by Jeff Oaks
There is always more and it is exhausting. There is always more and it is the American Dream. Remember when the old fascists tried to beat their enemies by strangling their access to resources? Letting them freeze to death in garrets and prisons? Well, that is still going to go on, don’t worry, but for many, many of us won’t even notice our incarcerations. In our in-house arrests, we fatten ourselves up, indulge in every comfort we can afford, until we simply fall asleep early every night, bloated with whole wheat pasta and cheese and a good, cheap wine or an artisanal cider or beer bought right at the grocery store. We have explanations, of course. Everything is spiked with self-care: binge-watching tv shows about serial killers who want to do good, children who uncover secret powers in themselves but who only really want to eat waffles with someone who loves them, small people who manage by luck and timing to accrue vast amounts of wealth and power. Meanwhile, around us, over us, beyond us, Hollywood and the political parties are remaking King Kong again, not because they care about the world of giant gorillas, but because they are addicted to the human deep-dream of controlling everything, even the impossible, every hairy, bellowing, enemy-smashing drop of the id that can be found. Simplifying everything into the big and violent. Until everything is an invasion story. Smaller screens feed us stories of heroes who, although denied normality in one way–by being blind, black, a woman–also cannot be killed, who survive by listening well, by being bulletproof, by being surprisingly strong or by having bodies made of quicksilver and lightning, by being constantly conscious of threat. At the level of books, there are too many voices; at the level of video games, at the level of movies, at the level of blogs and news sites and musicians and points of view. Until there is no direction of quiet, of stillness, which itself has been made into death, into collaboration. We are stuffed with choices, our consciousnesses loud with digestion and excretion, with the efforts to keep up, with the fear of missing out. We go to bed early in pain, out of breath, in relief. We wake early in the morning to journal out/about our anxieties and intentions because otherwise there’s no time, between lying comatose or frozen over with panic on the couch or at the desk, at lunch listening to our friends and lovers detail the torments of their equally overstuffed days. Soon enough, I’ll do something. Until maybe at the barber’s shop, because the funny but visibly tired barber takes a little extra bit of time massaging your sudsy head in the sink as she stares out the window, her strong fingers breaking up the tensed muscles around your swollen brain, you feel actual pleasure suddenly, so acutely you might suddenly weep for the kindness of it if it were kindness. And you desperately want more of even that.