It's nearly 2:30 a.m. and the Loser is awake. His fault. He got home from work at the usual time, ate the usual meal, watched a DVD (Woody Allen's latest. Sucked.) and then made the mistake of lying down, which led to a nap which led to this—awake in his stuffy, humid apartment.
He has insights on nights like these. The path of his life of being a loser becomes clear. He wakes up and scribbles these insights in a notebook he keeps on his bed table. Later, he reads them again and is chagrined to find that rather than the nonsensical writings of an insomniac, the sentences make sense.
The Loser had a childhood bone disease which ruined a leg. He has worn a ridiculous, huge shoe since he was seven to make up for a leg length discrepancy of over half a foot. Yes, there are those with far greater afflictions who have lives filled with love and success. There are also those with no problems of any kind and keen minds who live lives as miserable or more so than the Loser's.
The Loser had neither a body nor mind that could compete with those of others. He has no artistic gifts, significant writing ability, knack for magic tricks or passion for learning about something, anything, that would set him apart. His ability to tell jokes is mediocre.
His dream job since early high school was to work as a journalist, but he was too shy and afraid of the taunts of his peers to ever pursue a position at his school papers in both high school and college. He assumed that he would fail at it as a profession too, that those with sharper writing skills and greater confidence would outperform him. It wasn't until his mid-30s that he enrolled in a low-tier graduate program to get his master's degree in journalism.
He worked as a journalist for five years. The stress at first took a toll. There were months, literally months, when he slept no more than two hours a night. After that, for a year or two, all went well. He knew what he was doing, mistakes were few and mild, the money was good enough. The circulation of the newspaper he worked for, a suburban weekly, went steadily downhill but this was hardly his fault. He was the primary reporter, true, but people buy such papers for other reasons, like the society page and coverage of local school sports. The paper followed the sliding trend of all such papers in the late 1990s.
In 2000 the Loser, over 40 and tired of covering zoning board hearings and store openings, went for a job in the city. He applied for and got a job as an editorial assistant at the Associated Press.
He did not do well there. What confidence he had gained at the weekly drained in the big time. He made mistakes. An editor yelled. He overheard himself referred to as "the knucklehead." He left work each day with the self esteem of a wet paper towel on a mens room floor. After a year, it was time to go.
The Loser is a 51-year-old cashier now. He makes far less money than he did at the AP and his feet hurt all the time.
The physical gifts we have or lack can nudge our personalities. The Loser wonders now that if he had been physically normal and able to run, perform in plays, wear unaltered trousers, go a year without once being mocked by others, if he would have pursued his goal at a younger age, taken his lumps then and had some measure of success.