Disinheriting Yourself

Threatening to take your parents to court was a ballsy move. The way you confronted them outside their colossal estate looking ever so spiny with its neo-Gothic spires and wrought-iron fence. Your eyes trembled with rage behind Gucci frames.

I waited for your mother to explode with angry word balloons filled with dollar signs and hash tags and percentages. I waited for your father to call his lawyer and begin the disinheritance process, but I was wrong. They crumpled like an origami swan. Right there in front of the butler, the Bentley, and god, they agreed to your terms:

From this point on, you were a gull on the thermal currents over the Cape. Emancipated. You were free from their influence, from their lifestyle, from their protection. No longer a Cavisham, now you were just Francesca–Oh, sorry, Glowworm.

And I waited. I hate to say it, but I waited for you to fail. I didn’t mean to. It was completely knee-jerk. The result of a life spent living beneath expectations. Perhaps that’s why my father disappeared and my mother worked two jobs but could never even touch your former chauffeur’s yearly salary. Perhaps not.

Anyway, I waited for your lack of money to run out and your groveling return to your parents estate. But it never happened. I assumed your dumpster diving days were numbered, but there you were, hunched over the Safeway trash receptacle with a maniacal grin on your face. Maybe you were right: money was the root of all misery. I just figured those who’ve never worried about money had a skewed perspective.

When your glasses broke in half, you taped them up with duct tape. When the frames snapped and one of the lenses split in two, you boosted two cases of whey protein from Walmart and returned them for a gift card, which you used at the optical center of another Walmart. Your new glasses weren’t much to look at, but they worked. I was impressed at your craftiness.

The more I expected failure, the more I witnessed your happiness. I started to wonder if you were right about our misplaced faith in the American Dream. I already knew it had failed the bulk of us, but the way you tilted the light just so and exposed the lewd negatives of America’s underbelly. The quest for money was pretty much like punching yourself in the face.

It was only after your ultimate failure that I knew there was a chance for all of us. That night I found you wrapped in a refrigerator box, half frozen to death. When I offered you a place to crash, you flatly refused. Still, I worried. I left my mother’s old blanket outside your box. I hoped you’d use it.

The next day, I looked for your crooked radiant grin around the corner of the store where I worked. All I found was police tape. Later, after the cops left, several hobos related the story to me. You’d been found cold and pale with a grin on your face 12 miles wide. Scruffy Neal said they could hear you cackling until nearly dawn. That’s when the coroner said you’d passed on.

Between the tears, I told them they were wrong. It couldn’t have been you. You never laughed at anything but bloated monoculture, shadows in a streetlight, and the word catheter. But there you were in the society page, before your hair was matted and your bifocals were made of plastic, before your smile was genuine.

They called you a tragedy. A failure to communicate. A failure of the American class system. A crying shame. You’d strayed so far from the gold leaf, imported furniture, and crystal glasses that you’d fallen into the gutter. But they hadn’t found any drugs in your system. There was no reason for your unruly behavior. So they blamed the twin demons of pop culture and amorality.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. You were a success in all counts.

Most of all, I missed you because you were my friend.

Then one day while throwing bags into the dumpster, I heard that distinctive cackle of yours. It could be no one else. But you were dead, trapped under six plush feet in a gated community of untold undead luxury. Then I caught I familiar glint, like the one from your glasses when you met me or back for a smoke. In the dimmest corner of the alley, I swear I saw something shadowy move. Then, I heard your window shattering laugh again followed by a whisper like a bird over water:

“They’ll never find me, August. I shed my skin and found paradise.”

“Fran–uh, Glowworm? Is that you?”

“Only when we let it all go can we truly glow.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, shuddering.

“You’ll find out,” she said, laughing.

Then the alley grew still, like a city after all the machines had died. A cool slow drawl of a wind swept through the alley, and I ran into my store.

Although I haven’t seen much of Glowworm since then, I know she’s still hanging out nearby. I think she watches out for me, like a guardian angel. She’d get mad if I called her that though. She always ragged on me for my conventional thinking. “You’ll never evolve with that kind of bullshit thought process,” she said.

Maybe she’s right. Maybe I don’t know if I want to evolve. I just want to live decently in this world. Four dimensions are scary enough.

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