United Victims of America

It feels like every conversation I have with another adult ends in a competition to see whose life is worse. If I have to do five things today, they have to do six. If I got hit with a $500 bill for car repairs, I am hearing a story about how they had to pay $1000. It’s a game I happily play as well. I have complained as much or more as the next person.

But why? What is it about having a worse day then everyone else that we all seek out to win the shit sweepstakes?

For one I think that we’ve so fallen in love with the narrative of an individual heroically overcoming victimization that we have mistaken victimization for heroism. They are now synonymous. You can’t be a hero without being a victim and now you don’t even have to be a hero. Just a victim.

Look at the most recent crop of Academy Award winning films: Spotlight, The Revenant, and Room. (Best Movie, Director, Actor and Actress) All of them stories about victims as heroes. The church, or psychopaths or nature all brutalizing and violating our heroes.

Now I am not saying there is not some heroism in overcoming victimization but it’s not the only kind of heroism. It is certainly not the type of heroism we should try to emulate. You do not have to be a victim to be strong and to stand up for what’s right.

This desire for victimization has taken on an addictive quality creating an epidemic of low grade Munchausen Syndrome; a disorder where people embellish physical and mental pain to meet needs of getting sympathy and attention. We all want to have the worst day so we can get the most attention.

Everyone else’s complaining is making me complain. I am officially having the worst day and therefore should get all the attention.

 

 

-HE

Grain

As a girl, my bedroom floor was always covered with far-flung bubblegum plastic pink Barbie shoes. They littered my floor and I loved them for it. There was something about the specific shade they came in that made me imagine them to be the same flavor and texture of Starbust and, for reasons I still don’t know, I always kept that observation secret and was somehow proud of each tiny, delicious-looking stiletto.

I can’t remember any of my dolls ever actually wearing a pair. I got no joy out of matching one shoe to the other and style or fashion never had anything to do with it. My dolls were bedraggled unwashed punks; I tried to take them into our above-ground pool once but my mother quickly vetoed the decision while trying to explain to me the intricacies of filtration. As the playroom was in the basement, I was never sure exactly what would happen when I pulled a doll, grabbing ankles first, off the floor. Once, I found a tiny baby mouse snarled in synthetic hair. It was dead, but I hesitated before telling my mother because I liked the look of its tiny paws and closed eyelashes in its snuggly little nest. Maybe I thought that, like the cat, it was both dead and not dead. I could hold its life, suspended maybe, until reality had to be informed.

Secrets are always full of magic. I was scared to tell you that, and that’s a secret too.

I have thousands and thousands of secrets. I keep them, huddled close to me. I tuck into them sometimes, these little grains of sand, and quietly watch the world with wide eyes and caution.

 

-She

The Daily Post: Grain

 

Matt Versus The Voice: A Modern American Saga

“What is this bullshit?” Matt yelled out into the echo-y depths of his one bedroom apartment. His dark bushy eyebrows furrowed as he re-scanned his Comcable Bill.

It was still there, glaring out at him from the injust invoice. Mocking him and his complete lack of power over his own life. Comcable had been charging him for the MLB package. $30 per month on top of his regular rate. Adding insult to injury, Matt hated baseball. It was golf without the class. He found it boring to play never mind watch.

“I’m calling them, MJ. I won’t take this,” he said to his black and whit cat. MJ stood for Matt Junior. MJ looked back at him indifferently.

He picked up his IPhone and dialed Comcable. It did not ring. Just a brief pause, followed by the Comcable jingle.

“Welcome and thank you for calling Comcable,” an automated voice greeted with inhuman enthusiasm for the task at hand. Matt wondered if it was this undead  cheeriness that motivated Comcable to replace human beings with digital phantoms. Only an entity that knew it was incapable of getting cancer could approach such asinine, meaningless tasks with such single minded positivity.

“For English, press 1.”

“For Spanish, …”

Matt pressed 1 before The Voice could finish its sentence.

“Thank you,” said The Voice. “For Billing, press 1. For Customer Service press 2.”

