We sit here now across from each other at a cramped table in a cramped coffee shop. Our Macbooks are practically tongue-kissing but you haven’t even looked up at me for the last hour. Meanwhile, my fingers have stilled on my keys. I am looking at you. Your furrowed eyebrows, your intent on your task, your dedication to working and to a lightened screen when the sun shines in from the outside through a window advertising chai lattes and I have one ringing, piercing thought: Let’s run away.
Let’s run away and never come back.
When I was a kid at summer camp in the northern woods of Georgia, we’d have to drive up the winding, narrow roads of a mountain to reach any of the cabins. Once, I saw a house where the house part was on the mountain’s peak and the mailbox, limp and splintered, with a sagging red flag to indicate arrivals, was on the bottom by the road. A car full of city folk found it amusing to see a floating remnant of society like that. It looked like a mailbox for a family of bears. I just found it very considerate to the poor mailman. Anyway, my point is let’s move to the top of a mountain in Georgia.
Or hell, let’s not “move” anywhere. Let’s just disappear like the girl who got pregnant in my middle school class. Let’s go away. Let’s evaporate into thin air. Let’s go to Hogwarts or the deck of the Enterprise. Let’s hop into the Millennium Falcon and land in Cloud City and punch Billy Dee Williams in the face. Let’s do anything to get away from these less interesting technological tethers: our work, our friends, our families, our obligations, our stress.
Let’s go somewhere. Where do you want to go? Let’s be selfish.
Who decided this was “the real world” anyway, right? Maybe the real world is a Chinese fishing village, or an Arizona desert valley or a boat in the Balkans or at Ernest Hemingway’s old house in Key West. Maybe it’s on Saturn. Maybe it’s on Alpha Centauri. It sure as hell can’t just be this coffee shop. So maybe this obsession with “living in the real world” and staying put — maybe that’s been the real “vacation” right? From the actual life we’re all supposed to be living, which is the one where:
You take that trip.
You kiss that person.
You quit that job.
You pilot that spacecraft through an alien invasion.
Sometimes, it seems crazy to me how beholden we, as a species, are to prisons of our own creation. Humans invented money. Humans invented time. So really, none of that is any more or less real than say, a flying spaghetti monster or the way I tricked you into meeting me here today under the guise of “working.”
Look around. Do you see what I see? Does it terrify you the way it terrifies me? I could spend hours, days, weeks under my covers in bed reflecting on the sheer emptiness and overwhelming quality of the world only to spend most every day sitting behind a computer, “working” so I can make “money” so I can buy “things.” A hat trick of emotional and physical and societal sameness. Even this coffee shop is a Benedict Arnold — serving pumped up juice for mass consumption.
I need to stop smoking weed and/or watching A Clockwork Orange.
But anyway, none of that matters now. You’ll understand my reasoning in time. This is more than that. You’ll be the companion to my Doctor. Simply put, all you need to ponder now is my singular premise: You should run away with me. Let’s run away.
“Hey,” I say to you in my dreams. “I am pursuing you. Just so you know. But not in an average way. No, no. Not for love or marriage, those social constructs created to sell wedding invitations and flower bouquets. Not for friendship even — a boring tie which allows humans to manufacture importance and “drama” within a limited social group. No. We will be bigger than that. I am pursuing you for something much greater, beyond anything this ceramic cup and tessellation of glowing computers can reveal. I am pursuing you for a higher purpose. So you can be the one who understands my fear and my devotion to the beauty of possibility in this “real” world, so you can save me when the time comes. You are being chosen.”
Then I would pause and let you soak in my meaning.
Then I would raise one eyebrow, smile brilliantly and say, “Well, are you in?”