Life can be a soap opera. Believe me, I know.
While in my bathroom, I managed to overhear a VERY loud conversation where a man in his scruffy “I’ve-had-way-too-much-to-drink-therefore-I-can’t-lower-the-decibal-level-of-my-own-voice” is busy telling the whole world his, or rather, his sister’s life story. Now, I know that her name is Meg and that she can’t stop drinking because she lost her husband ten months ago and her loving brother is wondering (aloud!) why she hasn’t gotten over it already. Seriously. I can’t tell if the conversation is coming from the bar downstairs or whether the fella is outside talking to a neighbor. You see (like a soap opera) the walls are paper thin, everybody knows way too much about everybody else’s business, and there’s betrayal around every corner. Betrayal that can make people want to do as this man wants to do: go to “Vermont” just so he can “relax” because heaven knows his sister is a miserable drunk that needs “a man in her life to get herself together”. Great advice, bro.
I almost feel guilty for eavesdropping, but it’s kind of like watching the results of a wreckage. You hope that nobody got hurt, but you still have to sneak a peek just to see the carnage firsthand. I admit it. I am a desperately horrible rubber-necker. I crane my neck muscles as far as they’ll go (kind of like a turtle) until I see blood. It’s not as morbid as it sounds. Okay, maybe it is. But I really think that it’s a learned habit that I acquired in my youth watching my mom run to the windows to catch the best view of the neighborhood fights or domestic disputes that could be at times hilarious or completely disheartening. Either way, it was our own form of entertainment; crammed up in a stifling apartment building, overhearing arguments that spring up frequently, the music of the downtrodden. It seemed that this was the nature of the environment. Blue collar towns that bring big trouble because of the stress of trying to make the rent or to pay the bills on time. Husbands coming home from a late night out with the boys, after leaving the women the responsibility of taking care of the kids all day, was the perfect recipe for an outburst. The perfect soup for a “It’s a wonder why I even come home!” comment and a “If you want to stay with your friends so badly, you should just pick up and leave!” revelation that almost always resulted in the cops coming to break up the squabble. No one pressed charges, of course. It would inevitably end with a sober-up squad-car ride along with empty promises that it’d “never happen again”. Of course when it did happen again the following day or week, the argument would pick up right where it left off and my mom would be hanging halfway out the window just to catch the show. Then there was the glass-to-the-door trick which didn’t always work, but managed to rid us all of our ennui. It was always worth it to try and try again as if our life’s blood depended on the riot passing through the glass to our ear drums. Did you hear that? I think he said that she’s better shut up or he’ll hit ‘er. I’m calling the police. It was something to distract us from the misery of our own lives. We could relish in the fact that at least our lives weren’t that bad.
But forget all of that. The best was yet to come this evening when a near-fight broke out in front of the bar. As usual, it began as a war of words that escalated into a lot of huffing, puffing and threats of blowing the house down. It never amounts to anything more than a display of manhood when the harmless cat-scratches and positioning end with male egoistic peacock struts up and down the block. I often wonder why men always need to walk off their words as if every step is intended to be a scare tactic or assertion of what you’ll get if you mess with him. Ooh, I’ll stomp on you with my big scary boots…but good…! It doesn’t do anything for me. I prefer the aforementioned removal of the t-shirt. That one’s more effective. The strut isn’t terrifying or remotely intimidating. It just looks like a goon is passing.
A few minutes later, the battle royale was over. Most of these things are short-lived. But I still had that funny brother conversation going on and managed to catch an off-handed remark about Meg’s hair color. So I says to her, I says, why don’t you color your hair from the gray? You can’t have it half gray and half color like that! It drives me nuts how she don’t think about anything until I tell her to. You believe that?
You can’t make this stuff up.
I wonder if all of life’s private conversations would be allowed to take place if everyone in the world suddenly became aware that people around them listened. What if say, after a particularly revealing confession someone were to use the information gathered in your weakest moments against you? It’s really simple to get to know the names of the players in your soap opera, specifics on what’s going on in your personal life, and how often you make trips out-of-state to “get away from the bitch”. Don’t even get me started on the cell-phone conversations gone awry. Do the locals really need to know that you went out drinking last night and that your best friend’s on the rag? No. Too Much Information is just what we get used to feeding the general public, shining a fog light on our most intimate uglies. When you get down to it, we all have horror stories, comedic anecdotes, and tall tales to tell. But we must be wary: lest we invite too many viewers to our latest installment of, As The World Turns. And turns. And turns.