Matt pressed 1. His rage at the injustice of being billed for a service he had not ordered was starting to subside, slipping back into his usual state of numb anxiety.

“Please wait until all the options have been presented. For Billing press 1, ” The Voice started over.

Matt’s rage returned. This is how they got you. They train you to accept these minor injustices one by one until you’re ready for the major ones. Today it’s $30 for a service you did not pay for. Tomorrow they march your family into a concentration camp. He refused to take it.

“For Accounts Receivable press 30,” The Voice said. It’s pleasantness was sadistic. Matt could feel a sneering smile spreading across some motherboard in a warehouse of servers.

“Please choose an option,” The Voice said.

Matt began to panic. He could not remember what button he needed to push.

“If you need me to repeat the options , press #,” The Voice said.

Matt knew that would be a fatal mistake. His endurance was waning. He was feeling less human, less himself while The Voice seemed to be gaining more inflection and depth to it.

He pressed 0. This was not his first rodeo. He knew 0 was the escape hatch to another human being. The Voice could not keep him trapped in purgatory forever. He would receive judgement. It was his right as one of Gods children.

Matt knew his advantage now. The Voice was binary. 1 or zero. Matt could do both or neither.

“Please hold while I connect you,” The Voice said.

“Oh, no,” Matt said. “The Abyss.”

“One moment…” The Voice said. Matt was sure it was laughing.

 

The music went on and on and on. Matt could feel his sense of self slipping away. Why had he called? Was this song by Journey? He was pretty sure it was.

“Your wait time is 21 minutes, ” The Voice said.

Matt looked at the clock. It was 6:33p. He could hold on.  The Voice could not win.

It was getting harder. Maybe the Buddhists were right. Life was suffering and the key was to accept it. He looked over at his couch. Longing for its soft loving embrace. His couch never rejected him, never judged. It just accepted him. His couch was truly enlightened.

“Your wait time is 22 minutes, ” Tge Voice said.

“What?!” Matt looked at the clock. It was 6:54p. He began to chuckle to himself. At first just quietly to himself, but once he started he could not stop. His laughter got louder and louder. Going from chuckle to guffaw until his dry cackling filed the hallways of his apartment building. MJ hissed loudly.

Matt’s neighbor began pounding on the wall. ” You alright in there buddy?”

Matt collapsed on the floor unconscious.

Matt woke up the next morning to a human voice on the phone. “Thank you for holding. Sorry for the wait. How can I help you?”

He got up off the floor. He walked to the window. The sun was rising. He struggled to get his bearings. He couldn’t remember why he had called. Then it hit him: Baseball, the MLB package.

“Oh yeah, I was calling about the MLB package.”

“Fantastic. We’re offering a great deal. I can lock you in at $50 per month.”

“That sounds great,” Matt said numbly. “I’ll take it.”

 

 

-He

“Saga” at The Daily Post

 

 

Apology

I constantly mouth the words “I’m sorry” without hearing whether the syllables ever actually find voice. I hate those words, their slimy, viscous texture; they are a snake oil that I use to manipulate or to persuade. In an effort to avoid being considered cruel or unkind, I am forced to gargle the mealy feel of insincere apologies and wonder if I used them correctly. If I say them at the right softness or smooth them into everyday actions or to cover up a thought that has trailed away, hopefully they will prove to be the talisman promised to ward against the possibility that I might in fact be black-souled. Unfortunately, the weakness and dishonesty of the whole repeated act makes me feel even more that I don’t mean it; in fact, I resent whoever it is to whom I have to pay those stupid words.

 
I do know their power, however, which is why I gouge that phrase from others who are desperate to give it to me. I recognize that, at the core, I am cruel and unkind and it makes me sharp and brutal enough so others can give me their apologies like prayers. I am the unmoving, unknowable oracle and you look to see the tear from my stony eyes as proof of blessing. You do not realize that it is I who watch you weep daily on your knees, prostrate in your need for my restraint. While I might falsely whisper “I’m sorry” like cultural currency, it is you who throw yourself against the rocks of my false immutability, hoping to break the cliff you have made of me.

-She

“Apology” Discover Challenge from The Daily Post