It's a Terrible Lifebyandtheend©
A man who wants a wonderful life lives a terrible life.
Tyrone couldn't sleep. The Christmas lights from the store next door lit up his small room with the glow of the holiday. It was Christmas Eve and with children everywhere going to bed with dreams of Santa Claus and presents under the tree, for him, Christmas was a nightmare.
Tyrone turned off the television. He wanted to shoot it and if the police hadn't confiscated his gun, he would have. He couldn't believe he got suckered into watching so many white people starring in It's A Wonderful Life, again. Still, even though he hated white people and blamed them for his terrible life, he couldn't help but wish he was Jimmy Stewart and had a wife, as pretty as Donna Reed.
His woman, Shirley, doesn't want anything to do with his black ass any more. Between being gone when in the service and now gone from her with him in and out of jail, without her more than he's been with her, his wife was just as tired as he was of him serving time for not even doing the crime. Now released temporarily, until the police arrested him again and the DA charged him with some other crime, he's living in a flophouse room not much bigger than the jail cell he'll be living in again soon.
This time, he really fucked up. This time, they're throwing the book at him and throwing his black ass in jail for good. Between planting evidence and charging him with every crime that remotely resembled what he did, and going back to where he was and who he was with for the past five years, the police and the prosecuting attorney trumped up more phony charges to keep his gangster, gangbanging ass off the streets and behind bars, forever. They viewed him as if he was a career criminal and public enemy number one, instead of a poor, black man just trying to take care of his family, his wife and three kids, in a white man's world.
Thinking about all the mistakes and misfortunes in his past, he sat in the bar drinking, while contemplating his court date and the subsequent lengthy prison sentence in his future. The DA wrote him a story filled with circumstantial evidence and false identity. If only he could afford a real lawyer, instead of the public defender they gave him, all of these false and baseless charges would be thrown out of court.
His life look pretty bleak. What happened? Where did he go wrong? He was one of the good guys, a decorated, combat Marine, a family man, a faithful husband, and a loving father. He wasn't a gangster and just because he had friends who were gangbangers doesn't make him one, too.
Had he known this would happen to him, when he came home, he would have stayed in the service but his CO volunteered his black ass for every dangerous duty there was. They didn't like one another very much, which, of course, he quickly chalked up to racism. If it wasn't for his street smarts, a sixth sense complete with a built-in, self-preservation radar that saved his life countless times, and if he didn't leave the military, while the getting was good, he'd be dead by now, for sure, blown to pieces on some mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, Hell on Earth.
Then, after he got out, he did all the right things. Surrounded by friends and family, after serving two, full tours of duty, one in Iraq and a second one in Afghanistan, for God and for his country, he found a good job, got married, bought a house, and financed a new car. For sure, he was living his version of It's A Wonderful Life. Only, now, instead of working his job, making love to his wife and caring for his children, while living in the house he bought and driving his new car he financed, he sat on a barstool drunk, disillusioned, depressed, and disorientated.
He lost his friends when he lost his job and his family doesn't want anything to do with him because they think he's a career criminal, a gangster, and a gangbanger. He's not. All he did was steal some food to feed his family and that's when it all started. He ran out of the supermarket line pushing his cart through without paying and if it wasn't for the old couple in front of him that inadvertently blocked his escape, they wouldn't have caught him.
Then, once arrested and ordered to stand in several police lineups, under the guise of all black men look alike and if he's not guilty of this crime, then he's guilty of something else, he was identified as the perpetrator in several more serious hit and run crimes. They even gave him a name, The Hit and Run Bandit. Now that they had him, it was an endless process of being rearrested, charged, convicted, and thrown in jail. Only, the food was the only thing he ever stole in his life. He was hungry. He was desperate. He was homeless.
