That's What You Do
by Michelle K.

From the moment you're born, everyone - parents, friends, television, movies - is telling you how you must be. What kind of life you should have.

They hold up perfection and expect you to mirror it.

You grow up in a happy family. (Although living in a duplex doesn't meet up to your standards.)

You survive high school, get accepted to a good college.

Then, at an otherwise boring frat party, you spot a boy. He's the most beautiful man you've ever seen. And you can't help but stare at him with lust in your eyes. And then he's staring at you the same way. And you can hardly breathe. And you think this must be what love is.

He comes over and introduces himself.

"I'm Lester. Lester Burnham."

He has the sexiest voice you've ever heard. It's like velvet...or silk. Or something like that. You don't care about the specifics. You just want him.

And you get him. On the bed of some frat guy you don't know. When he catches you, you can't help but laugh while you're racing to put your clothes back on. You continue to laugh as you rush out of the house, the frat boy still yelling about his 'dirtied sheets.'

You spend the rest of the night sitting outside, telling each other every detail of your life. You tell him how you want to be an artist. He's tells you that he wants to be a writer. The moments that you're not talking, your hands are all over him. Your fingers dance across the hairs on his chest. You taste him - his mouth, his skin - and savor every bit.

Before the sun rises, you both declare your love.

It's so fast, but that's the way love is supposed to be. Swift, encompassing, breathless.

You fall in love without thinking.

That's what you do.

After that, you spend all your time together. You make your friends sick by listing his numerous merits.

Everything about him enchants you. His odd sense of humor, the way he tilts his head. He can make you smile just by touching you. Scratch that. He can make you smile just by thinking about him. You're so happy, the part of your life before you met him seems like a waste. He is everything to you.

So, as soon as you graduate, you get married.

That's what you do.

After you get married, the two of you get an apartment. It's small, but you don't care. Why would you need room anyway? You want to be as close as possible, after all. You're still happy.

He writes. You paint. You have little money, but you scrape by with money from your parents and your day jobs. You're living a step above poverty, but you don't care. You have him. You make love three times a day. You're happy.

Then, your parents stop giving you money and reality steps in. You can't live on love. If you want to start a family, you need a house.

He gives up his writing and takes a lowly job at an advertising agency. He doesn't mind. He's idealistic. He'll change the way they run their business. He'll revolutionize them. And you believe him. He can do anything. He slowly climbs the corporate ladder.

You continue to stay home and paint things that never sell. Soon, you give that up.

You finally have enough money to put a down payment on a house. You need to take out a mortgage, too. But, still, you have it. The perfect house. The upwardly mobile husband.

And you're happy, too. The way you're supposed to be.

That's what you do.

Then, you get pregnant. You tell him. His eyes light up in that incredible way they do. He grabs you and kisses you.

"The baby's going to be beautiful. Just like you," he says.

And you love him even more. He's the sweetest, kindest man you've know. You want his child more than anything. As much as you want him. And you're happy.

You have the baby. It's a girl; you name her Jane. Through the late night feedings, incessant crying, you're still happy. Because you have this angel to hold in your arms and a loving man to share her with.

Jane grows a little older, and you realize that you can't raise a child on his salary alone. You decide to go into real estate. He supports you while you get you license. And you're still happy.

That's what you do.

Then, something happens that you can't quite describe. You become obsessed with you job. With looking perfect, impressing everyone that knows you. With the all-important image. And, somehow, you forget to pay attention to the people who mean the most to you. You only pay attention to the surface. You try to control everything. Your roses, your business, yourself, them.

And, your happiness slips away.

Your husband begins to hate his job, resent the restraint and inability to change. And you don't like that. He's ruining the image. You push him away. You rarely have sex. Scratch that. You never have sex. You don't even touch anymore. When you speak, it's words of anger.

You both resent the dreams you gave up.

You hate him. And he hates you back.

But you won't admit there's a problem. It would hurt the mirage.

Your daughter isn't too fond of you either, although you won't quite admit it to yourself. She's ruining your facade too. She spends her time sulking, making sarcastic comments. She's more like her father every day. She's no longer your angel. She's the one who doesn't care about all you're trying to do for her.

She hates you. But you can't hate her back. She's still yours. But that doesn't stop you from cutting her down. Making horrible comments about her, undermining any sense of self-esteem she has.

You hate your life. But it looks good on paper. House, husband, daughter, business, garden. You are perfect. You can keep it together. Although it's really already crumbled.

That's what you do.

Then, one day, your husband quits his job. He spends most of his time lifting weights and smoking pot. Now you can't even pretend. It's obvious your life isn't perfect. Even you can't be fooled.

You start up with somebody else. He makes you feel good. Not as good as when you first met your husband...but it's something. Something more than the nothing you'd been feeling. You meet him at cheap motels. He tells you about the joys of shooting a gun. So, you buy your own and hang out at the firing range. None of this makes you happy...but it makes you forget.

That's what you do.

Your marriage doesn't get any better. It stays in this same emotionless void. Except for this one time when you felt almost the same as you used to. But you push him away again. And you regret it. But there's nothing you can do. The moment's over. Maybe you're over. Maybe you already were.

Your husband, he finds out about the affair. Now, you know, it's really over. And your lover...well, his interest wanes as soon as it's out in the open.

"Maybe we should cool it for a while." And he leaves.

You scream. Out of sadness or don't really know. Everything's ruined...the image, the life. And you vow to yourself - you will not be a victim. You get your gun. You're going to tell him everything you feel.

That's what you do.

You go home. And your daughter, she stares at you with this dazed expression.

"He's dead," she says. "He's dead."

You can't believe it. So, you go into the kitchen. And there he is. There's blood on the wall, on the table, on the floor. You swear you're going to be sick.

You don't know what you're supposed to do. You go upstairs, almost in a trance. You realize that you have a gun in your purse. You could've been the one to kill him. It could've been you.

He's dead.

He's dead.

You throw the gun into the hamper. You just want it away from you.

And there are his clothes. They smell like him...and you remember how his scent used to drive you insane. You remember the time when you used to lay your head on his chest and hold him close.

That's what you do.

You remember the time when you still loved him. And, as the tears flow, you accept the truth.

You never stopped loving him. You had just buried that part of yourself. The vulnerable part...the part that let you be touched by others.

And, you realize, that if you hadn't pushed him away, driven him out with coldness, those years in-between the beginning and now could've been happy. If you would've kissed him, said you loved him, giggled at the jokes that used to make you fall over with laughter...then your life would've been different. You wouldn't have had to suppress the tears, get sickened by your own reflection. Get sickened by the life that surrounded you.

You could've had a good life if you didn't decimate it.

But that's what you do.

That's what you do when you're a failure.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Plain Style / Fancy Style