"Boy, when god closes a door, he always opens a window," his mother used to tell him.
He looked out the window of his small, deteriorating apartment and his eyes focused on the bars that were there to protect him from the rest of the world. Their function seemed to be the antithesis of their ambition.
God could open all of the windows in his low-income neighborhood, but no one would ever be able to get out. They were meant to stay there, by design.
He slipped on a pair of old Jordan's, opened the door and walked across the street. There were no tree-lined cobblestonesidewalks. No gated homes surrounded by skillfully manicured landscaping. Just block buildings, bootleggers, cracked concrete and addicts.
On the sidewalk next to him, someone rolled a dice. It didn't matter how it landed. It wouldn’t change anything.
He opened the door to the liquor store across the street and he was immediately hit with the familiar smells of cardboard, tobacco and booze seeping from the pores of the people around him. These smells were programmed into his brain as sources of anxiety: The steep climb up to the peak of the hedonic plateau.
He pulled some coins from his pocket and then pulled the handle.
At the counter someone was purchasing lottery tickets. It didn't matter how the numbers fell. Everyone in the place had already lost.
He put down his change. It stretched further than he thought. Enough for an extra nip and a stick. He picked them off the rack. Exact change. What were the odds? He took a penny from the tray as the clerk turned away.
Opened the front door and the cow bell rang, reminding everyone there that he'd be back soon.
A story written again and again, unfolded as he slowly walked back to his apartment, clutching the brown bag close to his body, trying to conceal all of the vulnerability, the guilt, the failure inside it.
He closed the door behind him and closed all of the blinds in his apartment. Flipped the TV on and moved past all the game shows. It didn't matter who won those damn things.
He always told people that he drank to forget, but the whiskey always brought back memories. Like the time when he was a kid and the older boys held his face to the furnace. When he got older and learned to cut drugs and hustle. When he learned there was no way out. When his mother told him about god and doors and windows.
He took the last coin from his pocket and held it in his hand.
He'd flip the damn thing, but it wouldn't matter how it’d land.