Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Better Off Where I Am Not

I'm in a bad funk, currently. I know it will lift, just as it always does. Even pointing at it, recognizing it by name as it steps into the room, marks the point of turning it around. It's still going to be a while before I'm rid of it, however, maybe a few days.

Riding the bus to work, all I could see was rows of bleary, sad people staring at nothing out the windows. Dull faces, disappointment pulling down the corners of their mouths, eyebrows lying down and surrendering their souls in despair. Obese people, dumping poison into their bodies, undereducated as to what junk food companies are permitted to get away with. People cheated of a decent education, unable to get decent jobs, unable to contribute to society, forced to fight against it, people whose only success will come at society's expense.

Walking through the Skyway, trudging past dull faces and mismatched outfits of cheap materials and unskilled cut. Riding in the elevator with eleven people who refuse to look at each other, eyes up or down, slightly scowling as if we'd been issued story problems before boarding. My hair wads up on one side, lies too flat on another. Someone's wearing too much perfume. Two people are sick and cough their germs into the tiny room we share. Half of us are not even from this country - what do they do in the evening? Could they go out and enjoy themselves anywhere? Can they go out and dance in a club, anywhere that isn't an insular little community center in a poor suburb?

I stop by the restroom. Some charming gentleman of breeding and letters has urinated all over the seat. It takes me a minute to mop up the urine of a business professional. That's the manly thing to do, after all, urinating while standing. Only women sit down and contain their mess. It's manly to urinate upon all surfaces for some immigrant janitor to clean up. It's manly to only permit yourself half of a palette of emotions. It's manly to be rude to strangers and speak poorly of women. Those are the qualities our culture nourishes. It causes me to strongly desire to be anything but a man.

Back in my seat, I stare at an Inbox that never fills, and I practice a new help desk program despite the impending termination of my contract. I try to read but the literature is bleak and despondant lately: The Kite Runner, The Namesake, Angela's Ashes, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. People born into circumstances, rules decided long before they were born. Decent people of dreams and intellect who are oppressed for petty, insane reasons, within a world that agrees to continue on this way.

What am I doing with my life, I wonder pointlessly for the millionth time. (An old, florid man sneezes on me as I write this.) I don't expect an answer, it's merely the Jesus mantra with which my heart beats. (Two children whimper for their mother's attention, behind me, as she shops for a new boyfriend on MySpace.) It has sunk down into my chest, sucks in the bad blood and spits out the slightly less bad blood. (An old, obese woman studies her caller ID to a loud MIDI loop of two piano chords. A fake gold watch digs into her flabby wrist; it is off by a couple hours and a dozen minutes.) It is a question that denies response, discourages thought.

What is the point of artistic expression? I have no insight to impart, and I lack any kind of aesthetic talent anyway. Acquaintances are impressed at my ability to slightly alter something that already exists, my ability to repeat something they forgot or never heard of, mistaking this for talent. Nothing I have to say will ever change anyone's mind, I will not shape the world in any positive way. I pick up trash; there's more tomorrow. I smile in someone's face; they scowl and avert their eyes. And what's to be done about traffic but leap out of the way? I used to think the point of life was the accrual of knowledge and experience, to prepare for returning to oneness with all of Creation and the Divinity. I can't even see the point in that: educated people don't live any longer or in any better condition than everyone else. I can't stand my job but have no idea what else I would do. I'm out of place in this state, in this world, but there's nowhere else to go. The only thing to do is shut off my mind, get enough food and sleep, maintain my household and wait to die. It's going to be a long wait.

I walk back through the Skyway. I hold the door open for whomever's behind me; he thanks me.

A moment later, a woman thanks him for holding the door open, too.

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