I just went on a walk with my mom. I knock suburbia all the time because it really does get so monotonous. Sometimes I forget that suburbia is the structure imposed on a landscape, and not the landscape itself. The same can be said for cities, but to me, cities distract you from that because there’s so much stimuli. So many people to meet and things to do and ways to indulge in the things you’re passionate about. For some people that’s numbing. I don’t know, I’m not trying to analyze all of that right now.
I guess my point is that while I was away at school, I missed my family because that’s a given, but I didn’t really miss my hometown. I didn’t feel a tug for walks around my neighborhood. When people aren’t re-seeding or watering or mowing the lawns they never seem to step on, my neighborhood is a suburban version of I am Legend. I don’t walk with my dog, I walk with my iPod, and we’re the only ones with any sort of beat inside.
At least, that’s what it always feels like, because who counts the bees and the flies and the birds and the squirrels you know are there just by the rustling of the branches that smack you in the head as you walk by a tree?
When I think of suburbia, I think too much about the structure and not enough about what the structure disrupts. I assign meaning to picket fences and shiny cars and cold shoulders riding by on a lawnmower on a warm day
as they apply to my life and not as they apply to the wild life. I am painfully aware of the plasticity of my environment and not the environment itself, except to bat it away when it gets too close to me, or to document it with a photo when I get too close to it. Defense and documentation, and using the quiet to think about myself too deeply so that I rarely sense how deeply disturbing the quiet really is except for the moment when I let it turn into anger by blaming the people that don’t talk to each other. But I never really spoke to any of them before, either. I’m trying to be better. I hope I am better. I want to be better.
The city eliminated the things that made me angry about suburbia. There was rarely any quiet, but when there was, it was too loud because the pace was so fast that it felt like someone slammed on the breaks. Then you grasp at everything and everyone milling about as everything starts moving around you, because even though the pace picks back up, you can still feel the spot in your chest that your heart slammed into in the same way your head would hit a windshield in a vehicle that isn’t a metaphor.
So returning to suburbia didn’t feel like someone slammed the breaks. It’s like I went down a really big hill and I can’t forget that sudden leaping feeling just before my heart sank. You know that feeling? It’s weird. I loved it as a kid, sitting in the back seat of my parents car. But now I’ve assigned meaning to it. And when you can’t forget a feeling in your chest, you start comparing it to every beat that follows. You hear things in them that you’ve never heard before even though they’ve always been there.
This past year, I’ve felt some sort of eerie silence enter me and I’m not saying it was the city that did it, but maybe it was the way I saw people walking around and into and with each other and also all of the people who felt the same silence and how loud it could be, but I would feel it instead of hearing it and it was still deafening anyway. I had always Heard the silence of suburbia and I’ve Felt the silence of the city and now I compare my proceeding environments to the consequential feeling in my chest that I can’t forget.
Today I took a walk with my mom. I stopped to watch two robins hopping upon a well-manicured lawn. They were more than several yards apart, but they would chirp, pause, then hop closer to each other. They repeated it until they got close to each other, then pecked around at the ground a bit and flew off together. Simply put, it was adorable. Romantically put, it was beautiful. I don’t know. Nature, man.
But then it got me thinking about how perhaps, there was something cautionary about what they were doing. Some tactic they had perfected to prolong the time when they would become prey the same way whatever they pecked for in the ground was for them. It was too methodical to be as whimsical as we like to think nature is. We look at nature as a collective. This thing with cogs— parts of a whole that work together. But each entity is mostly trying to survive for itself. The strong eat the weak and the stronger eat the strong, and the strongest wipes everything out.
We aren’t the strongest. We’re just the most parasitic.
But I kept watching the birds and I kept thinking about how wildlife has a food chain because it needs one. It’s about survival. It’s what they have to do. We have the means to survive— to further ourselves and care for each other without feeding on anyone weaker than us, but when the time comes that an easier route to take to What We Want is to knock someone down,
we take it. And it’s become the norm. Social darwinism and stuff or something and whatever. We don’t even question it, because it’s a “dog-eat-dog-world-out-there.” But dogs don’t need to feel any sort of existential silence to reach out to anyone.
We shouldn’t insult the dogs by comparing them to us.
As soon as I found my way under the layer of silence and structure that suburbia imposes and tuned into its landscape, I am back to trying to figure out how to escape it, as my mom yet again talks to me about internships and the job market and the economy and how I Just Don’t Understand But I Need To Before I Get Old Enough For It To Be Too Late. I go to school but I’d like to teach at one someday. I read books but I’d like to write them some day. I write mediocre poetry, but I’d like to reach people some day. I feel too much and I’d like to keep feeling more some day.
I stepped on an ant that got in my way and then felt bad about it. I’m scared of what that means for Some Day.