In all kinds of popular culture, our senses are inundated with color and sound—lush representations of what we’re supposed to feel and think and how we should behave when we’re presented with these kinds of sensual situations. So thanks, socialization, for teaching us how to behave when we’re presented with an image or a noise. I couldn't have done that on my own.
The house stands on a bluff high above the street. It stares out at the street with its two plate glass eyes. Evergreen trees and dark purple bushes hide parts of the windows, making the eyes look half open, like a sleepy child’s. Whirligigs and birdhouses swarmed by tiny, noisy birds spin on thin strings from the ceiling of the porch. Its benches are covered with potted plants with waxy, large leaves. The swing is tethered by a rubber cord now, but still frets on its clanking metal hangings when the wind blows. Down in the ravine in front of the house, the tree leaves are turning orange and red, their outlines sharpening against the bright sky. The air is crisp and pungent—Halloweens and fresh Number 2 pencils are here in this smell of new possibility.
I’ve been thinking about being a twenty-something a lot lately. Not that I ever really stopped. I’m 23 and I have 20-something friends, as is to be expected. I worry a lot about what the media and our parents and society in general think we should be. But what are we?
The movie A Streetcar Named Desire came out 60 years ago this year. Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece tells the story of the dysfunctional family of Blanche, Stella, and Stanley. Williams, gaining inspiration through the works of Chekhov and others, created a truly innovative play that shocked audition and changed theater forever. Perhaps this is why theater critics deemed A Streetcar Named Desire the best play of the 20th century.
Throughout my childhood, I always had the mistaken idea I wanted to grow up and not be stubborn like my mother and grandmother. They always seemed so argumentative. My grandma hated to take any sort of suggestion she didn’t come up with herself. It seemed my mother and grandmother were always disagreeing and it took us way longer to make decisions than other families because they always had to be so stubborn about their own sides. I decided I wanted not to be stubborn at all.
One summer I had the most boring job that I could imagine. I was a medical records clerk, working the departments of podiatry and dermatology at a university hospital. This was before medical records were digitized, so our office was in a tiny room stacked with rows of medical records. They were crammed in so tight that sometimes they would fall on the floor overnight.
I would sit at my little desk and stare up at the fluorescent light above. After about three minutes of this entertainment, I would start piling up all the little peels of eraser shreds into a tiny pile with the magenta and neon refractions of the light still dancing in my eyes. Refraction makes eraser shreds much more interesting, I thought. Then I would push all the paper clips back into the center of the desk so I could re-sort them. The longer, more bluish paper clips with the ribbing in one pile. The small shiny silver paper clips in another.
Here's a day in my life as a medical records clerk:
Here is a postmodern summarization of Edgar Allen Poe's seminal work, "The Raven," with the forced words replaced. I will replace the narrator with a large man in dark sunglasses and a douchey, curled mustache. Lenore will be replaced by a dark haired girl the large man was pissed about because he didn't get her number. The raven will be replaced by a talking slab of bacon. Finally, the repetition of the word "Nevermore" will be replaced by the phrase "99 cents." Now, an exercise in ruining Poe's beautiful work:
The scene was midnight on a dark night in the large man in dark sunglasses and a douchey, curled mustache's study. In the first stanza, he was reading quietly when he heard a “tapping at his chamber door.” The large man in dark sunglasses and a douchey, curled mustache convinced himself the tapping was only a visitor.
Soon, the reader learns why the large man in dark sunglasses and a douchey, curled mustache was afraid of the tapping on his window. In a December past, the large man couldn't get a beautiful dark-haired girl's number, no matter how hard he tried. Ever since that night, the large man buried his sorrows in reading. He was afraid that the dark-haired girl the large man was pissed about because he didn't get her number! was haunting him in his chamber. The “rustling of each purple curtain” scared him to death. He had to convince himself the tapping was a visitor and not a ghost.
In the next stanza, the large man in dark sunglasses and a douchey, curled mustache gathered his courage and opened the door, apologizing for not opening it sooner. The space outside the door was empty. He became very frightened then. He was sure the dark haired girl the large man was pissed about because he didn't get her number’s! memory tapped on the door, and he called what he thought was her name was (Julie? Sarah?) in the darkness.
My best friend in the sixth grade was named Juliet. Juliet was one of the lucky ones. Her parents bought her matching Ralph Lauren ensembles and she started the trends- body glitter and butterfly hairclips- all the other sixth graders followed. Boys wanted to hold her hand behind the chapel and she got her first kiss, with a seventh grader no less, before anybody else did. Juliet was everything I wanted to be-pretty!, popular!, and perky!-and I figured the best way to achieve that was to be emulate Juliet exactly.
Juliet had that power to control others some people are blessed with. The kind that politicians and cult leaders have. Juliet used her power to hurt people. I never knew why, but it seemed that she could get away with it. When Juliet didn’t like somebody, none of her friends, including me, were allowed to like that person either. One day, Juliet decided she didn’t like somebody.