Irreconcilable Desires

Out of the apartment window I see down into the street, tree-lined, sun-streamed verdant, quiet. There’s a family getting into their SUV/minivan, an immigrant family from some East Asian country – abandoned the crowded oriental casbahs and sweat shops for American opportunity. The husband’s getting their 9yr old into the Volvo, new and shiny and probably capable of autonomous parking. His wife’s in the passenger seat on her smartphone, talking through the open window to her parents who are watching the youngest kids for the day, walking them down the sidewalk on tricycles and plastic foot-pedal cars. This man and his wife have Made It, and brought over their parents, and they all live together in the townhouse next-door to ours.

My wife and I live 800 miles from our families. There is no generational-continuity. We left, abandoned, ditched, forgot. Our toddler’s seen his grandparents and his aunts and uncles exactly three times. We are alone here, in this bustling city we made our frontier. Except it’s already been settled. What are we doing here? What are we doing? What am I doing? I am at my typewriter drunk at 2pm and there is nothing to produce, just wringing my heart into the bathroom sink and wash it down with Draino to make sure the waste doesn’t clog.

We are in the cheapest townhouse in an expensive suburb 10 minutes from downtown. Together the wife and I, 80 hour work weeks. And I hate our neighbors. I hate our decor and I can’t stand the New Car smell of the faux-leather in the used Mazda I just bought to replace the dead chunk of metal and oil that’d been stuck along the curb for four months. Monthly payments.

The family out the window is happy. They’ve Made It. They’ve made themselves successful and happy and when I put myself in that man’s car with my own happy kids in Nike’s and name-brand clothes I resent myself. I want what he has: a good job and a comfortable income and plenty of food and a nice big HDTV and plush furniture and a wife who doesn’t have to work every night. I want a new car my own car and clothes that match and the financial ability to take week-long vacations at the shore, and I want a smartphone and a tablet and a laptop that doesn’t freeze every time I open Google Chrome.

And I hate all of it. My heart strangles thinking of having a closet and a dresser both full of my own clothes. I cringe thinking of having a $300 razor to stylishly cultivate my facial hair and who the hell actually spends $400 on a digital watch that monitors your footsteps?

I want to be happy and comfortable. I don’t want to dread bills. I want to be able to afford a doctor because my ear (infection? pierced ear-drum?) has now throbbed for two weeks.

To attain these things I must sit in an office. I must take orders with obeisance. I must make monthly payments to an insurance corporation. I must enjoy high-tech entertainment and pride myself on the luminosity of my detailed BMW.

To be happy I must become everything I despise.

I shut the blinds and the happy Made It family disappears. I drink from the bottle because it kills me quicker and when I begin to type I am banging my forehead on the typewriter.

 

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