It was Wednesday morning and Lenkley was riding the 72 bus from his rat-hole apartment in the garment district into the heart of Downtown Los Angeles to work. He lived above a warehouse style wholesale shop that sold potted plants of every variety. Every morning at 6AM he was awoken by the rolling aluminum gates that served as the store’s entrance. In the rear, large trucks and even louder truck drivers unloaded the day’s shipment of plants, cacti and other foliage. 6AM worked fine for Lenkley since he had to be in the office by 7:30. A natural alarm clock that eroded his sanity bit by bit every morning, but worked out in a practical sense. Between the blaring Mariachi music, the loud rusty gates being carelessly thrown up, and the cranking clutch of the Mack truck below, Terrence Lenkley had no need for an alarm clock.
He was dozing off on the bus with his forehead leaned up against the glass window, but he didn’t get too deep into slumber as the bus hit a particularly significant pothole in the road and bumped his head against the cold glass. Lenkley was pissed, but there was nothing to be done about it. They were passing through Skid Row and Lenkley watched as the bums sauntered out of their tents and began shakily shifting into hustle gear. The matter of the next high was to be attended. Where would the next $10 come from for their next hit? Theirs were crack-ravaged bodies that gave little credence to the blistering heat or the stinging cold. Lenkley always likened them to ascetic monks-denying their bodies comfort, oblivious to the outside world. The only difference, Lenkley thought, was the ultimate goal. One group sought Nirvana and the other sought a good hit. ‘Which was more noble?’ Lenkley thought to himself as the big orange Metro bus lumbered over the shitty road. One was temporary and one was questionable as to whether or not it could even be attained. Even if it were to be achieved, who was to say Nirvana was not also temporary?
Everyone is on drugs, Lenkley reasoned to himself. Everyone is just looking for temporary relief. That’s all life seems to be: the pursuit of a transitory break from a taxing reality. The strung out hobos were no worse than the corporate execs in the high-rise buildings who wheel and deal to make enough money so that they can afford the next high. Money makes them attractive to the women they cheat on their wives with. A big account here, a signing bonus there and you’ll be able to really woo the slut at the end of the bar at The Standard. And that’s the high, but once blow your load, where will you be? Face to face with the life you can’t stand and that eats away at you little by little everyday. Then its back to the office to play power ball and earn enough scratch for your next fix. Go ahead and pretend you are doing it for your wife, kids, and “a better life,” but I know different, Lenkley thought. I know what you love and its not your family, your career, or even the money-it’s the escape. The drug.
Lenkley was with them everyday as they rode the elevator together. But they were going all the way to the top of the building whereas he would be getting off somewhere near the middle. And they were all chasing the same thing. Whether you rode the elevator all the way to the top or you parked cars in the dungeon, it was all the same. It was the same for Lenkley too who got off somewhere near the middle, and he hated that fact. The only thing worse than being a bum or being a self-diluted executive was being something in the middle. Street people and CEO’s had something strong and very defining in common: they both had made decisions about what they were going to be. The people getting off on the middle floors were ineffectual, timid types who kind of just drifted in the wind without putting up much resistance and making no defining decision as to who they were going to be. You have to admire the bums, Lenkley thought, because they had the bravery to face the streets, not give a fuck about societal norms, and seemingly care about nothing. You also have to give it to the old, stuffy farts in the corner offices for deciding that they were going to care about everything. Lenkley was somewhere in the middle. He had one foot in the corporate, material world and another firmly planted in the minimalist, Bohemian, I don’t give a fuck world. He was on the fence and was scared to jump off onto either side. He didn’t care about material things. One needed only to look at his apartment to know that. A single studio flat appointed with a futon, a T.V. tray that doubled as a dinner table and desk, a laptop, a second or third or fourth-hand coffee table from the Salvation Army, a mini-fridge, and a small plastic trash can. Lenkley really only wanted to make enough money to be left alone. At the end of the day, he was an extreme introvert.
After his father passed away of pancreatic cancer when he was 12, his housewife of a mother was left overwhelmed and embittered. His only sibling, an older sister, was incredibly attached to her father before he passed and she disconnected almost completely in the aftermath. The death rocked the Lenkley clan who lived too far away from extended family to get much support. His mother went to work as a bank teller to support the family but that left little time for her to monitor how the patriarchal loss was effecting young Terrence. Had she been afforded such time, she would notice more keenly how much Terrence was drawing further into himself and away from the outside world. So much of Lenkley’s young life was spent alone watching T.V. and venturing into the greenbelt path that ran behind his Carson City, Nevada home. After watching cartoons that subliminally suggested violence against animals, young Terrance would wander out to the greenbelt in search of small rodents and other wild animals. If he was lucky, he could track down a rattlesnake and brain it with a ball-peen hammer or lure a racoon with a piece of bologna then strike it at the last second with a tire iron. These activities became a favorite pastime for young Terrence and he drew pride from the animal graveyard he amassed in the backyard that only he was aware of. At least, in this sense, he had some control over death. A control he had not had when his father passed. A fake control, but something that resembled it all the same. It comforted his developing mind. A psychologist would observe Lenkley at that age and determine that his obvious lack of empathy for the small animals he was savagely slaying suggests dangerous sociological detachment-no such psychologist was ever present in Lenkley’s life.
The bus was rattling through the mid-Wilshire district by the time Lenkley was through with his revelries. He was forced to ponder that which was immediate and pertinent. Namely, the U.S. Bank building in which he worked as a cold-caller for a marketing company. He hated his job but it was a means to an end. For the time being, Lenkley had no goals that extended past the next Gnostic mass when he would once again be in his element. Those masses were the only times Lenkley felt right. To say that he felt like himself in that dingy basement, rolling hard on a coupe good pills, would be an overstatement. Lenkley didn’t really know who he was, which, he figured, was a huge reason he was weak, timid, and indecisive in nature. Still, he felt that was where he wanted to be-hidden away from a culture he felt nothing but contempt for. Free to indulge in in the fantasies he was too modest to pursue in the surface world. He could not wait until the next Gnostic mass. He had a breakthrough of sorts at the last one, going to town on Bythos45. Now things were really getting tantalizing withe the Pistis Core. Now, Lenkley could put up with the droning of the pathetic old shithead that led each mass, knowing that on the other side of the sermon, he would be turned loose like he was in the greenbelt near his childhood home. And that, Lenkley reasoned as he entered an elevator with a group of suited worker-bees, was his drug. Completely unhinging was his narcotic of choice. Being free to act out what he suppressed on a daily, hourly basis, was his drug. He worked, he put on his corporate costume, rode a filthy bus down filthier streets to an office he had frequent fantasies about firebombing, and detached his higher brain to do a job that amounted to nothing, in order to be able to experience that release just one more time. An addict of the highest order.
The elevator bell rang and the digital display showed 14-Lenkley’s floor. The doors pulled open and Lenkley stepped out. The middle of the building. The middle of the road. Somewhere in between a prince and a pauper. Completely normal and unremarkable. But Lenkley could not suppress a mischievous smile as he stepped out onto the 14th floor. He knew that come the next gathering of the Pistis Core, he would be anything but ordinary. That was enough to get him through the week. It would be enough to resist the urge to start up another mass grave in his adult life.