by Sally George
One day, for no particular reason, Deborah noticed that she didn’t really like her clothes. Not the ones she was wearing, or the ones she could think of in her closet. She tried to remember how they had looked when she bought them, what she had liked about them. Had they all been on sale, was that it? That was probably the reason for the pale green pants. But what about all the black pants, why had she bought them, and why didn’t she like them anymore? Even the expensive ones. She could see why they were more expensive, how they were better made, of fabric that felt softer, or heavier, somehow more costly. But there was nothing about them that gave her pleasure any more. She tried thinking about other categories; her furniture, for instance. There were a couple of things she didn’t mind, but those had generally been hand-me-downs. The things she had bought she didn’t really care for. Or worse, really didn’t care for.
Perhaps this was a new level of understanding, perhaps her taste was improving? Deborah made some coffee, which was so-so, and drank it out of a green cup she had acquired while she was working at her last job. She remembered buying the cup, it was on sale; and she needed a cup “for work.” An office cup, which made no sense as she had numerous cups at home. Of course some of those were in sets, and were not used except for when there was company, and who knew when that had last happened? But what about the many mismatched cups; maybe none had been quite right for office use? But that office had not been so fussy (if it was even possible for an office to be so fussy that you couldn’t use an ugly cup. Probably there were places where you would be judged on your cup, and would even care about that.)
Definitely some new type of maturity, Deborah thought hopefully. She realized that she could not any longer imagine caring about the opinions of people she worked with, and that had to be a good thing, didn’t it? Teenagers and very young adults cared passionately about what others thought of them, so to be so uninterested had to indicate the opposite, a depth of understanding about the meaningless of superficial things. There was something too hopeful, almost hysterical, about this line of thought though. Deborah found that she did not particularly want to know why she no longer liked anything she owned. They were all mistakes, that was the problem. And they were just material objects as well, why should she care about them? Objects that could break, that wore out, that went out of style and suddenly presented themselves as ugly. One day your shoes were great and then they were suddenly an embarrassment. It was a bit of a loss, as Deborah had always really liked shoes. I will have to go live in the woods and eat berries, speak to no one, she thought. I don’t want anything and I don’t like anybody. (Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’ll go eat some worms!) Food was not interesting either. How bad could worms be, she wondered, if taste was not important. She thought of the enormous waste she had caused, cooking and eating and buying things, wearing things, and how unimportant it all was. All the money spent on stuff that would either break, wear out, or (in the best possible case) endure until she died and it went to someone else who might wonder at your choice of upholstery, or put it in the basement, and let their children spill popcorn into its crevices. Of course other people wasted money too, everyone did. Deborah had an image of herself running down the street, a madwoman, shrieking at people to stop buying things. This is definitely not a new level of maturity, she thought, and giggled. It sounded strange in the empty room, with the ugly furniture. Maybe this is what crazy feels like, she thought.
The feeling didn’t go away. Deborah learned that she could go through the weeks by rote as she had no difficulty remembering what she usually ate, who she usually talked to and what kinds of things she said, although these choices seemed arbitrary. The idea of talking about this new state of mind seemed impossible, and she didn’t want the responses she imagined she might get. On the weekends she sometimes walked but often stayed home reading, grateful for the escape. She tried a movie once but it was too immediate, putting her right into the lives of people she didn’t care about. She decided it was depression she was going through, and if it didn’t lift in a while she would see someone about it. That thought seemed funny though; I’m depressed, so I have to “see someone.” This didn’t feel as bad as depression, though. She just didn’t care. And sometimes things were amusing, and she chuckled and then looked around furtively, in case someone had noticed. Possibly everyone felt this way, she thought, and just went on buying furniture so that no one else would catch on. It could be that the entire economy was driven by this, by the urge to conceal the fact that everyone would just as soon be eating worms and wearing stained T-shirts. Deborah loved this idea, and hoped it was true. The only possible goal that she could see, was that one day everyone would decide to simultaneously drop their masks. She began to pray for this every night.