Past Freedom Parkway, past the streets with names of pioneers, and the skyscrapers, is the Interstate. It cuts right through the heart of the city, dividing it, like a pulsing vein with blood running on energy drinks. Once you reach the Interstate, you know where you are. North or South, it’s hard to get it wrong. As we drive down 14th street, over the Interstate and into the industrial quarters, I notice signs that announce, I-75 South. But there are no signs for North. The road pulls you by the sleeve to drive South. It is the place to go.
This time, we are not going South. Like all city folk, we are going shopping. It seems that there are few fulfilling activities save for that. I remember Thoreau at this point, and I cringe, for he’s been crying bitter tears ever since I’ve been infected with consumerism. I think of him warmly, remorsefully. But the light turns green and on we go, away from the luxurious Starbucks and the fancy Waffle House of downtown, toward the secluded place where Wal-Mart is. After all, we have a list to satisfy.
There is no silence in the car. We’re both making ourselves guilty of the garrulousness typical of old people who’ve nobody to talk to. And now, finally, someone. I don’t know if our talk is trivial, if we’re making inane comments that I’d otherwise roll my eyes to. Right now, we’re just talking. Times are good. On the way home, she reminds me to take a left on Piedmont, and I rejoin with a pretentious formulation that means Duh! Again, a redundant comment. It is nice to have somebody to make redundant commentary to, even if it serves no purpose. It’s a way to say “Hey, I’m still alive.” Under the numbing effect of the repetitive motions of life, I welcome any occasion to say it.
“Have you ever been to a gay bar before?” she asks me as we pull into a patio barroom where the multicolored flag flutters in the wind. And I remember Synergy back in Macon, where we went to cavort under neon lights and demented music with all the topless gay boys. How easy it was to not worry about some guy’s palm evaluating your butt. How liberating to not be afraid that it would happen. The girls in Synergy, the gay girls, well, they’d never do such a thing. They have a radar, I’m told. They know we don’t play for the same team. So it’s peaceful and exhilarating at Synergy, this crossroads of divergent targets that coexist so well, and half-forget themselves in that drugging music.
“So, have you?” she brings me back from the reminiscing lapse. “Many times.” So we sit there feeling weird, among so many eccentrically-dressed people with all kinds of agendas, and we’re wondering if they’re feeing weird sitting next to us. I am sure they don’t. And, as far as we’re concerned, we feign we don’t either. We have cake, the American portions, I forget that we should have split one, because we are in supersize country, and we are normally-sized people. I almost finish the monster. She merely contemplates hers. As we walk back to the blazing car, where the sun has made our very own Hades, we carry our to-go boxes and admire their design. What a pleasure to feed an entire conversation with such trivial things.
Back home, she discovers that her chocolate’s melted in the car and throws a tantrum. I’m a little scared, mind you. I retreat on the floor, where the hurricane will hit me the least. Under the pretense of checking my e-mail, my fingers tap relentlessly on the keyboard. Tomorrow I will buy new chocolate, I promise myself. Under my eyebrows, I watch her feet entering the room. Even her walk is irritated. She sits down at the computer and sighs. She’s begun a conversation on Skype, the one she really wanted to have. I can almost imagine what she’s writing, a word from him will make her smile, and as I snap my fingers she’ll metamorphose, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. In fifteen minutes she’ll emerge in here, where I am, and, with all gall dissolved, she’ll ask ingenuously, What should we eat? That’s the thing about us, computer-huggers. Somehow, we always end up wishing that we were somewhere else.