Am I still alive? Did I expire in some horrific blaze of fate and cruel irony, left wandering the ethereal realms without a soul, without a voice, without an angry thought in my buzzing head? Some colossal tide has broken. This much is certain beneath the early morning spring sunshine. Even the liquid permeating the soles of my old tennis shoes seems to have manifested from some strange, unknown void. Something has happened in the past two weeks, something so slight and imperceivable that it is impossible to be glimpsed by the naked eye. I have embraced a glistening transformation, and nothing–not this wretched political spectrum convulsing on my television, not the idea that perhaps the recent winners of an astounding lottery purse will succumb to fortune and happiness as brief as a first sexual experience–seems as terrible as it once did. I stare outside and greet the sun and the birth of plants and flowers. A small but confident smile is scribbled across my unshaven face. My coffee tastes divine, probably because my beautiful wife–who is an angelic soul–ground and brewed the beans. The blathering fools on morning television–once the very staples by which I could tell time–are wasting someone else’s time this morning. I have heard of this balance before, much the way sailors in the old world surely swore they had beheld the mermaid’s song. It is something I have sought lo these thirty-six and a third years, something just out of my grasp the way my fingertips always fell short of grabbing the moon in my youth. Over a year spent unemployed and getting to know every re-run of COPS intimately and rarely having human contact beyond social media or telephone conversation truly did a number on my psyche. I was depressed. Distressed. Hungry, but unable to locate anything worth eating. Angry at everything and nothing simultaneously, usually a half-step away from dousing the world in gasoline and lighting one of my own farts as a means to the conflagration my rage required. The small, happy moments even managed to feel hollow, as if I didn’t really deserve to be feeling anything akin to joy. But now I find purpose in the most menial events; shaving never used to elicit feelings of pride and self-worth. I am driven. Buying gold has become the new high. Getting up and going to work six days a week is the new routine. Like the narrator in Fight Club mused: “…it became the reason to cut your hair short and trim your fingernails.” It all adds up to purpose, balance, and the beautiful ability to suddenly provide for family again. Every miserable flyer I hand out at that festering purgatorial shopping mall is for the greater good. I stand in front of my job like a thousand street vendors on the glittering streets of your city and repeat the same words and shove the same flyer in your face as you pass on your way to Orange Julius or that new riding lawnmower at Sears. I crunch numbers and puzzle and sweat over myriad paperwork because math is not my strong suit and this job requires constant copulation with mathematics and those filthy little bastard numbers. I may only buy one piece in the course of a full day. People mock me because people are cruel. Or maybe because society has placed my job somewhere between manning the fry station in a fast food restaurant and humping a push broom at the mall. This does not matter. Thousands of years of evolution has thickened my skin like armor plating. I’m like a goddamn armadillo playing opossum for the hyenas. Confused teenagers stalk the open space like wild silver-back gorillas, incapable of locating either belt or acne scrub, shouting and bouncing and awkwardly conversing with the opposite sex. I used to be just like them. So did you. Elderly regulars glare in my direction. These people fought in World War Two, and most will never know how much I respect and look up to them because they will not waste their time chatting with the Devil in His shiny black shoes about the price of gold or the desperate and frightening state in which the country currently teeters. These people travelled the globe in combat boots and in the sunset of their lives, they see youth as Jersey Shore and sagging skinny jeans. The mall walkers–a splinter faction of the meandering power walkers who saturate these cracked streets like zombies unaware that no one is left to eat–are not to be fucked with. These militant stride-jockeys scoff aloud each time they pass me on their way to completing a new lap. They are in a hurry to keep a specific pace and even greeting me with less than a scowl might throw them off within a tenth of a second of finishing with their best time. Their hip jogging suits–meant to be jogged in–make these irritating swishing sounds. Their tennis shoes squeak like a litter of newborn mice being sat upon by some mental midget in a John Steinbeck novel. They are militant, but driven. I can respect that wholesale. Citizens ask me how much I will pay them for their Sacagawea coins, clearly unaware that the currency literally has a face value, and my hourly pay still goes to the greater good. I love my family. I love my wife. Any man who does not feel likewise should check the oil on his life because it clearly is overdue for a change. My purpose is to go there everyday and embrace the routine because the routine puts food on the table and sheets on the bed and beer in the icebox and a balanced and genuine smile on my mug.