In all started unraveling, when he lost his job. Instead of laying off the white guy that worked next to him, because that man was related to the boss's friend, his employer kept him and fired Tyrone. What chance does a black man stuck in a recession created by rich, white people have getting another job, one that pays enough money to meet his mortgage, afford his car, and support his family? All the jobs now are part-time, half the pay, and without benefits. He'd have to work two or three part-time jobs, just to make ends meet, but he couldn't even get an interview to get one job.
His wife left his black ass, when he was arrested, charged, and convicted of all those crimes, one after another, petty crimes at first, the DA saved the bigger charges for later, needing time to build his phony cases. The bank foreclosed on the house, when he no longer could pay the mortgage. The same bank, Bank of White America, repossessed his car, too. He should have known better than to go with the Bank of White America, when one of their mottos was, "Think what we can do for you."
Nothing. Absolutely nothing is what they did for him. What they did for him was to shuffle paperwork and not talk to him, when he wanted to refinance. What they could and should have done for him was to give him extra time to get his life back, a personal bailout, after the rest of white, yellow, red, brown, and black America bailed their ass out of financial dire straits.
Now unable to afford the legal aid that would prove his innocence, the judge gave him an overworked, underpaid, public defender with an impossible caseload to defend. Except for trying to steal food from the supermarket, even though he didn't do all of the crimes the state charged him with doing, the best he could hope for is to plead guilty and plea bargain for a shorter sentence. This is his America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is the country that he defended by putting his life on the line in countries nearly half a world away. This is his version of It's A Wonderful Life, when in reality, for him, it's a terrible life.
No longer having a home to go home to, right now, he just wanted to numb the pain, so that he didn't feel anything. Wanting and needing to be blind drunk, he needed to be lost in that place where he didn't have a problem in the world. Then, when he finally passed out somewhere, at least, he'd finally have a good night's sleep. Hopefully, wherever he fell, he wouldn't freeze to death. With his luck, he'd pass out drunk in the backseat of his car and the police would charge him with drunken driving, even though the car was parked, but they did that already. Only, this time, he didn't have a car anymore. Homeless, but for his tiny furnished room that he paid for by the week, whenever he panhandled enough money to afford it, he walked everywhere he went, now.
He hasn't slept through the night in weeks. Getting up to pee, then staying up to have a smoke and a beer, he hasn't had more than 4 hours of shuteye in a long time. His lack of sleep is reminiscent to his guard watch duty when in Afghanistan. Maybe that's what started his erratic sleeping behavior. Even when he was relieved guard watch duty, his turn to sleep, he didn't sleep for more than an hour or two. He couldn't. He was too on edge. His sixth sense was on full alert and his radar was constantly sounding.
When he went to lift his glass to his lips, something stopped him. Too drunk to recognize it at first, it felt like a hand. Then, he heard the voice.
"Haven't you had enough to drink?"
A black man sitting on the right side of him put his hand on his wrist stopping him from drinking anymore. Tyrone leaned back to look at the man through glassy eyes. Trying to focus his mind through his drunken haze, he couldn't believe his eyes. Damn, he really must be drunk. He's having hallucinations.
"Say, Man," he said, "you look just like Richard Pryor and if I didn't know any better, I would think you'd be him, but he's dead."
"I am Richard Pryor and I am dead," said the man. "I was sent back down to Earth to help you, Tyrone. I'm your Angel."
"Wow. I can't believe it," said Tyrone wobbling unsteadily on his barstool, while slurring his words. "Not only do I have an angel but also my angel is Richard Pryor. Hot damn. Go ahead, Sir Richard, say something funny to make me laugh. I could use a good laugh, right about now. I can't remember when I laughed last. Make me laugh."
"You wanna hear me say something funny?"
"Yeah, go ahead, hit me with it. Make me laugh. With all the shit that's been dumped down upon my head lately, I need a really good laugh."
"Okay. Here's a line from my movie, Stir Crazy, when they told me my sentence was a similar sentence to what you'll be receiving soon."
"Go ahead, I'm ready to laugh. Lay it on me, brother."
