Today, I didn’t go to work. Decided I didn’t want to couldn’t bear to.
My wife went to school. Our children went to childcare.
I drove to the mall and parked in the section labelled ‘pram parking’.
I have booster seats. Shhh – don’t be concerned for me. No one will ever know.
There is twenty dollars in my wallet. I want to buy something artistic. Something ‘fulfilling’. Something tangible that I can hold devour and consume.
I am also hungry. But I will save the twenty dollar note for material goods. I can buy food later with the small amount of zeroes and ones remaining on the debit card of our joint bank account.
My wife says: Food is acceptable. Food is permitted. Food is good.
She also says: Art, music, books… These things are not permitted. They are not okay. They do not help me raise a young family.
I don’t know why one is approved and the other is not.
People need both equally to survive.
But I decide to silently submit to her view and opt to purchase a compact disc with the legal tender I hold, without a digital trace.
That’s right. I have learned how to avoid questions.
She is probably right, I don’t need to buy these things. Maybe.
I decide to eat lunch at TGIF. Not because I like the food, not because it is cost-effective – just because I want to feel like someone else. Someone who likes to eat shit and spend their disposable income at a burger franchise from America in the middle of a one-in-a-million suburban wasteland in metropolitan Australia.
I also feel the aesthetic, the vibe, accompany the contents of the book I am reading best. And, at this moment, these are important factors when choosing a venue to eat.
Yes, there is something wrong with me. Maybe.
After I finish my meal, I pay my bill and walk to the elevator. A middle-aged man entering a gym nearby stops me.
—How’s the food here?
—Oh, sorry – do you work here?
No, I don’t work here.
—Oh, okay then. I never eat here. How’s the food?
Why? What do you mean?
—I mean, are the meals good or just okay?
Um. It’s okay.
—Just a meal?
Just a meal.
The man turns and leaves through the sliding doors of the gymnasium. He will never know the truth during his workout.
It was not just a meal, it was a one-time experience necessary to avert personal crisis.
But how do you tell someone you went to lunch at a simulacrum of a diner from the other side of the world out of nostalgia, because of its shitty aesthetics, because you wanted to pretend you were someone else?
To tell someone you want to feel something alien, have an out-of-body experience, be sent back in time to an era when you had no responsibility – people don’t want to hear these words.
They want to hear that the food is okay.
They want to hear that life is more than just a meal.
They want to hear your recommendations on how to rid themselves of their hard-earned.
I get back in the car. I drive to the doctor to get a medical certificate. Tell some lies. Spread some obligatory evils to remain employed. I forget to even take the CD out of the packaging and put it on the stereo in the car. The cellophane wrap still intact. Most likely neglected for weeks. Another trivial object destined for the scrap heap of my compulsion.
I guess my wife is right. I don’t need to buy these things. But maybe I do, those times when I try to be someone else.