolves a twenty dollar bill right in front of The Hulk’s confused eyes. The Hulk smashes him into the ground, driving his brain into his spinal column, his shoulder-blades caving in and his shoulders smashing together and then smashing into his knees.
My name is called and I walk right through Thor on my way to a human representative, weaving and stumbling like a horrible drunk.
“Oh sorry,” I mumble to the confused pair of gentleman in blue work shirts and long sideburns who gawk at me as I fall to one knee inside the Thor hologram.
“Are you okay?” says the bank representative who gets up from behind her desk to meet me beneath the giant glowing superheroes.
“Yeah, I am probably gonna throw up right-here-right-now though.” Everybody steps away from me. I begin heaving into the plastic bag, trying very hard not to splash any of my insides on Bank of America’s nice marble floor.
Everybody in the bank is watching me puke.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” says the bank representative. “You seem to be in need of medical assistance.”
“Unfortunately, medical assistance ITSELF is suing me, which is why I am here,” I say. “I can’t really pay a doctor right now because my bank accounts are frozen.”
I hold out the bag of vomit to her, trying to show her the contents.
“It’s mostly just water,” I say. “See, I can’t even buy food.”
“I am really afraid I am going to have to ask you to leave the bank now,” she says.
“Sure thing,” I say. “I think there are some forms I need to sign, though. The lawyer who is suing me on behalf of the hospital said I had to sign some forms if I wanted access to my money. Do you need to scan my card or something? She said she was gonna talk to a bank representative. Did she talk to you? I am only supposed to pay half. We made a deal. Probably might want to put on a glove or something, if you are scanning this card. I got this flu from my roommate, so it must be viral. But I swear, as soon as you unfreeze my bank account, I swear I will go right to the doctor, you know? I won’t fuck around, buying, you know, lube and comic books and lobster dinners and lotto tickets or whatever. I swear I will go right to a doctor and get my urine tested and everything, no matter how much it costs.”
“Uh,” she says. “Yeah, let me see your card.”
I hand over my card, sitting cross-legged in the junction of the superheroes, who all seem to be slightly glitching out. Holos walk over to me and ask if I need help, and then return to their resting states.
“It does seem that there is a hold on your account,” says the bank representative. “Looks like your account has been commented. Right. I am going to need you to sign a document that says you are willing to remit the amount due. Shouldn’t take very long, okay? We will just fax the document right along.”
“Probably just going to lay down right here then,” I say, stretching out. “DO NOT CALL AN AMBULANCE. I cannot afford it. If I get sued again, I don’t know what I will do. Something desperate.”
“Let me get you those forms,” says the bank representative. “Really, all you have to do is sign and then you can go.”
“Bless you,” I say. “I just want to pay my debt and then I will go lie down in the street until I gather enough strength to get myself home. I think I have probably lost a lot of fluids, you know?”
I am actually feeling much better now that I have thrown up again. I am really hamming it up, but a bag of puke is a great prop.
“HULK DEPOSIT OR HULK WITHDRAW?” asks the Hulk, coming to squat over me, his giant green muscles flickering like dappled light on a lake made of biomedical mistakes.
“Hulk remit my debts to my debtors,” I mumble.
“HULK NOT UNDERSTAND,” says the Hulk. “PLEASE REPEAT FOR HULK IN A CLEAR VOICE.”
The bank representative returns with a form and clipboard. I look it over. I will pay half of what I owe.
“Is there any way I can get on some kind of payment plan? I mean, you just looked at my bank account. You know how I am doing in life. Probably there is a button you can press that will tell you how I should expect to do in the future? Don’t let me know though...I like surprises.”
She lifts up the first sheet of paper and there is another piece behind it with the terms of some kind of Bank of America wage-garnishing agreement that will only take a little bit out of each paycheck.
“I took the liberty,” she says.
“Appreciate it,” I say. “Would you mind uh holding this...uh...while I sign?”
I hold out the bag of vomit. She turns her head away.
“Oh, right probably not,” I say, squeezing the bag of vomit between my knees instead while I sign her clipboard.
“That’s it,” she says. “You don’t need to do anything else.”
“I promise I won’t beg for change to buy sports drinks and chicken broth in front of the bank. I promise I will just be on my way.”
“Sure thing,” she says.
“I swear to fucking god I will not leave this bag of infectious puke right in front of the bank on the sidewalk. I swear to fucking god I will take it back home with me."
As I am walking out, the security guard by the door mutters something under his breath.
“What was that?” I say.
“You’re way out of line,” he says, snorting. “You shouldn’t be coming in here all sick like that.”
“My bank account was frozen,” I explain.
“So you should learn to be more responsible,” he says. “There’s people in here with families and kids, you know? You don’t see them falling down on the floor, acting like fools. They just go about their business. They got dignity.”
“You could almost say I just robbed this bank with a biological weapon like some kind of supervillain and I am getting away with it.”
“You’re a fucking asshole. Get out of here.”
“Right in front of Iron Man and Thor and you and everybody else.”
I stand there next to him, right outside the bank on the sidewalk. I try to seem dignified. Just going about my business. Like I have superhero powers. He shakes his head at me. He spits on the ground; not at me, but as if the mere fact of my existence has filled his mouth with bitterness. Everybody who passes by us looks at me with pity and horror and at the security guard for reassurance.
“It’s okay,” says the security guard to no one in particular. “This…person…was just leaving.”
But I don’t leave. I stand there holding my bag of vomit, staring at the security guard, waiting for him to start to see how dignified I am. I start to tapdance.
back to tomorrowland
(c) Miracle Jones 2015