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JWR 2.47 - Lonelier Than This

 

I was asked the same basic question twice in two weeks.  First by a middle aged woman I had to talk to as her colleague was discussing some boring programming advancement with my boss.  In the course of our conversations we touched the surface of a number of life points and regular old small talk issues.  She was a nice lady and I felt pretty comfortable speaking to her, but I know better than to divulge anything majorly personal.

 

The second time was in a park by a pretty young lady.

 

#1) Where do you see yourself in ten years?

#2) Where do you see yourself in a year?

 

I just had a much easier time answering the first question, and maybe it was because it didnít matter what I said, there was nothing truly at stake.  And ten years from now Iíll be 33, nearly middle aged.  Where do I want to be?  Itís the kind of question they ask you in job interviews just to see what plans you have and to see how pompous you are, I think.

 

But one year.  Itís both short and long.  A year ago I never suspected Iíd be asked that question in a park.

 

I said that in ten years Iíd like to be writing.  I have a couple ideas rolling around in the pea up there Iíd like to flesh out as only I can.  And itís a talent that Iíve fallen out of using.  I used to be very prolific, especially in my last two semesters in college.  I believe in my last semester I mustíve written a few hundred pages which included my thesis and a couple short stories for courses as well as a number of short stories for myself.

 

My favorite little story about my writing is the problem with my own progression.  So, I took creative writing three times: first beginning, then advanced and then I sat in on that class for part of my thesis and that was just because I liked it so much.  My first story was kind of nice but looking back, was long, and forced.  The second was a very good short story; it was the one I mentioned before about the middle aged guy and young girl.  I learned after the first story not to read your own.  By the time my third story was unveiled I had been hard at work on a seventy page thesis so I wanted minimalism.  I took the idea of a guy waking up in the middle of the night who became confused as to why certain items were in the refrigerator and switched it up a bit.  Basically, he spoke to his toaster and the toaster spoke back.  There are a variety of views on how to look at this story, but my idea was to make it as cold and barren as I could.  I also ran sentences together and used as few commas as possible, causing a difficult read...on purpose.

 

Well, there was a point where the guy goes back into his bedroom and brings the girl in there a piece of toast that was mangled and slightly burn because the toaster was pissed.  Well, she asks him a question about his sexual technique, ďWhere did you learn that?Ē  And he says, ďI practiced on your sister,Ē which pisses her off and she leaves him after smacking his face.

 

Well, I kept a low profile in the class so I could see how everyone reacted to the story.  I was sure no one would get it and I watched the class as this girl reading fumbled her way through it.  Like she had never seen it before, or she may have just been nervous.  Well she got to the above mentioned part and switched the wording a bit.  Instead of, ďI practiced on your sister,Ē she said, ďI practiced on my sister.Ē

 

Big difference.  It caught me so off guard that I began laughing.  I kept it in, but my body was being wracked with convulsions because I needed to let it out, but couldnít just because I thought it would be rude.  So, sheís finishing the four page story and tears are streaming down my cheeks and my face must be beet red, but I had it hung low so people canít see.  I felt kind of bad for her, after all, I made it a difficult story on purpose.  People donít read to work anymore.  Not even a four page story.

 

Since then, all Iíve written has been these things.  I need to get back.  That inspiration hit me from midnight to four in the morning usually.  I simply canít do that anymore.  I need to quit my job or learn to adjust.  Or give up my ten year ďgoalĒ all together.

 

But one year?  Itís a very difficult and different question.  In some ways more difficult to predict, especially given the circumstances.  So, I told her a contradicting parallel.  It was the truth, but it was also very specific.

 

But the question gives me pause because itís wrong.  It may just be the one situation I was in, but I later felt the correct question would have been, ďWhat do you want to be in a year?Ē

 

This is also a difficult question, but the answers are turned more towards a spiritual answer rather that of either a geographic or sociological status answer.

 

I donít want to be defined by my job.  My jobís all right.  But my job isnít fulfilling in a meaningful way.  It doesnít give me a sense of inner accomplishment.  To be honest, very few jobs would and after a time, none would.

 

So, in a year, Iíd want to be in a position where at my fingertips would be someone with whom time spent would be meaningful.  And thatís not to say weíd need to climb a mountain or discover a new element.  This is the meaningfulness where that time with them is where nothing else exists outside the two of you.  It doesnít matter what youíre doing or not doing, there is no sense of urgency in regards to responsibility.

 

Itís hard to explain...I canít change my location.  ďWhereĒ canít change for too long.  I may have made a mistake in buying a house.  Iím bound here, lashed to a relationship with an inanimate object.  There was a strange sense within me about this place earlier.

 

Shortly after I moved in, I bought a bookcase.  Itís a heavy sumbitch.  I put it together alone late one night and was hungry and thirsty, but because I lack intelligence in a number of ways, I simply did not get food or drink.   But I eventually finished and moved it to against a wall in my bedroom.  Looking at the seven-foot tall, five-foot wide monster, I though it would be a bitch to move that.  Then a wave of relief and calm washed over me when I realized, ďHey, man, you own this house.  You ainít got to move shit for a long long time, boy.  Go get a beer.Ē  Yes, and it was a Miller Lite.  And it was good.  And the people rejoiced.  Yaay.

 

But now that doesnít help me any.  The beer does a bit, for a while.  Then I come back, and I know, and it kills me, and I sit here wanting to see you across from me.  You donít need to talk, your eyes say it all.  You dumb bastard, you really are trapped in a box.

 

Someone once told me that I was a catch.  I thought that was odd.  ďYou own a car, you have a steady job, and you own a house.  Youíre a good catch.Ē  First of all, what the hell does that say about materialism?  I was not mentioned in any way shape or form in her little rambling.  Just my stuff.  And I donít want to be my stuff.  Yes, I have a car, a small bluish greenish car with 90,000 miles.  It says nothing about me.  Yes, I have a job, I have several jobs and while they may say something about my abilities, they do nothing to define me.  Well, maybe a little about creativity and persistence.  And my house?  This house is forty years old.  Nearly twice as old as I.  The carpeted bathrooms and sun bleached wall paper says nothing about me.  Iím a catch.  What if I was abusive?  What if I was distant and uncaring?

 

Yeah, I mean ALL THE TIME?  I understand I have flaws, but everyone does.  Iím not making excuses, Iím only saying weíre in this lifeboat together.  I go down, you go down.  Take that as a sexual euphemism if you want.

 

Iím not the car I drive.  Iím not how much money I have in the bank.  Iím not the contents of my wallet.  Iím not my fucking khakis.

 

You need to take the time, if youíre willing, to find out for yourself who I am and what Iím about and how I am.  If weíre both lucky, in a year youíll see firsthand What I Am.

 

John

 

It doesnít get any lonelier than this

Iím as blue as blue can be

Just an empty place where your love should be

Iím sick and tired of walkiní around like this

With my heart outside my skin

Scared to death weíll never touch again

It doesnít get any lonelier than this

And thereís no place I can go

Just the dusty corners that the shadows know

Maybe this is as good as itís gonna get

And Iíll always be this way

Iíll just wander this world calliní out your name

It doesnít get any lonelier than this

-Steve Earle, ďLonelier Than ThisĒ

 

Copyright © 2002 John Lemut