Living & Dying
Their house was filled with books that no one read, a piano that nobody played, and paintings that nobody looked at. There was a dog that no one loved and a white picket fence that kept nobody out and held no one in. It was shadow play—all the right shapes but no substance. This poster picture of the American Dream was like a set, and they were only actors.
I’m going to go on a rant and say a lot of things that I might not totally mean if I thought about it harder. But I feel like I need to say it, especially before I leave Harvard. And maybe I’m biased, but I’ve worked in other countries, so here it is: Americans don’t know how to take a break. And when they do, they’re still on the clock, plugged into emails so nobody misses anything or gets fired (or whatever). People are so scared to take days off that they end up retiring with a year of paid leave. I’ve heard it’s something about Weber and some Protestant Ethic or Spirit of Capitalism (or something). At least Europeans know how to take a proper holiday and even sick days when they’re, you know…sick. And the Spanish! They get a full rest in the middle of every single day.
“The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment,” decries Tim Kreider in his New York Times article on “The ‘Busy’ Trap.” He further laments the fact that so many people today almost indulge in their busyness, claiming that it is often a self-inflicted woe and even, for some, a point of pride. While I generally assumed work was so that we, as humans, could stay alive and perpetuate our species, I understand Kreider’s sentiments. He argues that idleness is not simply a vacation, vice, or indulgence, but that it is necessary to the brain for things like dreaming, creativity, and innovation, for a chance to step back from hectic life to get perspective on said life.
I love you. I can see myself in your eyes, and it’s not just the reflection of my white face in your black pupils. Simple as that. Not many things are, but this is black and white.
We loved each other for a whole night, didn’t we? Well, I guess it wasn’t really even the night, was it? A morning, and only part of one, but the best part—the between- midnight-and-getting-out-of-bed part, the things that happen in the dark-fades-to-light hours.
We were out on the beach playing with paddles, a game with a name I could never remember. Our young lives shone bright in that November sun. Adrian and I weren’t really that young, but I felt like I could live forever.
A potbellied, life-weathered man yelled things we couldn’t understand from his seat on the sand a short distance away. His beat-up leather skin had been worn by the beach like driftwood in the sun. He was crazy, drunk, or high—maybe all three. His shouts were garbled by the waves and the wind. Our game was like the tide, pushing us in his direction. As his words became audible, we realized he’d been keeping score, the referee of a game that he hadn’t been invited to between two people he didn’t know. According to him, I was winning. He wanted to play. I felt vulnerable in my beachy near-nudity and Adrian was put off, so we moved in the other direction.