Glitter in the Dark – Excerpt 1

Chapter 2 – Tyler Maas

…an air of disappointment quiets the group, and little is shared between us for what’s left of halftime. I fall sad during the silence. I’ve had so much fun today that I don’t want it to end, and I don’t want it to end prematurely which it probably will for me without Caleb by my side – and after tonight it will be Sunday, and Sunday is when we all get the blues. Not because it’s a day of rest. Not because we have eight free hours to spend any which way we like. It’s because we can’t spend these hours any which way we like. Regardless of age, regardless of occupation, no working man or woman can spend these hours any which way we would like.

We can’t go hiking in the Himalayas; we can’t back-pack across Europe; we can’t even drive more than a few hours from home. Forty-eight hours is just long enough for us to be happy that we are free, and then find ourselves devastated come Sunday by the fact that we are not. Mondays always loom, and our free time on Sunday is consumed by the prospect.

Mondays are particularly grueling. Office work may seem like a piece of cake – and it is – but for those of us trapped by it, we know that each minute spent underneath those fluorescent lights is just another minute of our life wasted. It’s like watching sap drip from the same tree – day in, day out – until our skin wrinkles and our hair turns gray and we’re left wondering in the end why the tree just keeps on livin.’

And, there’s nothing we can do about it.

Sure, we could take up something we truly enjoy, something that wouldn’t eat into the fabric of our souls, but we all know that those jobs don’t pay. Office workers nationwide have subscribed to this madness to some degree. We work our jobs even though they don’t bring us joy. We do it because we’ve been told to do it. Television begs it, corporations demand it, and our spouses have grown to expect the same – success at all costs. Society thinks it cannot survive without success, whether it’s in the form of the latest sports car or the most fashionable watch. One thing is certain though, “success” must be wrapped comfortably on Christmas day by the almighty dollar.

This curriculum has replaced fine arts and history in most schools throughout the country, though it doesn’t settle within us until adulthood – until it’s too late – after we have chosen our path. For if I were to change my path, if I were to take up what I truly enjoy, there would be no paycheck, no mortgage, and no wife. All I would have is a great tan-line around my arms and the world would roll underneath my tires as I become the Tour de France champion.

But I can’t have that, none of us can. We can only dream about it, fingering the calendar, counting the days, waiting for the moment we chuck our printers from the fourth floor and strangle our boss for a few more hours of comp-time.

But we can’t have that either. We can’t fantasize or have hope, because every dream is trampled by the memo cast upon our desk. You know the one, the one that feathers in the air and cuts into our elbow reminding us where we sit.

Though someday we will escape these cubicle walls, only to find ourselves trapped by new walls that stink of mildew, walls painted pink or light blue, walls of elderly homes and rising medical costs. We will have won the battle, but we will have lost our lives along the way.

******

I dread opening any of my work files, most of them spreadsheet tables layered with code that predict the end of our lives. Based on a wide range of criteria, these tables calculate which home owner demographic will die when, and more importantly, how. Even though we offer homeowner’s insurance to everyone, that doesn’t mean some don’t pay more per square foot than others. From the poorest coastal towns of Alabama to equally poor neighborhoods of South-Central Los Angeles, the deprived are “usually” the ones in harms’ way. Disasters strip husbands from wives, children from siblings and granddaughters from grandmothers – torn from the family tree limb by limb. These disasters are all too often assisted by weak foundations along the fault-line, or by pre-fab trailers in the plains or countryside. Whether they pay then, or through our insurance company now, the poor always pay a higher premium.

And seniors must sign a special clause to pay at all.

I don’t fall into that category quite yet, so I pull up my stock portfolio using my secret access to the internet. Stout and balanced, it reflects the wise choices Jane and I have made throughout the years. Without mouths to feed, and clothes for bratty teenagers, we have managed to save a ton of money. If we maintain the financial pace, we should be able to retire early. Comfortably.

After that, no more Mondays.

Wind fills my sails all of a sudden, and I become giddy in a way that is quite foreign to this cell. Jane dances before my eyes as I think of her, and my fingers follow suit as I address a letter. She loves receiving mail from me, even after all these years. I’ll share my experience from late night Saturday, and share my thoughts for freedom and change. I must also apologize for how I’ve been. I used to be a free-thinking activist back in college, but I’ve been treating Jane like shit for years. I’ve been treating myself like shit for years. A tumor has been growing inside of me since I began working professionally, and it would have continued to grow if it weren’t for the fun I had Saturday night. I would have succumbed to our prescribed reality and turned into someone like my father, a wonderful free-thinking man himself, but one who worked his whole life away only to retire as a grumpy, bitter old man.

My father didn’t teach me to treat Jane this way, nor did my mother of course. But gobbling little brown pills with bright young minds at The Bubble opened my eyes once again. The experience alerted me to what I have become over the years, an angry old man. Hope I can change my ways.

So I do.

In front of you now sits Tyler Maas, shirt tucked and tie fastened tightly. I may act like an adult here in this cube, but from now on it will be simply a show – a game, a façade, an image for my boss and co-workers to view. I play Casanova for nearly twenty minutes, crafting my own true love story. Jane knows I love her, and this e-mail will remind her of that. I also need a change, though. We are never truly prepared for what life has in store for us until it happens, and now I am about to make things happen. (click)

 

Excerpt 2 is next.