"A hundred and twenty-five years... Oh God, Oh, God... I'll be one hundred and sixty-one-years-old when I get out."
"Say what? What's funny about that? That's not funny. That's depressing. I think dying has made you too serious. Sorry, but you're not funny anymore."
"There's nothing funny about the state you're in now, Tyrone. You're going to jail for a very long time, unless you come up with a plan to defend yourself and you can't do that by being drunk. C'mon, let's get you home."
"You're right. Okay," said Tyrone struggling to put a foot on the floor.
"Hold on, Tyrone. Have one more drink for the road," said a woman sitting on the left side of him.
Tyrone looked at the woman. Trying to focus his mind through his bloodshot eyes, he couldn't believe his eyes. Damn, he really must be drunk to have, yet, another hallucination.
"Geraldine! Is that really you in the flesh?"
"That's me, but how'd you know, Sugar?"
"I'd recognize you anywhere, Geraldine. You look just like Flip Wilson in drag and if I didn't know any better, I would think you'd be him, but he's dead, too, just like this Richard Pryor dude sitting on the other side of me," said Tyrone turning to acknowledge Richard Pryor with a point of his index finger and to make sure he was still there and he wasn't seeing things. "I must be drunk out of my mind to imagine you sitting here on one side of me, Flip, with Richard sitting there on the other side of me. Hot damn."
"I am Flip Wilson and I am dead, but I was sent back up to Earth to take your soul. I'm your Devil."
"My devil? Hot damn. What are the odds of having Richard Pryor as my Angel and Flip Wilson as my Devil. Go ahead, say it. Let me hear you say it. I need to hear you say it."
"Don't be coy with me, Geraldine or I'll slap your black ass. You know what I need to hear. C'mon, just lay it on me the one time."
"Here comes the judge?"
"No, no, I mean, yeah, actually, that's a good one, too," said Tyrone laughing, "but I wanna hear the other line that made you famous."
"The Devil made me do it."
Tyrone nearly fell off his barstool laughing.
"Yeah, that's it, baby. Say it again, Geraldine. Just one more time. Please?"
"The Devil made me do it," she said louder and this time with more authority, attitude, and body language.
"Every time I heard you said that," said Tyrone laughing, "The Devil made me do it, I nearly peed myself laughing. Not for nothing, Mr. Pryor--"
"Richard, Tyrone. Call me Richard. I am your Angel, after all."
"Okay," said Tyrone sitting up taller in his barstool now knowing that he had an angel and that his Angel was none other than Richard Pryor. "Not for nothing, Richard," he said smiling at the fact that he was on a first name basis with the funniest comedian the world has ever known, Richard Pryor himself. "But I would have figured Flip Wilson would be my Angel and you'd be my Devil with the dark life you've lived having taken all those drugs you took."
"Let me tell you something, Tyrone. Flip was a bigger doper than I could ever have been. Further, I helped more people with my comedy and generosity than Flip ever did by making his career with two lines, Here comes the judge and the Devil made me do it. I mean, unlike all my new and fresh material, Here comes the judge and the Devil made me do it is funny the first one hundred times, but the hundred and first time you hear that, you want to block your ears and scream."
"C'mon, fella. It's time for you to go. You've been sitting here talking and laughing to yourself for half an hour," said the bartender.
"Talking and laughing to myself? I'm here with friends, Richard Pryor," said Tyrone puffing out his chest, before turning to his right to acknowledge Richard, "and Flip Wilson dressed as Geraldine," he said with pride turning to his left to acknowledge Flip.
"That's it. You're outta here. Beat it, you drunken bum," said the bartender pushing him out the door.
It was snowing and it was then that Tyrone realized it was Christmas Eve. This was the first Christmas that he wasn't with his children. How could his life go so bad so quickly? He thought he was having his American dream. He thought he was eating his slice of apple pie with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top, but he wasn't. His pie was poisoned and his ice cream melted.
