Chapter 210

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Paul waited patiently until he heard the familiar tone of his mobile phone, indicating that he had received a message. Not wanting to appear needy or impatient, he counted to ten before he picked it up and checked it. Sure enough, it was from John.

Meet me in an hour in room 612

He paused, wondering if he should reply or not. The tone of his past few messages were almost as though he was not the same man. What was troubling him so much that he was being so curt? Paul berated himself. Why did he always jump whenever John called? Why didn’t he play a little hard to get? Was now the time to start playing these teenage games? He could go to Nancy and start a different life. She was so eager to please, it would be like marrying the hired help. A two in one deal. A nurse and a wife. Isn’t that what every man dreams of? Someone like mummy?

Or was he after someone like daddy?

Paul didn’t have any problems growing up; well, nothing that he could point his finger at and claim to be the reason he started doing what he does now. The reason he entered his profession was not because of a troubled past, nor was it from a tough childhood. He lived in the usual white picket fenced home, with a lovely yard, a mother that cooked and cleaned but didn’t work and a father who had an office job. Money wasn’t great but it wasn’t tight either. He had small after school jobs, starting with paper delivery, growing into mowing yards and other maintenance jobs, until he was old enough to attend university.

He dropped out of university, finding computing boring and not gratifying, unbeknown to his family. It was whilst at uni that he met someone that asked him to do a small job for him, if he wanted to. Not one to shy away, he found out that a girlfriend was cheating on the university friend’s father and they needed to find someone who would eliminate her. He asked how much to find someone and how much for the job. When he realised the amount of money involved, he took the latter. The job was his and he hadn’t looked back since.

Until now.

He still visited his family and was a good son, providing for his aging parents when most children his age had stopped doing so. They thought he was a successful computer analyst and he preferred it that way. His parents were like any other, they placed expectations on him to succeed and be better than they were in their life time. They wanted him to become ‘someone’, someone they could brag to their friends about. Oh, how loaded that was! Why do parents do that? Every single parent in this universe does it. Is it simply because they mimic their own parent’s expectations and now do it in turn to their own children, because it is expected and builds character? No one can mess up a child like a parent. Not that he blamed his parents, they did the best they could under the circumstances and they always gave him everything he ever wanted or needed. No, he most definitely didn’t blame them. Well, not directly.

Maybe that is the mistake all parents make? In their bid to create better versions of themselves, they instil an impossible goal inside each of us; thinking that they are doing the right thing by placing us on these pedestals, never once telling us that no one has yet touched the sky. This manifests as the self-sabotaging, self-hating dark cloud that everyone battles, each of us in their own way. Some are better at taming the beast than others. We each carry this burden that was given to us by our parents with love. No wonder the world is screwed up! Our whole view and concept of love is warped!

That dark beast can raise its head as deep seeded and unexplained depression; self-loathing because we feel we are never good enough, always searching for perfection or never content or satisfied with what we have as we were programmed and conditioned to seek more. Others overcome the beast by ignoring it, living their life in a blissful illusion of happiness. They live the dream – go to school, then university and marry their sweetheart and raise a family of their own, looking forward to grandchildren and retirement. Some have learnt to utilise it and use it to drive their ambitions, becoming merciless in their drive to the top, then feeling empty once they get there, succumbing to that self-pity and depression because in their rise to the top, they squashed all that was good around them and are now left empty and alone, afraid that they will die insignificant. For what does success mean if they have no one to share it with? The adoring crowds are only there by their side as long as they keep performing like stage monkeys but once they stop, no one cares how they are. They may become a brief memory but essentially they die alone and no one cares when they pass. They could have five minutes of fame or create the next internet but how many people today can name the creator and founder of the world wide web? Very few.

Paul, on the other hand had learnt to live with it, acknowledging its presence and surrendering to the darkness. It’s what makes him so efficient at his job. Instead of directing that darkness at himself, he directs it at his targets. Why harm himself? He knew that it wasn’t his burden to carry.

The conundrum. Is he ready to give up this life and settle for the illusion, the wife, kids and nine to five job? Or should he continue, living aimlessly, alone and unsatisfied, feeling like he has disappointed his parents and himself by not succeeding?

He looked at his phone and typed:

Not tonight, Joséphine.*[M1] 

Then he threw some money on the table and left.

*This was the supposedly the response Napoleon Bonaparte gave when declining sex with Empress Joséphine.

 [M1]* "Not tonight, Josephine," actually came from the title of a 1915 song and was later attributed to the diminutive French warmonger, Napoleon.

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