They push, push, push me, like that horrid boss in the Twilight Zone episode about Willoughby. The one with the poor ad executive. He’s a moneymaker, not a shape, a human form. I don’t blame him for jumping off a train, hallucinating about a dream community.
No Willoughby here. Just push, push, push, and an apartment with white walls, and views of a dumpster with Fat Tire containers and tossed out sofas.
Write a novel before forty, gatekeeping professors proclaim, twirling berets and outdated fedoras. Write in footnotes, consider subverting linearity. Maybe, maybe, I say, even though I like tales of point A to point B. Parent runs away, kid becomes emotionally messed up, grows up, kid-turned-man does something stupid, tries to redeem himself and screws up further.
Gatekeepers push. Realism, realism, outdated shibboleth. Write a novel in nonlinear form. Runaway mom stories are yesterday, too suburban, too real.
Be a lawyer, proclaim fatherly words, mustache bristling. Make money. Use people. Life’s a jungle.
I’m in grad school. He knows this. But I defer on law. Defer until Monday, Wednesday, any day. Duck and dart during fatherly lectures, the gist of which is he’s the only one there for me. Everyone else walked out. I avoid snarky comments about his ethos, in particular his belief that love means having to kick my ass. I kick your ass because I tell the truth, do you want me to not tell the truth? Push, push, answer, answer. I tuck my temper under a blanket, even though it always shows, words cracking. Cue a burst of defense, but he reminds me of my past card debts and period of slovenliness, when my beard grew like a fungus.
Push, push, push, smile more, be aggressive, father’s words again, honesty doesn’t pay. Don’t trust. And get a girlfriend. Two girlfriends. I wasted my time with your mother. Date, ditch, his words rise.
Push, push, push, you’re qualified for debt relief envelopesscream with red letters. Call us now if you want to get out of debt. Push, push, credit card offers seduce.
Push, I pop. Kiss my ass, Dad. You don’t love me. The words hang like electricity. Push, push, stop sending me envelopes with the word relief in red. Where’s that community from the Twilight Zone when you need it, the neat town square, the smiling conductor on the train, the boys dressed like Huckleberry Finn slinging fish and cheer on their shoulders?
Push. I deflate. Push, I deflate more. Take a card offer because of the obsequiousness of the offer, terms like “valued” and “promising” tickling my ego.
I need wine. Once a week, then twice, just to feel a gentle buzz, a buzz which flees too fast.
Give me HBO. Give me Netflix. Give me Judd Apatow movies and flatulence humor. I take them all, money draining from thin bank accounts. Yet, I gain a little laughter in all this, however bitter.
Give me another card too. A semblance of plastic power. I consider buying a plasma TV, a copy of every divorce-in-the suburbs novel, expensive TV dinners, just because it’s my own choice.
I don’t, but the options beckon, and I flirt with them, blow them kisses.
Cue more HBO, and half-hour laughter. And cue more wine. Box wine. More wine in those rectangular expanses than the flimsy, supposedly voluminous bottles. I go with a good Malbec. Close the curtains, close my Word files. Soon, I wield wine in each hand nightly, while I sink into half-slumber and awaken again after nightmares about cars speeding downhill, steering wheels gone awry, and nightmares about nightmares themselves. I try to absorb the moon’s pale smile, the night shadows dancing, and wind whispering. I try to dream of communities where smiles and neat spaces abound. Where people stay and welcome and say I love you, without a criticism attached. But these dreams disappear before they’re formed. I try to smile, but toss, turn, trying to push the weeks and days of my life away, while they push back.
Push, push, push.