Those thieves on Wall Street, the ones who made large contributions to political campaigns as hush money and for legislators to pass the laws that they needed to bailout banks and insurance companies, after they pulled off the biggest robbery in the history of America, are not only walking around free but also walking around enormously wealthy. To add insult to injury, they all received huge bonuses by putting everyone out of work and foreclosing on so many homes. Even with the foreclosures at the highest rate in history, with investment derivatives, it was still a win/win financial situation for the banks and Wall Street savvy investors. With the Feds in bed with Wall Street, guaranteeing loans, and removing the worst bad risks from the bank's balance sheets, the banks stood to make money in a recessed economy and more money than they've ever made before. The bailed out banks wouldn't lose a dime.
Tyrone stood on the ice covered bridge that overlooked the neighborhood where he used to live and the house that he once owned. He stepped over the rail and held onto the bridge rail with his hands precariously placed behind his back. He didn't have gloves and the snow covered and ice coated metal was cold but the alcohol helped him not to feel the cold. Still, he couldn't stay like this for very long. Either he'd have jump or climb back over the rail to safety.
He couldn't help but think that his wife and children would be better off without him and better off if he were dead. He still had his life insurance policy, but they wouldn't pay for suicide. He'd have to somehow make his death appear accidental. He could slip and fall, which was easy enough to do, since he was already drunk.
He didn't want to go to jail again, especially for something that he didn't do. It was bad enough to do the time, when he did the crime, but to be framed, just so the police can clear up some of their old, unsolved crimes, make pay grades, get promotions, and the DA could improve his city and state wide crime statistics by convicting a dangerous felon, while running for reelection, feathers in their caps enough to go around for all, is all they wanted. Surely, they didn't give a care about him.
"Don't do it," said his Angel.
"Jump," said his Devil.
He decided to listen to his Angel and not jump but, when he went to change his grip to climb back over the railing, he slipped and fell. It was more than a 100 foot free fall to the icy water below. Time slowed and the fall felt as if he was falling 10,000 feet. He watched his life pass before his eyes.
On the way down, he apologized to God for accidentally committing suicide. He apologized to his wife that she'd be without a husband, a partner, and a lover. He apologized to his children that they'd be without a father and without his physical presence in their lives. He apologized to his mother, his brother, and his sister for causing them the pain that his death would surely cause them. He was sorry. He was so very sorry.
Falling, falling, falling, and finally making contact, as if hitting bottom, as if hitting a huge rock, he felt a thump on his chest and his stomach. Launched from the bridge, thrown from the frigid water, awakened from his dream, he was home and in bed with his family.
"Daddy! Santa was here and he left us presents!"
He looked at his watch. It was 5:30 in the morning and his three children clung to his body, as if they were weighted blankets.
"He did? Merry Christmas, kids."
"Merry Christmas, Daddy. We love you."
"I love you, too," he said hugging them and kissing them, in the way he's never hugged them and kissed them before.
"Merry Christmas," said his wife Shirley leaning over to give her man a kiss.
"You kids go and wait by the Christmas tree," he said to his children. "Mommy and Daddy will be right down to open presents."
"Okay, Daddy," said his kids excitedly scurrying downstairs.
"What's wrong, Sugar?" Shirley gave him a hug that encouraged him to talk.
"I had a dream, a nightmare actually, that I lost everything, you, the kids, the house, the car, and this DA was trying to charge me with all these false criminal offices and put me in jail for life. I got drunk and Richard Pryor, my Angel, was trying to stop me from jumping from the bridge, but Flip Wilson, my Devil, kept telling me to jump off the bridge and when--"
"I told you not to watch that damn It's A Wonderful Life Movie, Tyrone. You have a nightmare every time you watch that stupid white folk movie. Stick with Tyler Perry movies from now on, you hear? And no more eggnog for you. You had one too many last night."
"You're right. I'm just glad that we have a wonderful life. I love you. Merry Christmas."