When you descend the stairs to the Metro, you are signing a contract, invisible yet binding.
Your eyes, windows to the world, must be instantly battened down and shuttered. Do not show emotion or react - not to the woman carrying a limp baby and sign asking for food nor to the man, barely out of his teens, skeletal, strung out.
Swipe your pass and shed your true self at the turnstile. No sorrows or struggles. No joy. Especially no joy, no smile, not laughter, unless you are high and, if you are high, your contract is unique and ironclad. Follow the lead of your homeless brethren and shrink within yourself. Hide your stink, your filthy clothes.
Find your mark behind the yellow line. You are a play actor who must exist in caricature form only - the businesswoman, the junkie, the hipster.
Enter the train and get out your props. Your phone, your book. Tolerate the noise and the smell and the taste of despair as if all your senses are lost.
Whatever you do, do not break character.
Ascend the stairs only to sadly discover that the contract remains, its language more ambiguous yet equally irrevocable.
Execute the terms until you become your part. Method act until you are faceless and empty of all humanity.
Do it. Day after day after day, all the while awaiting the contract's end.
Up at 5am. Not awake enough to rise, but not sleepy enough to sleep. The state in the middle where your mind floats between what was and what will be while your ears reach at you saying come back to the present.
Not enough and too much. Intermingled thoughts while the sun and moon pass each other in the hall. If the angels came down and took me today ? Regret and loss and fear would fly off me as I ascended, littering my gravestone. Lay flowers there? Don't you dare. No way. I saw the suffering and instead of really doing something about it, I just kicked the tires. Never truly committing.
Motorcycle in the distance. Must be 6:20. Anonymous yet familiar, like a time clock, Monday through Friday. I'm usually at my kitchen window staring at a sleepy sky when he passes. Where you going, I always ask, but he never answers.
Where I am going is the better question. Seven am out of bed. Two mockingbirds, my mockingbirds, cry out. No more test drives. Time to get behind the wheel. What was and what will be.
When we were in Rome, we took a break from being constantly bombarded to buy selfie sticks and roses to visit the Colosseum. Walking around the massive structure, I marveled at the stone and concrete architecture, both for its size and its engineering. I pictured the tens of thousands of people arriving through the large entrances to take a seat in the stands. I imagined the men and women catching up on the daily gossip ("did you hear Cornellia and Claudio are knocking sandals?"), playing some dice, and having some snacks while waiting for the entertainment to begin. (Hopefully they had better access to something to drink than we did during our 90-degree visit.)
How lovely for those ancient Romans to have such an extraordinary venue for entertainment, right? Except here's the catch. The "entertainment" for the most part was completely and utterly barbaric and yet normal, everyday people attended.
"Hey Grandma, put your wrought-iron dental implant in. We are going to watch gladiators fight to the death."
"Kids, for the Cth time let's go, we are going to be late for the execution."
"Domitia, I have a great idea for our first date! Let's go watch some exotic animals get slaughtered."
(Of course, Romans being Romans they made sure that the executions of condemned people were conducted in "mythologically authentic ways, such as being mauled by beasts or burned to death."* Kudos to them for their love of literature.)
Boy, did I leave that Colosseum depressed (and thirsty), but at least I consoled myself that for the most part as a species, we've evolved.
Case in point: For every horrible person there is like dentist Walter Palmer gaining pleasure out of killing a beautiful, endangered animal for sport, there are tens of thousands outraged. That brought me comfort. Except when I started reading some of these posts, my faith in humanity waned rather quickly. Many people called for the skinning alive of the dentist. Others suggested that we feed him to the lions, a la the Colosseum. Still others thought it would be peachy to shoot him with a bow and arrow and watch him suffer a slow death. Believe me, I want this guy to be punished, just not in this way.
So really it seems we haven't evolved at all. The only difference now 2,000 years later? We can catch our reactions to such events with a selfie stick and smile.
*Source: Wikipedia - perhaps next time you ask, I will finally donate to your Wikimedia "Foundation". (Though, if Thomas Hobbes is right, my "nasty, boorish, short" nature will probably impede me from doing so.)
I'm just trying to figure it out, like everyone else.