It’s a moment of joy. I’m dancing with relief. I could do a Fred Astaire tap up and down a light post, and Sing in the Rain! I’ll stop there—don’t want to make you miserable flaunting so much happiness. It’s a little white card with blue print that says, “Benefit Card” that is making me giddy. This will only be a brief interlude—but I’ve been wallowing in the dark havens of my mind far too long not to gloat. Let me take in this moment for now.

Milked of energy, killed of entrepreneurial hutzpah, and overwhelmed by recent loss, I have had little hope for better days. No, not a red-blood, human loss but it feels like it: My business is gone. Done. Kaput. It’s the death of a dream. Incomparable, maybe, to actually losing a family, friend, or lover, but comparable perhaps to a lover leaving you? It’s pretty darn devastating. It blackens the soul, the self-esteem goes out the window, feeling of failure deepens, and the word “loser” sinks into your psyche and is etched on your forehead. See? Look closer. See the defeat in my slouched shoulders, averted eyes, lack of enthusiasm, and way I seem to just want to crawl into myself? Check my pulse, I’m flatlining. I had something to do on a daily basis, and no amount of torture was going to deprive me from this ritual. It was purposeful, of the highest order. Don’t go that far you say? I fed the masses healthy food, okay? I gave people a better option than many of them had before. Is that acceptable?

I’m desperate to survive this decade, reinvent myself, find new meaning, live fruitfully, and stave off poordom. So where to, I ask (with hidden desperation)? It’s time. Time for a new quest—a reason to join the herd again. Not so easy, though. I poured myself into a business that should have prospered, but however many good reasons there were for its success, there were a few bad ones that saw its demise. It was a four-year, hellish run full of stories I could go on about for years. It had me in the grips of defeat many times, but I fought fiercely and vowed to go down with the ship.

Now that the ship has sunk, life continues and I am searching for a new indulgence. With Wacky Wok gone…dead…no more, am I the better for it? Will I be the better for it? My crystal ball hasn’t worked since I bought the fucker. The future doesn’t look good my friend. The Wok was something, and it was all I had left. It got me up in the mornings. Yes, its growth was painful and frustratingly slow, but it got me up. Now there’s no more getting up in the mornings. But I mustn’t dwell or surrender to defeat. What are my options? I only have a few years left (with no warranty). How do I move forward without losing my senses to wine, drugs, T.V., fantasies…?

The Internet! Is it a better companion to pass away the time with as I slide into oblivion? Do documentaries and art films differ from goofy T.V. shows, Hollywood films, and mainstream news?

I’ve traveled far from the clatter of the house of my youth—where tender moments were had wrestling over Corn Flakes, rationing 2% milk (there were eight of us), and pouring on mounds of white, granulated sugar. I escaped captivity and pushed feverishly past the horizon of my prime, only to be dragged into the twilight, unfinished and empty-handed. I should be settled, comfortable in my history, secure in my future, confident in my daily life, and established in my career while nearing retirement. Instead, I’m contemplating a new career as Walmart cashier. Dare I blame myself for this fretful state? I’ve put plenty of greenbacks into circulation, but as progress is measured in wealth, I have none. My capital is gone; slipped through my fingers, as did my youth.

What chance do I have in this town that entices starry-eyed singles and simple-minded twits seeking the limelight? And tolerates an assortment of professionals, unprofessionals, laborers, illegals, private and public servants, politicians, food and drink and flesh retailers, vendors of all sorts, all playing within its concrete confines. It’s too much of a salacious haven made for the financial-kit-and-caboodle-career-dollar-seeking thieves—excuse me—brilliant “financial banking and investment advisors.” It’s a mix of multi-colored jellybeans, and if you don’t like the licorice, well tough. Well, maybe not so tough. The Park Avenue echelon—and dare I mention them in the same sentence—the low-income and the indigent, clinging to their Port Authority shelters, and all those in between, sharing this New York City experience, are not in good graces with one another. The romance is over. Hotels spring forth at an alarming rate, rents are skyrocketing, and subsidized housing dissipates accordingly. The urban jungle is selective of its inhabitants. It’s survival of the fittest; while wealth festers at top, foreclosures are on bottom. Help, I’m drowning in the midst of this mess! There are no unemployment extensions. And SNAP cuts at a time like this? Go ahead, repeal the Affordable Care Act one more time please. Entitlements! Oh how that rings in the ear, you semantic wrangler you. I almost fell for it, you had me thinking that it was a freebie, and patriotism was asking me to return it in a time of crisis. I’m having a bloody crisis! Yes, we really need social security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

I am hypersensitive to the ebb and flow of our metropolis. Superman I am no longer. The constant Kryptonite exposure drains away my mortality. Worse than mortal, I am fragile, undoubtedly lacking in mental fortitude too. I’ve acquired diseases known and unknown to man. It is the abundance of unknowns, known unknowns, and unknown knowns that have me frenzied. Having not been to a doctor in almost six years, I am assuredly—mostly procured by accumulation of stress, despair, and imagination—afflicted with cancerous polyps, tumors, fungus, heart disease, skin disease, rhinitis, sinusitis, tendonitis, tinnitus, and more. Asthma and rhinitis is confirmed. Further creative conjuring drives me to depressive couch potato-ing and excessive sleep.

Do I still dream? Pinch me. Am I awakening, drunkenly from my self-pitying dream, scratching the crust from the corner of my eyes, easing into my chair, and sifting through the mountainous pile of mail that has been patiently—as long as a decade even—waiting for me to open and address its concerns? I’ll start with the safest of mail, even but for a minute to postpone the fretful bills. And it is in the midst of tearing envelopes, with all the junk mail piled to my left and unopened bills to my right, you arise, gloriously haloed and with climactic operatic cheer to revitalize and relieve me from this brutal, oppressive nightmare! You are an inspiration; a sight for sore eyes. Your blue letters draw tears, easing the itchy dryness. B-E-N-E-F-I-T. I am a New York State Benefit cardholder! I can now go see a doctor to disprove my theories of Internet-researched illnesses, perhaps prevent this body from further breaking down, and resolve a few other persistent grievances. It will help me shed some of this madness and urge me to embrace life, or at least think about a job if all these checkups confirm that I’ll be around a little longer.