This is an excerpt from my novel “June Dreaming – Confessions of an Abortion Addict.” This is not the final version and will be subject to further revisions. You’re welcome to provide me with feedback. Thank you!
I’m wearing my clothes from last night but there are now stains on them. My wavy hair is getting drier in the bright red sun. Pixelations of people absorb me, and they interrupt my train of thought.
My feet feel sore, and the weight of my belongings in my purse hurt my shoulders. This is suppose to be a walk of shame, but all I feel is dread.
I long to get to my apartment. I long to curl up in my tick-infested bed. I long to shut the world out– I’ve played my part for today, and I don’t want to perform anymore. As I cross the square, I couldn’t help but notice a billboard for running shoes.
There is an image of a woman. She is running with her headphones on; she is wearing a purple tank top, with black shorts and white stripes. The prominent white running shoes are below–hyper-realized by leaving behind trails of neon blue-light.
Her body is sliding on an unpaved road. Her hair in a pony-tail swaying with the golden-hour sun, peaking over her bare shoulders. However, it’s the tag line that catches my attention:
‘Always. Be. Moving.’
I knew what that meant. I knew what they were propagating. I look at her, and I know what she’s thinking: ‘I’m a go-getter, I run a mile, and I’ll overcome everything and anything (Not including, gender pay gaps or the wage surplus my employers horde, ofcourse!).’
Activity, moving around. Action is stimulating the economy— doing the hard work for someone else. Action is going somewhere on a weekend and spending money, undertaking an experience, and using social media to share that experience.
A Crystal blue sea. A Margarita. A wide smile. There is nothing there — only acting. No one posts photos of that long, inconvenient drive: snorting smoke from tail-pipes, the heart stifling sounds of horns, and the never-ending race against the yellow light. Motion sickness, long lines, expensive food, bad company, lost baggage, missing connecting flights or waiting on a plane that doesn’t take off.
They’re all smiles, all positivity and happiness adjacent. It’s the objects that gives them their smiles, that validates them. There is nothing here, only a slogan and only a narrative that somehow it all means something.
The mere act of running is romanticized not because it’s seen as a way to improve oneself but just as a signifier for accomplishing something, working against the head-winds. Overcoming the odds, always struggling. You’re not lying there and rotting. You’re in a constant state of movement. You’re avoiding decay; you’re avoiding dark circles and saggy tits. All of life is spent pretending death is not what’s driving us to achieve something.
Maybe a better way to put it is that all of life is spent acting that everything is okay. The world runs on everyone acting like they are ok, acting like productive workers to drown out unproductive thoughts— like existential dread. Maybe everyone acts to put those thoughts at bay. They are unproductive and, worst of all, unprofitable.
However, I don’t believe in acting productive. Doing nothing is an art. And all I want to do is procrastinate but the myth of activity has succeeded, and people who sit still and let the world pass them by are seen as a disease. They are worse than junkies. And here I am internalizing the world. Eating life and reproducing my thoughts.
I see the world of moving parts: a machine that moves without purpose. There is nothing that I want, except solitude and refuge from the tedium and suffering; except, that is all the world can offer right now.
The experience that is shared through billboards doesn’t offer any enlightenment. It’s not a realization of an unknown compartment in the subconscious, or a profound way to help society. It could be— but it’s not. It’s to show others we have accomplished something. We have transcended boredom, suffering and, even, death. And the objects that are on sale can offer that transcendence too.
All for one feeling of experiencing something. That is the journey, and it should be hard. All actions aren’t equal, and once you arrive at that realization, that experience must be enjoyed for that experience alone.
“You wear a mask, June. You recognize yourself as an outsider, but you want everyone else to recognize it as well. ‘Hon, society exerts a more stronger influence than you think it does. You are just as superficial as the rest of them.” You never let me have anything, do you? No one has everything, dear.
I reach my apartment building in a maze of apartment building complexes near Church street. I’m beyond ecstatic that no one was with me in the elevator.
I’m saturating in the smell of dog piss, and a constant drone hums me up to the 5th floor. The door opens, and a lady enters— ignoring the rule of letting-the-one-who-comes-out-of-the-elevator-exit- first. I narrowly avoid her as I make my escape. She looks on her phone and then she turns around:
“Sorry, I didn’t think anyone was inside.”
“You were right the first time,” I said. The elevator gently closes on her, but before it does, she has an expression of someone who doesn’t have anything clever to say. Again, no manners.
I walk past the apartments, and everything looks like a decayed orange. Yellow-stains, chipped wallpaper extends from the floor to the stippled white ceiling ending in a window with a view obscured by other buildings.
The citrusy nodes irritate my sinuses as I sneeze twice in a row. I never try to control my sneezes. Cover with your sleeve, you monster! No, never, I want to do what my body wants me to do, everyone deserves my mucus!
Well, fine! Don’t listen to me then, eh? What do I know? It’s only because of my advice you got the part! Not that I’m taking credit for your hard work, but still— even you know, that sometimes you need that little push — and I’m always here to provide you with one.
“God! You are insufferable. You know that?” I look around because I said it out aloud — my agent snickers.
I retrieve the key after fingering through the darkness of my purse, brushing up against used mascaras, discarded tissue papers, unused tampons, one condom unopened (I laugh at the mere irony of having one in my purse). I find it a struggle to insert it into the slot. It takes sometime, as I struggle with the keys, but eventually the door opens to reveal a one-roomed apartment.
I go inside, and my back slouches against the door. I let out a huge sigh— I feel contrived. I’m as predictable as a summer blockbuster. I know what’s happening right now.
The happiness of finally getting the part is wearing off. I’m catastraphizing as we speak.
Oh no! Here we go again. What if I show up late? What if my director hates me? What if this is my last movie? What if I never get paid? What if I lose everything? What if they’re hiring me because I’m a caramel version of Katie Alexander? That’s what you’re probably thinking, right? You’ve got to start changing your thought process, ‘Hon!
And now I remember why I hated action: all of it leads to consequences. And I want to wallow in my inaction. I want to get stoned and stare at the dirty dishes piling up in the sink and concentrate on the cold air coming from the vents. And I wish I could escape my frizzy-haired head.
(C) A.R. Minhas 2019