The following is a self-imposed writing exercise, inspired by a song:
You stumble in the door, more tired than drunk. Your bag, not a briefcase – that’s too pretentious – is dropped to the floor and your keys jump into and out of the bowl on the table in the entry. It’s late, much too late for a proper meal now. You glance at the clock with the kind of trained disdain it’s taken years of this schedule to master, as though it’s the clock that’s stealing your life from you.
You pour a drink, a glass of wine from the still-open bottle. You’re too tired to cook and today is too far from the last pay day to order in or out. Sipping the wine makes you hungrier, so you set it on the counter and grope in the darkened pantry for stale crackers leftover from that disastrous dinner party. You stand, hand moving in and out of the box, still on the shelf with the canned corn and potted meat that came in a gift basket three Christmases ago. You keep thinking you’ll just eat a few more. They’re not very good. They weren’t very good when they were fresh.
The wine beckons and you abandon the stale “biscuits,” as you recall the printing on the box you can’t see in the dimly lit kitchen. Imported noshes in an attempt to impress dullards and sycophants. You don’t consider turning on the lights. The glare from the nearby street light dances in through the only window and glances off the stainless steel and clean spots of counter. You don’t need more harsh lighting. You know where things are. You can’t bear anymore wrinkles caused by squinting in artificial, sick-green sunlight.
You carry the wine up the stairs of the townhouse you bought because it was “near good schools” and “secure” with gates and guards who went on strike two years ago. Your would-be daughters and sons left with your husband around the same time the guards left their posts permanently. You no longer wonder what life would have been like if they’d all stayed. You no longer come home with the energy to lament or fantasize.
You’ve taken a position that would be the envy of anyone in the company. You’re well-paid, but never so well as to keep up with the lifestyle expected of someone of your standing. No, you’ll never be able to match that. Everyone wants to live on television these days, where set designers and costumers ensure no one ever has to endure the same pair of shoes twice or switch on a lamp without elegance.
You remember that you still haven’t removed your shoes. You hear them clack and click quietly on the thin, antique rug you paid too much for to cover the imported hardwood floors on which you also overspent. And of course, now they’re passé in an era of “greening” and “responsibility” but you bought them in the days of extravagance and “prosperity.” You wonder how responsible it is to throw the floors out and replace them with bamboo or some other hippie-invented, high-priced hybrid.
Keeping up with the Joneses and Milfords and Santiagos is exhausting. You feel instinctively that something is missing, that you’re becoming less human with each passing day. You quiet that dying voice with another sip of wine that turns to a gulp as you kick your fancy designer shoes in a corner of the room. They hit something before landing in front of the chair you bought to match the antique chest. You never use the chair and you don’t hear the soft grunt caused by the flung slingbacks. You sip your wine again, still not noticing or caring that its delicate balance of tannins and fruit has been destroyed by the days it’s been left open and panting on your counter.
…I took the rest down for now.
©2009 Neliza Drew
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