A Lecture on Wealth
Treasure“What is treasure?”
The man paced back and forth, his features hidden beneath the wild hair that covered most of his face. His strides were smooth and confident, and every step he took seemed to shake the very ground on which he walked.
However, his words seemed to have had more of an effect on those around him than his heavy footsteps. All around him, puzzlement crept into previously carefree faces. They had signed up in order to hunt for treasure, not debate upon what the term treasure actually entailed.
A single hand rose above the crowd, its owner carrying a confident – although rather bored – look upon his face. After a few moments of hurried gestures to make sure no one would interrupt him, the leader of the group beckoned him to speak.
“Treasure is anything that you deem to be valuable.”
A murmur ran through the group, and it quickly turned into hurried whispering about whether or not he was correct. Before anyone could come to a reasonable conclusion or even get past the opening points to their argument, the leader once again spoke up. His voice cut through the clamor like a knife, immediately stopping short any conversations that he was not participating in (which was all of them).
“That isn’t a bad guess, but I’m sorry to say you are wrong. Very, very wrong. You see, treasure isn’t something as vague as “something valuable to me”; if that were the case, you could call even a ratty old hat a treasure under some circumstances. Friends aren’t a treasure either, and the same goes for family. Those things are all worthless in the greater scheme of things!
“So what is treasure? All I’ve told you so far is what it’s not, and I can see that some of you are growing impatient. Well, let me tell you: treasure is anything you have to steal, lie, or kill in order to attain. Treasure is anything you could auction off for a hefty sum of money. Treasure is anything that you can cast aside if it means making a fortune. If you are ever in doubt, ask yourself, “Is it valuable to many people around the world and, more importantly, would they pay for it?” and you’ll be sure to grab to correct item.”
He stopped pacing for a moment and turned his head towards the group, his visible eye brightly shining with anticipation. His lecture was nearly complete, and he could already see that it had done its job of stirring the members of the group into a frenzy. Seeing this, he couldn’t help but grin behind his beard.
“Now let’s go get some treasure.”
I stared at the note one the wall, my brain refusing to believe the story my eyes were telling. It couldn’t be true, not today of all days.
The note, which had clearly been written by my mother, stated that there was to be no playing videogames until my chores had been finished. Under normal circumstances I would have disregarded these commands, but today she had taken measures to prevent such action.
Said measures entailed confiscating the video game console, the cords, and all of my controllers. Knowing her, these things had likely been hidden in separate locations around the house, so even if I managed to find the console it’d be useless without the cords or controllers. The same naturally applied to every situation that didn’t have me finding all the necessary elements, which made me sad.
Knowing my luck, it’d be next to impossible to find everything I needed. That left me with one option: to do my chores as I had been asked.
The funny thing about work is that I don’t like it. When asked to do something more demanding than lifting a pencil (and indeed, sometimes even then), I tend to find other ways to occupy my time. When someone is breathing down my neck, it means faking work on something else in order. When there was no one to make sure I stayed focused, I would do literally anything so long as it wasn’t productive.
But I wanted to play that new video game that had arrived in the mail yesterday. After pre-ordering it, I had patiently waited months for this day. I wasn’t going to spend it doing chores.
Well, there comes a time when a man’s got to do what he’s got to do. For me, this was that time.
So naturally I spent the next five hours doing what amounts to staring blankly at my computer screen.
Finally, after what felt like ages of doing nothing productive whatsoever, I stood up tall and did my best to look heroic and determined. I was finally ready to start working, my nonexistent pre-working rituals having been finally completed.
For the next few hours, I worked as diligently as I was able to. I fought the weeds, grass, dust, grime, and all other enemies to those dedicated to cleanliness. They were tough battles, with each boss being tougher than the last, but I gained experience through those conflicts, and emerged from them more powerful than I had ever been before.
At last, I reached the final boss fight. I was equipped with all of the greatest cleaning tools the house had to offer, and I had mastered the use of each one. I was truly a foe to be reckoned with. However, my adversary was equally deadly. Standing before me like an ancient monster was the bathroom. Inside my heart, I trembled in fear.
I dove into the fight. It lasted for what felt like ages, but eventually, and with both cramped arms and watery eyes, I emerged victorious. I had finally completed my quest, and not a minute too soon; as I went to put away the cleaning supplies, I heard a car pull up into the driveway.
