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bad things happen to good people

bad things happen to good people - Setting Sun Retirement Home*
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In the days when you make more sense, the world around you makes less: after all the hard work and struggles you've endured, the experience and wisdom you've gained, the loves and the losses, the dreams both fulfilled and unfulfilled, the sum of all of those years gone by equals only this.

All you ever had is being stolen from you, bit by bit - your health is eroding into spasms and coughs, blurry eyesight and poor hearing. Your friends and lovers are vanishing, one by one, into the darkness, until you are alone. Your memories are slipping away like the details of a dream at dawn, and your ability to reason, to perceive the world around you, is turning against you.

All that autonomy, all that freedom - you took it for granted. You thought it would never end. But it is ending, and the worst slight is that the lessons you've learned and the battles you've fought are seen as irrelevant by the myopic and self-centered children who now rule your life.

Your family visits less and less often - they've heard all your old stories, and you don't have any new ones. The things you do are undemanding and calculated to avoid aggravating sore joints and frail frames. Increasingly the realm your body inhabits seems less and less real - no more so than the mirage of youth, the flickering images of the things you've done and seen which warp and bend as the fissures creep across your reasoning. And so, you know that you know the people who still come to see you, you know that they are important, but you can't remember their names or why you know them. The room you live in isn't your own, and the people that corral you, that keep you from wandering off outside into the sunshine and honeysuckle-scented spring breeze - they are so significant, yet they mean nothing to you.

Your day is broken up by small things - taking medications, going to the bathroom, watching television. All pointless, redundant, mundane. Behind them the shadow of death looms, and he could be waiting anywhere. You could open a cabinet to get a box of cereal and see the empty eyes of the Great Destroyer, and fall to your knees as he crushes the life from your chest with his horrible claws. You could spend your last minutes laying there flopping like a dying fish in a pool of spilled Cheerios on your floor.

Whatever the case may be, you can feel its presence, and no one even cares. The nurses treat you like an obnoxious child, and when you soil yourself - something so embarrassing and unthinkable years ago! - you can sense the disgust and irritation in their voices, their frustration at the inconvenience that your descent into oblivion is causing them.

Sometimes you rise above the fear and the helplessness. You stare out your window into the glow of the flickering neon sign at the gas station across the street, and the drawn curtains of the cozy little homes you have been exiled from, and everything becomes clear. It doesn't matter what you did, or what anyone else has done. You can shake your fist at the sky all you want, but the world cares little for your logic and your theories about justice. Bad things happen to good people. That's just the way it is.
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Photograph and text by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America.


Also in: Setting Sun Retirement Home*

when it all comes caving in
the void within
as the evening twilight fades away
within me is the cold
every tatter in its mortal dress
games