A short drive, radio news chattering, Audis and BMWs slipping along the two-lane road past the brick churches and private schools. And him. Steering but not present to the road. To anything anymore. Living in his head. Lost in metaphors, simplistic analogies. Cathedral thinking. Every parable has a clear moral, every detail a use and meaning. Nothing ambiguous.
And what he thought this morning was this: Maybe it is that I experience life as a funnel, spending my hours doing things to suck someone else’s money through me to the many corporations who expect it from me. And when nothing is passing through, there is just a void.
Or maybe as a wire that conducts the electricity from one place to another but doesn’t feel the charge itself. A conduit. A vessel. A pass-through. I am a pass-through. I am a pass-through waiting for a break in oncoming traffic so I can turn left.
He knows he is a cliché. I am a walking cliché, he thinks, all the time. White guy, American, employed, salaried, educated, advantaged. Somewhere right now, a Chinese factory worker coming off a week of 16-hour shifts is walking over a bridge and thinking of jumping over the side. (He’s never met a Chinese factory worker, but he’s well-read and believes he knows their suicide rates to be higher than in many other places.) Me, I’m driving an air-conditioned sedan through tony suburbs and listening to NPR pledge drives (he always just listens). So, I am also selfish. Not a good person. A useful conduit. A void.
He parks under a loblolly pine, steps on brick walkways, passes through archways to his office, turns on his computer, fills his coffee cup, and scans the subjects of the messages in his email inbox.
Why do I do any of this? he asks no one.
He’s already written the explanation in his head: I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore.
He knows his sons won’t understand. That’s why he keeps doing this, he tells himself. Until he can figure out how they might understand.