For the past 17.5 years, I have lived inside a glass jar, completely sealed off from the outside world, within a sterile room that has white walls and no windows. The jar is your pretty standard sleeping jar, about eight feet high and fourteen feet in either direction. Certain times, the lights in the room are on. This is when I go about my daily business, reading, watching TV, and playing with my doodle. Other times, the lights start to dim, and then go off completely. This is when I crawl into my racecar bed with dinosaur sheets, a Star Wars poster on the glass wall and pale yellow glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, to sleep and dream of a life not my own.
In the mornings, the light goes from dark to hazy to shining all around. When the bright light on the side reaches eye level, either Sad Face Curly Hair Lady comes into the room and slides breakfast into my jar, saying in a smoker’s growl, “Good morning, Joseph.” Or it’s Smiley McSmilesalot, who’s younger and sometimes lets the top button of her blouse stay unbuttoned, I imagine just for me. She bends down, slides the tray through the slot and says, “Here, Joseph. It’s scrumptious and delicious.” Then she walks away, possibly slower than normal so I can see her longer.
I admit I’ve got it pretty good most of the time. Never wanting. Always safe. Ever falling in love with people I see on a screen. I guess a couple friends would be nice — some people I can ask if Smiley might have a thing for me, or is she just playing games? Sad Face probably wouldn’t know. Maybe a hamburger with French fries every four days instead of every six. Oh, and how about a dog? I really want a dog — a tough manly one who’s also down to chill, named Ajax.
I’m getting jar schooled, and recently I’ve been thinking about where to apply to college. But here I think you can see the crux of the problem. I don’t know what to write my admissions essay about. Do I have any leadership experience or commitment to causes in my community? None that I can think of. Although sometimes I walk around my jar reciting John Belushi’s big pump-up speech from Animal House. “What? Over? Did you say over? Nothing’s over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!” Then I walk in a circle, from my bed to my stack of maps, imagining all my buddies in the fraternity following behind, intent on making some decisions that seemed good at the time.
How have family and friends shaped my values? Hmm, I’m not sure. I don’t really have any friends, and I know what family is from books, but I don’t know-know what family is. Or rather, what family means.
What’s an experience that changed my life for the better? Well, this one night Smiley came in a little later than normal, when the light was cresting toward dim. I was listening to the CD they gave me for the week, with lyrics I didn’t really understand but danced to anyway. She bent down and slid pizza through the slot.
“Wow, cool, but I had pizza last night,” I said, a little sweaty from dancing.
“Enjoy, Joseph,” Smiley said, placing her index finger lightly against the glass, its pad gently bleached from the pressure. “Today’s your birthday.” Then she walked away, maybe even slower than her normal amount of slower because it was my birthday, and I could take her in my arms from a distance.
So what do I have? Some pretty good grades, maybe a decent rec. from Ms. McSmilesalot, SATs in the mid-whatever-hundreds. But nothing to write about; I mean nothing to make me stand out like how the questions talk about. All I have is the static experience of growing up inside a hermetically sealed glass jar.
But no one wants to hear about that.