What Are You Working For?
The typical, quintessential line… the one around which the American dream is built… “Honey, I’m home.” We’ve been working so hard to grow beyond this line, yet we still crave the simplicity of it. We don’t need it now. It’s practically nonexistent. We don’t need it, because we’ve probably already told our lover through instant message, text message, a quick call, Google chat, Facebook, and Twitter. We’ve told them 5,000 times already exactly when we’ll be there and exactly how far away we are. We’ve probably checked in on Facebook, so they know we’re just down the street having a drink at the Mediocracy Citroley de La Luna Desperation bar and we are there with three other people. They don’t need to miss us and they don’t need to keep the meatloaf warm until we get there and they don’t need to wonder how many of our friends from work they should cook for. When we walk in the door, there is no one anticipating our arrival. They already know exactly when the key is going to turn in the door and they don’t need to run to us, throw their arms around us, and ask how our day was or ask us to catch them up on the day’s activities. They already know. Their iPhones have constantly kept them updated all day long. In fact, they’re a little irritated with the noise of dings and rings and pings, whether they realize it or not. Stimulation of every kind is an annoyance, rather than a craving of the body and skin and mind… rather than something to which they look forward. The relationship is not between two people. It’s between two people and the world. We crave the simplicity of the good ‘ole days, but we just can’t go without a Google search. We need the instant gratification. We’ve come from an old make-shift tavern to happy hours. We’ve come from wooden fences to electronic alarm devices. We’ve come from chewing a few good tobacco leaves to cigarettes with ingredients we aren’t even sure of. We’ve come from breaking dirt in our own hands and planting a seed to walking into a massive, busy, impersonal grocery store, built with depressing, metal beams, and buying a plastic bag of frozen, preserved, processed corn. We’ve come from swapping a couple of horses for a good plot of farming land, closing the sale with shaking a warm hand and connecting with a solid eye-lock to stacks of signed papers, a few entries on a cold, hard computer, and a moment of awkwardness where you’re not really even sure what just happened. We’ve come from bonnets and cowboy hats to sunscreen with 10,000 chemicals we don’t even recognize. We’ve come from saloons and risqué dancing to internet porn. We’ve come from love letters with a wax seal and a spritz of rose water to sexting. We’ve come from enjoying anticipation to requiring instant gratification. We’ve come from human decency to sacrificing every trace of humanity for what we selfishly want, while covering our tracks every step of the way. We’ve come from honesty and nobility to “What do you do?” and “How much money do you make?” We’re not even really comfortable in, or proud of our homes anymore. We didn’t build them. We had no hand in it. They are not personal. They are not ours. The clothes we wear are not us and do not belong to us. We didn’t create them. We have no idea who designed them. We can feel the disdain of the weary hands that sewed what someone else told them to sew. We can feel the rigidity of the machine that planted the stitches with no concern or consideration of who would wear them.
We’ve worked so hard for freedom, but we are slaves to the economy, prisoners of social norms, wear shackles of green, and answer to authority and guidelines of which we don’t even know the origins or the purpose, and remain bound by lack of curiosity, lack of education, and loss of the question mark.
So, we get home from a scheduled, constrained day of work and a scheduled, constrained happy hour, where we’ve made certain we’ve broken none of the social norms. Since when was it normal for five people to sit around, all on their phones communicating with people who aren’t even in front of them, instead of catching up with those right in front of their faces? But, alas, this is the social norm. We get home with a reusable bag of groceries and a laptop and a blackberry and we fumble with the keys until we open the door. Our lover barely even looks up.
“Lock the door behind you,” says our lover. “I’m just headed to bed. There’s some pasta on the stove if you’re hungry.”
We devour the pasta. We go to bed, slide under a run-of-the-mill, meaningless blanket, made in Taiwan, instead of a hand-made quilt, with love and necessity stitched into every square, next to our lover… maybe put an arm around them and maybe not. We fall asleep almost before our head hits the pillow. No one was excited to see us. No one met us at the door. No one satisfied our lips’ need for touch. But, we fall asleep, feeling momentarily satisfied by the warmth of the alcohol, only to wake up the next day to do it all over again.
Stimulation has come from penny candy or a damn good shot of aged whisky under the stars to bags of cocaine in an enclosed room with eardrum-busting music and enough flashing lights to induce an epileptic fit. Why are we okay with this lifestyle? Why are we okay with this pace of life and with this need for this level of stimulation? Do we do it for more money, better medicine, indoor plumbing, equality, and more luxury? Not all of those things are bad. But isn’t there a happy middle ground? Couldn’t we slow our pace? Couldn’t we find somewhere between a metropolis and a mammal-eat-mammal swamp? Couldn’t we come to an agreement on the definition of “civilization”? Couldn’t we educate ourselves better and think twice before we speed up and get busy just for the purpose of speeding up and getting busy? Do we need an entire lifetime to understand, to learn how to walk home and say “Honey, I’m home… my body, mind, my soul, is home… is home”, but what else is there to do with a lifetime? Happy hour?
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It was excruciating. I was so bored. All we did was hold the throttle and sit there. All the coffee in the world couldn’t have kept me aware and upbeat. I stared at my odometer. Miles passed so slowly while time raced on.
He holds my hand in his lap, looks me directly into the eyes and says, “I love you more than the amount of sperm a blue robin makes.”
Took my own braces off with nail clippers.