Condemned to a life of the unimpressive.
Wealth. Money. Status. Class.
The common denominator connecting every living human being.
Whether you were born into it, worked hard for it, or claim to have no stake in its game at all - we are all bound, imprisoned, enslaved, by its heavy shackles.
What was I to do, when this man showed up at my door, clad in a long black trench coat, extending a slender boney hand out at me, holding nothing but a single envelope?
I took the paper from his hand. He said nothing, I said nothing. Just as swiftly as the contents of his hand was exchanged to mine, he was making his way back down the dimly lit hall of my musty Greenwich Village apartment building.
I shut the door and placed the deadbolt back into its rightful position. Turning the parcel over in my hands, I found it to be blank on all sides. My fingers slipped under the lip, and broke the seal, not realizing the contents would forever change my life.
Unfolding the single sheet of white paper enclosed in the package, I skimmed the bold typewriter print peppered across the page. An estranged relative, their existence unknown to me, had died. I am the supposed last living kin, and their fortune was now mine. Their estate lay nestled between the other old money manor houses in Great Neck, Long Island.
My back slid down the length of my apartment door, as I sat to absorb the implications that this letter held. The possibilities. Never again would I have to be an errand girl to my boss, salivating at any opportunity to have my writing seen, clawing and grasping at any shred of acknowledgement from my superiors, praying to be published. No longer held back by the shackles of my societal constraints. Traveling the world, spending my time writing, meeting interesting people, tasting the upper echelons of society, once privileges - now my own actuality.
Just as soon as my mind was free to romp like the mind of God, the glass shattered in front of my eyes. Shards of deep greens and golds scattered across my vision. Glistening emeralds and flecks of gold rained down from the heavens like the stars, ever present, but just out of my reach. Drowning. Sinking. Falling. The sweet taste of a life not yet lived, turned to ash in my mouth. I was doomed to be both within, and without.
Forever branded. I found myself back within shackles, heavier now. As quickly as I reached my freedom from the rusted steel manacles, I was granted a fresh set. Bright, shiny, and new. This pair donned an inscription that simply read, The Other. Gifted the means to live the life I always wanted to live but bound to my own sordid reality by one truth. I could stay complacent, slip back into my old rusted chains, and float through the current stasis that is my life. Or I could accept the new shackles, and face Otherness as a new enemy.
The Other. A concept that never occurred to me until that moment. Alienated by a societal construct that I have lusted after, but not yet allowed myself to embrace. There were rules. Rules written in stone long before myself, rules that would remain long after I have departed this life. To accept them would be a lie. A defiance of nature. Draped in lush emerald silks, dripping in blinding diamonds, donning enough gold to end world hunger. Equipped with knowledge and wealth, exuding opulence and power. Even if this facade fooled those within, the existence would be truly and purely, without. Bound to The Other.
Living a life that is not mine. A life that I was not entitled to. Even the thought of it made me sick. Sick of myself for my delusions of grandeur, sick of life for the cards it had dealt, sick of the societal construct that refused my entry. What then? Condemned to a life of the unimpressive. I glanced between the two pairs of shackles, contemplating my next move. It was then that I saw the single truth of my life. It was the bright, shiny, and new that distracted me from this truth. The rust that had culminated on my original pair had eaten away at the words, but staring me in the face in that moment was the exact same inscription: The Other.
So that was it, destined to be The Other, both within and without. Suspended in the equilibrium, an outsider in two realities. Forever scratching, crawling, grasping at something I would never reach. Acceptance.
Now, I am surrounded by the dark, wet, walls of this sanitarium. Writing this tale of woe in the black leather-bound journal, given to every patient upon admittance. Whatever choices I decided to make, lead me here. I am unsure if there was ever any other outcome for me, if I had taken the other path, would I not have ended up here? It is unlikely. After all, both sets of manacles were indoctrinated with the same inscription. The truth of the matter is, now I am free. Free of my societal shackles. Free within the confines of my own mind. Free to great Otherness like an old friend.