My mother turned on the light as I was walking up the drive. “Come in,” she said. “There were black bear sightings in Pittsford and Victor.” (I paraphrase, of course; reality seldom mirrors what we remember. That is the gist.) And I picked up my cat and came indoors. It was dark, past eleven. My legs were — are — hurting after the walk.
But I couldn’t not walk. So I said, “The worst that can happen is that I get eaten by a bear.”
Which is true, really, and it’d be more amusing than tragic. I am trained to laugh when bad things happen to good suburban people, because our lives are worthless. Our lives are the result of piss-poor prior planning on someone’s part (God’s, our parents’, it’s all the same). We are hilarious historical footnotes once we pass eighteen unscathed; nobody will miss us, just the roles we play in their dramas.
Some people make good. Some people manage peoplehood. Those are the kind of people who write books, go to India, and put themselves on the roster for Médecins Sans Frontières. Those are, I’m sorry, not the kind of people who look forward to weekly escapes into fictional worlds, culminating in the ultimate two-hour pathos fest that is the season finale.
I am not a person. Thus, I was really looking forward to the two-hour Grey’s Anatomy extravaganza. I knew, going in, that I was probably going to cry at some point, and oh, did the episode give me plenty of chances! It tried, bless its heart, but I didn’t get a chance to immerse myself in the fiction, and that was good fiction. That was two hours of Shonda Rhimes pulling out all the stops and writing her ass off.
That was also two hours of herding cats — and fathers — and mothers — and raccoons, for fuck’s sake. The two most interesting hours of writing (you know, the thing I want to do?) I will see for a long, long time, and I live with an asshole who insists on keeping a running fucking commentary. Oh, and he thinks nothing of screaming at my cat for swatting the raccoon he was trying to feed. Because clearly, running off the tame kitty just so we can feed the wild flea-bitten creature is such a good idea. Clearly, blaming her for defending her territory is the way to go!
Yeah, I lost my temper pretty loudly at that point, because he had shattered any semblance of peace, and it was damage control time. I couldn’t go outside and grab my cat because she had fled like any sensible creature; I couldn’t find her! So I went back inside and tried to put my head back into Shonda’s world: shooter on the loose. Doctors down. People dead. I hadn’t been that excited since M*A*S*H, or perhaps Band of Brothers. Oh, and that one episode of Battlestar Galactica, where they were rounding up the Jews — um, the Colonial settlers. Yeah. That one had me sobbing.
This one should’ve had me sobbing. Instead, after it was over, I put on my beat-up beige cardigan and a pair of sandals and slipped out for a walk. Considering how bad my legs tend to feel at the end of any given day, you will understand that I was desperate to escape. I needed out of that house, because after all the braying and the “Oh, this is unrealistic” (then why don’t you shut up and go do something else?), after my carefully suspended disbelief has come crashing down, I couldn’t stay there and be civil.
On the one hand, I’m glad he went to bed in the meantime. On the other, I hate that he can sleep so well, wasn’t a bit agitated by what was happening onscreen, didn’t need the outlet that sobbing for Meredith, Derek, Cristina, and Miranda “Badass” Bailey would’ve given me. Instead, do you know who I cried for? I cried selfish suburban tears for myself. I cried because I felt very much robbed of something I’ll describe as champagne, to borrow from Jane Kendall. That episode of Grey’s Anatomy was champagne where most television is just beer, and what I’m watching now — Nightline — is the kind of swill I wouldn’t give my worst enemy.
I cried because that episode should have been a joyful reminder of what television could be, but I could only feel sorry for myself, unable to feel with the rest of the audience. Unable to immerse myself. Unable to savor the wonder, since I will never write that well. (Or if I do, someone will beat me to the punch.) If I tried to write something like that, you know what would come out? Desperate Housewives. Desperate goddamn Housewives. Nobody wants to hear about an anxious, depressive painiac who sleeps too much and can’t hold down a job. I wouldn’t watch my story if I had the chance to film it and show it. There is truly nothing profound about my existence, and there never was.
So had I been eaten by a bear, meandering up and down a quasi-rural lane at night, nobody who didn’t know me would’ve mourned. They’d have laughed. And that’s why I can laugh at the prospect, even while I’m crying inside (only inside — the asshole’s knight-errant is asleep ten feet away from me). Because, fuck, isn’t that really all that’s left anymore?