Monday, 19 October 2009
Flashes from a life that is.
Jeff’s house was of the modest kind, nestled at the foot of a large hill amongst mature palm fruit trees. Every morning he walked through the dense vegetation, until he came to a small winding path that led to a magnificent natural lake, surrounded by pristine jungle. Here he strolled and thought about how beautifully simplistic life was. He walked over armies of ants that striped the path like pieces of black wedding ribbon, and was amazed by the sight of wild pigs and giant preying mantis. At the waters edge he felt free. He looked at his reflection in the water and saw a man that had found meaning in life. He was experiencing each sensation and savoring it. Every shade of green and flash of sunlight through the jungles thick canopy fascinated him. He was on auto pilot navigating his way through life’s beautiful meanders, absorbing it all with long slow strides; enjoying the spaciousness and sweet music of the jungle.
Jeff sat silently on his veranda at an ornate teak Sino-Portuguese table.. He watched as the sky turned a wonderful light blue. Grey and white wisps of cloud inched their way towards an unknown destination; a journey without a beginning or an end. Simultaneously, people, animals and plants breathed a sigh of relief, as the days suffocating heat began to subside. It was like a prayer had been answered. The early evening shadows began to lengthen on the rust coloured slopes of the mountain, making intricate black patterns on the dark red clay, like a traditional Chinese paper cutting. The Palm trees swayed flirtatiously in the soothing late afternoon breeze, and the crystal clear stream in front of the house trickled effortlessly. As the daylight continued to fade, a breathless dusk grew ever closer.
After a short drive the first of the encroaching out-of-town retail park became visible. The bright lights and clean cut interiors, made Jeff feel uneasy. There were too many people there: The Nuevo rich posed, students hunted in packs, and everyone else looked dazzled by the wonders of corporate America. Necessity brought Jeff to shop here, and he usually left as quickly as he came in. He knew it was melodramatic, but somehow he felt partly responsible for the whole vile circus show. His white skin made him guilty by association - a tacit consenter – a pawn in the corporate conspiracy.
The intercom sounded clear and direct: “Home-Pro’s Homecard – A card for lovers.” Shelves were stacked thirty feet up with all manner of DIY conveniences, and home improvement products, all promising the consumer a piece of happiness. Jeff walked down the power tool isle, his hands in his pockets; he wondered how the mountains of stock would ever be sold. As he pondered the thought he overheard two suited men talking in the Bathroom section. One of them had a beard and was sweating profusely. He seemed on edge to Jeff. He began to speak feverishly to the other man.
“To cash in on this particular bonanza, one has to live and breath the image of the ideal home – Picture this: A mother stands in her modern kitchen, fully equipped with time saving time devises, mahogany paneling and marble worktops; her bright eyed twins skip into the room, singing a sweet lullaby, brimming with youthful innocence; the father of the household sits on a wicker chair in the corner reading a newspaper, he nods in simple recognition, fully aware that his parenting skills are an example to all,”
His colleague stared at the floor. He exhaled deeply and said with a beaming smile. “This is without a doubt the Home-Pro family. It’s simple, offer people a dream. Let them get lost in the mediated environment, breath in the offers of the day, the mood lighting and the canned relaxation music – emancipate themselves from the painful reality of their own family – another future is possible - for a price.”
The two men retained straight faces thought out the conversation. Jeff’s stomach churned.
“Perhaps I can buy my way out of all this,” thought Jeff sardonically. He was only there to buy a light bulb, but already the situation was getting to him. He came to the island four years ago, fell in love and never left. Now the girl was gone and he was alone with his thoughts. When he was young he always imagined himself repeating the life of those around him – fulfilling cultural expectations like paying tax and going to church, but life for Jeff was very different. His time was his own and he used is wisely: he read and painted vivaciously, hungry for knowledge, on a never ending pursuit to entangle the mysteries of life. A gallery in the city had been exhibiting his work for seven months – he had a handful of sales. His agent talked incessantly of New York connections and the big time; Jeff simply smiled at this talk. Even if it was true, he knew that the limelight was not for him.
On the floor, workers in bright orange aprons competed for his attention. Commission was to be had, and Jeff was visible on the store radar. The blasts of air-conditioning, mixed uneasily with the humidity, giving him hot flushes like woman ten weeks gone. It seemed as if the staff were being controlled automatically: perhaps concealed above the ceiling was a nerve centre where every staff movement was planned in advance, then robotically follow for the duration of the shift. Jeff noticed the banal elevator music, its velvety smooth time signatures, numbing him into a false sense of relaxation. The intercom rang out once more. “Home-Pro discount card. The one way ticket to happiness for everything in your home.” For a moment, Jeff felt half convinced, as the employees swayed rhythmically, waiting to pounce, with their orange aprons glowing like cigarettes in the darkness. Jeff turned round, dazed by the entire experience, to find a worker smiling and ushering him to the lighting isle. “You like hear special price sir?” Jeff smiled and excused himself, safe in the knowledge that his delicious consumer bones were not for the picking. He inhaled the air deeply like a smoker having his first draw of the day, turned around, and walked out of the store.