Picture a room filled with middle-aged people whose heads are bent towards large computer screens. Their separate office doors are cracked open and illuminated by stark LED light bulbs. Tap, tap, tap, is the only sound that fills the void between them, besides the low murmur of the vents pumping recycled air back through the popcorn ceiling tiles. Tap, tap, tap, is the sound of their fingers drumming away on keyboards. It resonates into the recesses of my heart with sickening clarity, like the nails on a coffin, signing off on the finality of my fate. Tap — even I participate in the drone as I type this very statement of rebellion against such idle processes — to the texture of those printed paper bits we let stand in for a measurement of our success. Tap to the desperate desire to be anywhere else but here, lying in wait for those brief moments of reprieve like a snake bred in captivity, ready to pounce on any mouse which we imagine haphazardly meandered by. We never question how they arrive, only taking credit for the end product. As one final exhale collapses their lungs your self-importance grows to consume it. Tap to the rhythm of this socially acceptable life: marry a man who seems suitable by those standards ingrained in you from rank Rom-Coms and outdated tales of princesses being rescued by nonexistent princes, crank out a couple kids who spend the majority of their teen years hating you, ram your head against the wall — metaphorically of course, unless you’re counting on a compensation lawsuit — to the dullness of this life which seems pre-determined for you. When did they ask you if this is what you wanted? If you think back, can you really remember a time?
I remember a time when life was filled with purple people and magical steeds who pranced to the pace of an invisible orchestra. There were dragons who fought off hordes of gremlins, their massive wings moving to the beat of the drums my mother listened to when she painted. What happened to that intangible sensation? Is it one reserved solely for the lighthearted escapades of childhood? Or does the feeling of responsibility, of owning some big man in the sky an explanation for what we’re accomplishing with the breath he gave us, siphon of the remnants of that reverent joy. What made us stop taking the time to envelop ourselves in the intricacies of life, like daisies growing in the ditch and the way the sun casts intricate shadows on the forest floor like the designs of lace petticoats. Does our intrinsic need to please erode our imagination with each new heart wrenching disappointment we face, like a cook hastily peeling back the layers of a ripe onion, tears blistering the sides of his cheeks. The pain of choking back his body’s natural reaction, for fear of judgement at the unmerciful hands of his colleagues, tenfold more tortuous than if the tears had just been allowed to flow?
Except, I don’t want a metaphor of a peeled onion to be relatable. I don’t want to subject myself to 9-5 suit and tie office shifts, five o’clock traffic jams, and evenings spent keeled over the stovetop. My hair shoved into a ponytail so tight you’d think I’d just gotten a facelift. All this as my head starts to pound, either from the heat of the burners a foot below my face or because of the pressure practically pulling my hair follicles out by the root, but I don’t bother to distinguish between the two because my ponytail is the only thing I seem to be able to exert any control over these days. Days which end in nights of zombie-like states: eyes glued to the TV, feet kicked up on the coffee table with a bag of organic root vegetable crisps. I only bought them because some health-nut amazing mommy instagram influencer posted a picture in her bikini a week postpartum. I was trying to make myself feel like it’s not my fault that my pants have been somehow shrinking because it has to be the fault of the dryer. It has been on the fritz recently. As I munch mindlessly, my husband taps away on his phone. God knows what he’s doing these days. It’s been ages since you guys have had any real connection, real passion, and didn’t we always promise to love each other? But who has time for love when you’ve had three PTA meetings, a work party, and that get together is coming up soon with the girls from your freshman frolics, the one Holly invited you. You know, the one you meet in stats that you kinda forgot existed? Isn’t she on like her third marriage now? You should have guessed something was up the way she used to down shots of shitty vodka like she was trying to swallow her sorrows. That stuff tastes like nail polish remover. Isn’t that what you all used to do though? Wasn’t that normal? Now you’ve just moved on to doing the same thing but with bottles of wine from Costco under the guise that your tastes have improved with your level of intellect, like the passing of time somehow entitles you to something. Holly clearly didn’t get the memo. However, lately you’ve been feeling like you could use the burn of that vodka voraciously chugged, vision blurred, inhibitions smudged to smithereens. As long as you don’t have to dance on the plywood platform of a frat party in a shirt that hardly covered your cleavage because you wanted the attention of that guy with those piercing blue eyes from bio, whose eyes you can’t even catch right now because they’re locked on the vision of a girl whose shirt is shorter and speech is more slurred than yours. You never thought that there was anything harmful in your actions then. In fact, you’re not so sure why you’re supposed to consider them so now. Anything would be better than slumping down on the couch for another night of Netflix, glued to a screen you wish you could lose yourself in just a little bit harder with each night that passes.
Behind the Writing: I write to break through sluggish impulses and nagging thoughts. I write to re-inspire myself, to remind myself of all the umpf I have left to give life.