Two Seemingly Unrelated Vignettes Illuminating the Significance of Our Insignificance
So many have tried and failed, so not to at least attempt to name our generation with a hip catch-phrase would be arrogant, to say the least. So, here we go. I henceforth dub the youth of today “the supernova generation.” We do not cultivate taste, nor do we allow our desire to smolder, crackling embers of longing in our eyes. We are a series of consuming obsessions, of affected hatreds. We want to want; we need to need. We are inundated with so much, that we must drain the ocean to be sated. We suck the juice from life, leaving only pulpy refuse. We’re a generation shrink-wrapped and raised in Styrofoam cribs. We shudder to think we are disposable.
Ever since the last two weeks of the fall semester, I have been living in my room without heat, since the radiator leaked all over the floor, destroying a number of books. To stave off pneumonia, I wear sixth grade socks to bed, ones with white rubber grippers on the feet, now smoothed down to paradoxically allow for better sliding on my tiled floor. I wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt to bed, the sigil of my father’s old pharmaceutical company, faded like an archaeological find, into the mere memory of an ankh. It means life in ancient Egyptian, I think. I hunker down in my covers, not unlike the kids in those safety films from the Atomic Age, shivering my prayers into the night – protect me from the coming apocalypse. I become a hero to my apartment when my inconvenience becomes a holy cause. I turn off all lights when not using them and unplug every appliance. When my roommate returns to New York, I tell him how things are gonna be; a righteous sneer plays on my lips, like Joe Strummer or Johnny Cash.
Leaving my internship in the evenings is the worse thing in the world for my soul. It is not because I love my job so much that I cannot bear to leave (even though I do enjoy it quite a lot), and it is not due to something stupendously amazing that I am missing at home. I exit 330 7th Avenue into a veritable human gulf stream. Why is it that between 42nd st. and 28th (where I work), every single person is in possession of a pressing need to head downtown? It appears as I am the lone northward traveler, with only my wits and Polaris to guide me. [Brief digression: When I was sevenish, my family took a vacation to Cape Cod, and while I was playing in the ocean, a wave knocked me down and the undertow carried me out to sea. My mom saved my life.] As I struggle to move forward, every single individual’s movements, which run counter to my own, are seen as personal affronts and offenses. “They’re on the attack!” In my heart there sprout seeds of hatred for all who bump shoulders or duck into the street at the exact same moment I do, or who walk just too slowly to be tolerable. Midtown makes me the worst person.
In the beginning of this piece, I characterized our generation as that of the “supernova,” but, if you forgive me, I’d like to mix ‘n’ match my metaphors. We are drowning, and the water is rising quickly; or we are sinking (it all depends on your frame of reference). We gasp for air, to fill our lungs with nothing. When the water begins to fill our lungs, we gasp for air. It takes our breath away. (Back to the original image) A supernova is the spectacular creation of empty space. Where once there was a great big star now sits a black hole. I like owning more books than I could ever read. I think about my bookcase tipping over and burying me in words. Only a buried person kicks and scratches and bleeds and slashes and punches in true and furious ecstasy. One used to have to die to experience this. The drowning person gasps for air. The exploding star takes our breath away.