They don’t see me: just a face, a hoodie, and jeans. They don’t hear me: just noises coming from some yawning cavern. If they could, they would walk right through me. Walking around is just another inconvenience in a day full of inconveniences. Their day is already bursting at the seams with meetings and memos, conferences and calls, papers and pandemonium. Because that’s what life is, isn’t it? Wake, dress, brush, drive, work, repeat. Sustenance and waste disposal fit in there somewhere, sometimes when the body dictates it, sometimes when a schedule demands it. It’s not their fault; they were born into this. Times were different, roles were different, life was different.
You walked from one picket fence to another, courtesy of Mom and Dad. And that cushy office? Connections, they say. We live by connections now, but digital links, not firm handshakes. Married at twenty-two, house at two weeks, kids two years down, and all the while Lucy cooks in the kitchen whilst you ba-ba-loo your heart out. Mornings of Maxwell and sports pages, evenings of fur and festivity. Just put it on your tab. Bartender’s on a first-name basis.
My day starts with screens, everywhere. For communication, for navigation, for litigation and sometimes even irrigation. Blue light bleeds from our walls, our pockets, our laps, our work stations, our hands. So wear glasses. Felix Gray. Stylish. Makes you look smarter. Messages. Text messages, instant messages, email messages, voice messages. Open your laptop to fifty new messages and see how robotic you sound by ten. But make sure you respond to all fifty – and all when you first sit down. Are you sitting yet? They are all important. Some are more important than others – but all are more important than some. Did you talk to someone today? No, talk – as in using your mouth, your lips, your tongue. Your hands do all your speaking for you.
College was a hardship, not a reward for hard work. Moving out was harder. I’ve never lived alone – my life costs too much. Share the load. Share the food, the clothes, the rooms, the heat, the air. Did you pay the water bill? You’re made of water. Just drink yourself.
You don’t trust me. Too young to be wise, too old to be inspired. My ideas frighten you, my values agitate you, my priorities confuse you: no energy left to be spent on understanding when work is life and life is work. Our idols of LED and LCD make slaves of our hands and tongues, but your idols take lives; Karoshi. Your bodies are monuments to them, clogged arteries and all. Will you be remembered when you’re gone, by the sons and daughters who grew up knowing their grandparents better than you? I’ll be remembered – not for my voice. That is lost in the sea of TikTok outlets, Youtube tutorials, and Facebook rages. But I will be remembered for being there. Competing with a screen? Perhaps. But present – and listening. Holding a hand, laughing at a joke, walking a dog, sharing a moment. Sharing these moments – and there are so precious few.
I don’t trust you either, to be fair. Best interests at heart? For the establishment, the walls, the money – not for me. I did trust you once. But when I offered my hand, you threw it back at me. There was fire in my soul, but you snuffed it out with expectations, regulations, citations. I came to you with open hands and left handless.
I may shed tears, but you won’t see them – I have my filtered glasses on. I may not see the blue light, but I see the light. What do you see? Cubicle columns, water cooler conversations, office orators. Your gaze penetrates the glass prison but you never reach for the key. You open your eyes but shut the shutters, and when you shut them you shut me out.
Do you have regrets? I do. A few. Some. Many. Are they red and angry, with weeping pustules and bleeding bile? Are they a tremoring, frothy mess that foams and feeds and festers? Mine is a layer of subtle agitation, just above the surface, an itch that sometimes requires a scratch, a rash that never quite heals. But it does not weep or bleed, it does not writhe and stink with infection. My regrets are many, but they pale against yours.
Tell me, master of wealth and words, was it worth it? Can you look down upon your empire of steel and paper and plastic, of dollar bills and pennies, drink it all in and say – without tasting a lie on your lips – that this is what you wanted? I look down into my kaleidoscope of screens, and through the funny shapes and spaces, I see what I need to see. I reach through the looking glass and hold on. I can’t let go. You let go a long time ago.
Tell me, boomer…how will you be remembered?