Shaun reaches a point in his story where he stops, and he decides he wants to start writing on some of the pictures that are hanging on the walls. He finds one and starts to fill in the empty spaces on the paper. He’s writing about the new job he’s been offered. They want to pay him 3 million dollars for the year, to watch TV in public places, like restaurants or landromats or bars, to watch anything except the news. If he goes somewhere and the news is on, he has to change the station. His last job paid equally well. He was paid to go about his normal life, but he couldn’t brush, clean, or pick at his teeth for an entire year. This is how he makes his living, by taking jobs like this.
He’s telling us this, and he tells us he’s dead. He tells us he’s killed himself, shot himself in the head sometime in the recent past. “Who has all this money to just throw at someone for such a stupid reason?” he says. “And I thought this, this is what’s wrong with America. And if this is what’s wrong with America, then this is what’s wrong with the world. And if I’m doing it, if I’m accepting the money, then I’m what’s wrong with America. So if I’m what’s wrong with America, then I’m what’s wrong with the world.”
I tell myself, my dream self tells my real self, to tell Annie about this later. We’d been talking about something like this, about people our age who are out in the world and retreat when it becomes harder and scarier than we thought it would be. We talked about why this is, if it’s a societal thing or a generational thing, and I think I’ve figured out the answer. I think I’ve figured out that the state of the world and the state of the nation has made some people our age realize that if America is fucked up, and if we’re America, then we’re fucked up. And there’s nowhere to go back to, to make it right, because it’s always been fucked up, only they didn’t know it before. And so, in my dream, Shaun tells us that’s why he shot himself.
I wonder, if someone could go back in time, if they could see all of us, me and Shaun and Adrian and Jarrod and Doug D, if they could see us playing basketball and video games and picking on each other and laughing, if they could find the one who would shoot himself fifteen years later. Shaun was the best of all of us, the best shooter, the highest jumper, the fastest runner; the first to get a car and a serious girlfriend and the first to get a job and buy a house. But now, instead of being a teenager at the top of the pile, he’s a mediocre man with a mediocre job, just like the rest of us. I wonder, in my dream, if that was part of it too, if it shook him to his core to find out that that was as good as it got.