I immediately ran up to my mother, the foul schemer who had been the cause of my wearisome quest, and told her of my success. In response to my request to have my rightful belongings returned to me, she looked at me with solemn eyes and in only two words crushed my dreams.
The Thoughts of a Recently-Rejected Teenager
Amor Omnia Vincit
Love will find a way.
All you need is love.
It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
These are all phrases we have been taught since childhood, their words engrained into our minds. Some people choose to model their entire outlook on life off of sayings like these.
I am not one of those people, especially not now. Not now that I’ve been in love and been rejected, not now that I’ve experienced the agony of heartbreak. Yes, third phrase, I’m referring to you. Yes, you do have a special place in my heart.
No. I do not agree with any of you one bit.
Love is like a hurricane. Oh look, there’s another stock saying. I wasn’t even trying to come up with one that time, and it just came to mind. Great, just great.
But wait… Comparing love to a type of storm, and one known for the devastation it tends to leave in its wake, may actually be the most fitting thing comparison I’ve seen yet. Love is a horrible, horrible reaction, and one that the human race would be infinitely better off without. I would love to take back all the time I spent building up the courage to tell you how I felt, only for you to bluntly reject me in the span of two seconds. I’d-
Sorry, I have some things on my mind. You know, in case you hadn’t noticed. Which isn’t very likely…
Anyway, love is a hurricane. Yup, I’ll agree with that one. Let’s move on to the next one like a museum tour guide and his flock of paying customers and bums who are following the main group. Yup, my little tour will go right past the broken hearts of a billion teenagers, all while I’m spouting random garbage like, “And on your left, you can see the infamous words that drove these poor souls into committing such reckless acts, defying all logic in their attempts to win the heart of another person. Oh, and on your right is another similar sight. Isn’t love just great?”
Yes, I’d make an excellent tour guide. Maybe one day, when I’m a bit more level-headed, I’ll make a museum like that. No wait. That’s stupid. Forget I said that.
Oh, oh, oh… The granddaddy of all stock saying just popped into my head. Oh, this is infuriating. Wow, I’m having difficulty just typing this, I’m so irritated. Okay, deep breath. In. Out.
Love conquers all.
You know what, world? I’m calling you out on that one right here, right now.
False. Oh so very false.
I looked down at my bloodied hands, my eyes moist with tears that refused to fall. Littered around me were dozens of destroyed objects, all victims of my despair-fueled rampage throughout the empty house.
Empty. She was gone, taken. No doubt suffering as I sat and wallowed in my own misery. And yet… There was nothing I could do. I was no hero, and neither the authorities nor I had any idea who had taken her. All we knew was that she hadn’t gone willingly, but I could have told anyone that much.
From within my pocket but what felt like a world away, something began vibrating. After a moment, the realization that it was my phone sank in and I pulled it out, still in a daze had what had transpired that day. Judging by the fact that it had only vibrated for a second, I had probably received a text message from yet another person curious as to what the situation was and to tell me how sorry they were for me, how they knew I was suffering and felt my pain, even while they sat in warm and loving rooms surrounded by those they cared about. It had been difficult maintaining my composure during those instances, and I was tempted to ignore this one until I felt a bit better.
However, I couldn’t help but check to see who had sent it.
The instant I saw her name, I froze up. I wanted to scream at the world for its playing such a cruel trick on my mind, to weep with joy, and to chastise her for worrying us so much all at once. Of course, deep down I knew that the conversation I was about to engage in wouldn’t end up like any of those. With a practiced motion, I pulled up the message and read it, my confused emotions quickly transforming into a singular, mind-rending, rage.
Bring $500,000 to the main entrance of the Wood Hills Mall at 10:00 tomorrow morning.
So it was a ransom. A ransom I could deal with. The part that infuriated me was the lack of any mention of their hostage. Even when asking for half a million dollars, they had made no indication that the sum would do anything to free her. For all I knew, she was already dead. It was a cold, distant thought, but once it entered my mind it refused to leave. Still, I couldn’t just abandon her.
I knew I should talk to the authorities about it, but something stopped me. I don’t know what it was, and looking back I can’t possibly imagine what was going through my head at the time.
Even after I arrived with the money I had somehow managed to scrap together at the designated time and place, there was no sign of anyone who might have been expecting to receive half a million dollars. I waited for what felt like hours, my heart racing and my armpits sweaty. I was nervous, nervous for both my own safety and the safety the person I was trying to save.
