Thursday, September 22, 2005

My Own Prison

I know what I want to say, but how to start; how to take that first step? A step that will ultimately lead me on to a second step and then into my thirteenth lap around this prison cell town. I can say that because I grew up here and live here now. With headphones draped over my ears like a little girl's headband, I start walking. (I'm not sure how I feel about that headband simile)

Headphones, mind you, not earbuds. There's something secretive about buds that annoys me. From the 10-foot perspective we all see, they are invisible. It's cruel trickery, I tell you. With headphones, it's obvious to everyone that I'm in another place and do not want to be reminded that what I see is just as real as what I, alone, can hear. So, adorned with headphones, I start walking.

I went in search of the idea on Tuesday. First to the mall. And, after that, I had nothing. I didn't have the idea and I didn't have the new Esquire magazine. So, I went to Wal-Mart. They did have it - the magazine, not the idea. While i was walking and perusing the aisles of both locations, I thought about the American youth.

Instinctively, I tried to remember my own youth. I tried to remember what I thought about. Mostly is was some sort of pining away at a dream girl. My youth was all about finding the love element in the very songs that defined my generation - even when none were obvious. I wanted to connect with popular culture on some level, and all I 'knew' passionately about was love - or my "insatiable urge" for it anyway. Now that I've disassociated myself with that, I've got very little from my own youth to relate with.

I've buried myself beneath 6 feet of dreams; ambitions bloom around my grey headstone life, and i'm looking for anything I can associate with besides the cultural careers of those on either coast days away. Two weeks ago it was JD Salinger, this week its Sylvia Plath. Yet, I feel at-home in this small town, anti-fantasy.

Small-town life suits me. Monday night, I went to Jester's for Monday night football, chicken wings and beer. Those, alone, would keep me going there every monday night until the end of the MNF season. But, the wait staff is attractive, the bartender is extremely HOT, and then there is the small-town, football devotees.

There were a couple girls last week that sat in front of me. They sat directly behind me this week and after a pitcher and a half, I talked to them. The one giving me to most attention I don't particulary have any fascination with. She's cute, but she's a loud-mouth. Thinking back, I should've asked her why she feels the need to draw attention to herself. She shouldn't be trying so hard. And that's exactly why I belong in a small town and what, exactly, I'm going to write for the Vanity Fair contest.

Arguably, Vanity Fair is the Esquire of the celebrity culture. It's an upper class People with better photography. In front of the master-class photographer, however, sits the same celebrity figurehead that posters People and US magazines weekly. But, if People and US are the three-doors-down neighbors nosing through venetian blinds, Vanity Fair would be the only two-story house on the block. And I sit dreaming to be a part of that culture from atop my single-story house across town with a pair of binoculars. I see Vanity Fair's annual essay contest as a lost party invitation that has just landed in the mouth of the pink flamingo on my front lawn. (I really don't have a pink flamingo in my front yard, but I've always wanted one just for the camp)

This year's topic: "what's on the mind of America's youth?" Last year, it was "Why is America so hated by other countries?". That was the one that I'd tried writing in this same exact bedroom corner while on vacation last Summer. I didn't get it in in time. But, it's the reason why I've focussed my writing efforts on the essay-style formats. If not then, then maybe now. If not now, then maybe next year. It's a $15,000 prize, pulication, and an Italian writing-retreat vacation this year. Incentive. Pressure.

Confidence is the age-old, most effective way to appear desirable. Being with friends, we are all more confident because we are all comfortable. Take that same feeling and walk with it in your hand, held-up to your ear, walking from your car into a department store. With an iPod strapped to your arm, you're hearing the song you sang in the shower that morning. You're there, you're approachable, but you're not. Just as if you were with a dozen friends at a party.

My cell phone has never blown-up. I've never been the "cool" kid that everyone checks with to see what's going on. I've never had any friends that were so devoted or so interested in my everyday mundane minutes that I had the urge to tell them I was walking into Wal-Mart and saw the strangest people sitting on the bench outside in the Texas heat for no apparent reason. I'm not that "cool," but that is not to say I don't have my own moments of comfort.

Don't assume for a minute that I'm not envious of those "cool" kids that always have ringing cell phones, but, I have accepted the fact that I'll never be the coordinator of evening events. I'm a third-party goer. I'll always be the quiet one. This is my strength. I'll always just be me. In whatever form that takes, the roots do not change locations, they just grow deeper and longer.

No matter how much I hate small-town life, cut-off from diverse cultures and experiences, there will always be a me in every American town, whether it be in a small town or a metropolis. If I ever do make it big, I'll never be able to leave behind this prison that I've always called "home." This is not the end. Just another beginning.