Turns out, that nervousness was perfectly justified. For all my efforts, all my stupidity, I received a bullet to the heart. As I lay there, dying upon the concrete and amidst all the gum that people had carelessly tossed aside, I pressed my hand against my chest. I pulled it away, examining the crimson blood. It was beautiful in its own way, death was.
I walked over to a tall, middle-aged man sitting with his head in his hands, his proud back bent in sorrow. I had seen many others like him during my life, but it was never any less heart-wrenching of a sight. There was no guaranteed way to help people when they were like that, but I had always found that simply talking to them could help ease them a bit.
“Excuse me, sir, but visiting hours are over for the day. However, I’d have to be a pretty cruel person to kick you out at this point, so do you mind if I sit down?”
The man I was speaking to started at the sound of my voice as if he had been unaware of my presence. Of course, that was probably exactly what had happened; it was clear he had a lot on his mind. After a silent nod from the man, I sat down in one of the chairs next to him. It was almost ten minutes before he felt the desire to speak.
“She was only five.”
“I’m sorry to hear it.”
I was. It wasn’t the first time someone would die so young, nor would it be the last. However, I understood the man’s pain. Losing a loved one is always hard, especially when by all rights they should have the rest of their lives ahead of them.
“If you don’t mind my asking, why is it you are wearing that hat of yours while indoors and at night? Does it have some sentimental value to you?”
He nodded and reached up to tough it gently, his fingers gently caressing the worn edges. “Before today,” he said, “I would have told you that it didn’t. But she always loved this hat of mine, and now I'm rather reluctant to part with it, even if only for a second. Funny how your attitude towards things can change so drastically over the course of a day, isn’t it?”
Now it was my turn to nod, although something I had seen when he reached up towards his hat had caught my attention. It appeared to be a tattoo, but… what it looked like seemed completely random to a person like myself who had only just met this man. However, I suspected that it also seemed random to those who knew him well. As such, I decided to ask him about it.
“Sorry to bother you with yet another question, but what exactly is that on your arm? It seems kinda… odd.”
At my words, the man chuckled a bit. He had probably been asked that question a hundred times before now, but for some reason that didn’t seem to bother him. Rather, it appeared that he was welcoming the chance to talk to a curious stranger, to share stories of his life with a caring soul. He must have been thinking along those lines, or otherwise why would he have tolerated my questions at such a difficult time in his life?
“It’s a wolf with a crown. My wife and I – back when we were still dating – went to a bar one night and ended up completely drunk. During that time, we each got one of these, mine on my right arm and hers on her left arm.”
I nodded once more, but he didn’t seem to notice. Instead, he stood up and began to straighten out his clothes.
“I know it’s a bit late for introductions, but I’m Doctor- no. I’m Steve. It was nice talking to you, I really appreciate it. Thanks a lot.”
With that, he left.
I looked at the suitcase resting on my bed, its interior packed with everything I would need in the coming months. I had spent the last few weeks repeating an endless cycle of planning, packing, checking, re-planning, and re-packing, but now I finally felt as if I was ready to leave.
Well, almost ready; I still had to say goodbye to my friends and family.
Saying my farewells had been the part I least looked forward to. In fact, you could say I had dreaded it for the past few weeks. I already knew what they would say, but that wouldn’t make things any easier. Saying goodbye is never easy.
I left my room, intending to get a drink of water before returning to my sulk in my room. Unfortunately, the moment I stepped foot in the kitchen what seemed like a swarm of people descended upon me.
I’d been captured by the enemy, and would soon be forced to endure all manner of horrible interrogation techniques.
For the next few minutes, I warded off question after question in my desperate attempt to first relieve my thirst and return to my room. Eventually, my captors decided it was a lost cause and allowed me to make a retreat, an act I took no hesitation in participating in. When I had returned to my room, I sat down on my bed and stared at the television absentmindedly. As boring as it was, it was still better than saying goodbye, I decided.
Eventually, though, I knew I would have to say farewell. All my packing had been an attempt to delay that moment for as long as possible, but it had finally arrived. No matter how I might have felt about it, the indisputable truth was that it was something I had to do. I had to leave properly, or not at all.
It was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to the house I had grown up in. Goodbye to the friends I had made. Goodbye to the family I cherished. Goodbye to my childhood.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was also time to say hello. Hello to new friends. Hello to new opportunities. Hello to difficult times. Hello to adulthood.
I was entering a new part of my life, but I was still reluctant to let go of the past.
It was all I could manage to say, even in my own thoughts.