“Speaking of a casual conversation on the bus . . . “
A sort-of-a-story by Mike Michelsen
It was just a regular work day. Nothing unusual, perhaps even boring. As I do everyday, I hopped onto bus 248 to take me home. I must admit that it seemed a little nippy that day. But that’s why I had my jacket on. I was glad I brought it. I just about didn’t. My stomach, though, kept grumbling, and made these obnoxious noises. I hoped no one would notice. The thought of what I was going to fix for dinner kept coming to my mind. I was bothered by the fact that I couldn’t decide. Should I have soup . . . or sausage . . . or . . . ? The next thing I knew I found myself chuckling to myself. Isn’t it funny how a simple thing like what I was going to fix for dinner perplexed and bewildered me so much? It is sort of funny.
It was then that I heard the music which disrupted my thoughts and chuckle. I looked to my left and noticed a young kid next to me. He might have been in his early 20’s. It’s strange that I never noticed he was there when I sat down. Looking up at him, I saw where the music was coming from: an ear bud perched in his ear partially hidden behind folds of oily black hair. Atop his head was a brown beenie cap, so old it was starting to fray, with stray cotton fibers reaching out in all directions. His blue sweater was a little large for him, or so I thought, as the sleeves hung past his wrist, almost to the middle of his fingers. I thought that’d be uncomfortable to wear but it didn’t seem to bother him.
With his eyes closed he nodded his head up and down to the beat of the music, as if wrapped up in some secret interior world. Though I could hear the music I could not make out what band it was. It sounded like the muffled sound of some rock band. I suspected it was one of the new bands that I’ve never heard of before.
He held his disc player with his right hand, which was resting on an old black backpack he had sitting on his legs. I noticed a small pin on the back of the backpack. It said, “UP YOURS, SISTER!”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
Opening his eyes he turned to me and said, “Were you talking to me?”
“No, no,” I said defensively, as I realized he was reacting to my private chuckle.
“Really?” he replies quizzically.
“Why, was I supposed to speak to you?”
“Oh, I don’t know . . . maybe.”
“Well,” I began, “I must admit that I was curious about your pin. It’s sort of a strange thing to say.”
“What? Are you kidding? It IS the thing to say . . . believe me.”
“Oh, in what way?”
“It’s just all the crap man . . . all the crap. It’s like the Energizer bunny. It keeps going and going and going.”
Perplexed, I replied, “I’m confused . . . what crap are you speaking of?”
“Just all the crap girls dish out at you. They think they’re a holy relic or something, like we’re all supposed to bow down to them or something. They won’t even talk to you unless you do. It’s all nonsense.” He reaches to his CD player and shuts it off. “It’s pathetic . . . it’s sad.”
“Have you had problems, I mean, with girls?”
“Oh, we all have . . . who hasn’t? Like I said it goes on and on and on, like the Engergizer bunny.” He pauses, as if to prepare for a speech, and says, “It’s more than that too. Everything about relationships is all . . . a . . . jo . . . its ridiculous man. I just don’t know. It’s . . . screwy.”
“I think there’s some truth in what you say,” I replied.
“Yeah but . . . you’re from an older generation. Our generation . . . well, it seems different. Nobody wants to admit to it but we’re sort of in a . . . bad way. And what pisses me off is that no one seems to know, not even my own generation! It’s like everyone is pretending that nothing is going on but, yet, they all talk about it. It’s weird man. Everyone talks about it but . . . no one talks about it . . . you know what I mean?”
“I think so.”
“What a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that we . . . I mean our generation . . . has been left with nothing. Our parents, and that whole mess of a generation, have sat and come up with all these excuses to make relationships useless. It’s like they all conspired to destroy relationships.”
“In what way?” I asked.
“Well, first of all, the male and female . . . or maybe its the mother and father? . . . anyways, they seem useless, like they mean nothing. I don’t even know what they mean. I haven’t a clue. It seems like they are terms from the seventeen hundreds or something. I don’t even know why they use them nowadays. I really don’t.”
“Are you saying that you don’t know what the difference is between the male and female is?”
“Yeah, I mean, there is no difference . . . is there? Well, there is a difference. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they don’t mean anything. At least, that’s what they seemed to tell us. My mom and dad’s generation . . . wow! . . .” and he lets out a sarcastic chuckle. “Yeah, my mom and dad’s generation . . . what were they thinking? I’ve sat and watched them come up with all these reasons why a mother is really a father and the father is really a mother . . . or is it the other way around? God, who knows! One things for sure: they sure the hell don’t! My mom . . . yeah, what mom? . . . I never knew a mom. Like most of my generation, my mother was the daycare center. All my mom seemed to worry about was work. She seemed to think that this is what everything was about in life. The same with her friends. They all HAD to go to school, get degrees, get jobs, get more money. God, that’s all they did. Then, she’d flaunt it in front of my dad, like it somehow made her better than he. It was like a stupid ridiculous competition. Yeah, who could outdo who? Mom versus dad, male versus female, in a great showdown! Her friends were the same way too. Everytime they came over . . . it was about work, achievement, money, and how better they were over men . . . the stupid competition. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’m glad to be out of the house, out of my mom’s house. I mean, what does all this supposed to mean anyways? It’s like that generation did everything in their power to destroy relationships.”
“You mean by competition?” I asked.
“Not only that, but a trillion other ways. It seems like they were confusing the male and female, as if it was some righteous cause to destroy the difference. My mom and her friends always seemed like they were always trying to be men or man-like in some way. They were always talking about being ‘strong’ and glorified ‘tough women’ with careers and who did sports. It’s like they didn’t even know what it means to be a women anymore. Imagine being married to that? How can anyone develop a relationship with that?”
“I can see why that would cause problems.”
“And I keep wondering what, exactly, are we supposed to do in a relationship? Aren’t we supposed to do something? What am I supposed to do? What is a male supposed to do? What is expected of me? What is a female supposed to do? It seems like we should be doing something but I have no idea what it is. No one told us! No one showed us! Not only that, there were no examples of how we should behave! I don’t think I ever saw a relationship between people, I really don’t. I mean, I’ve seen people be friends . . . but a relationship? It just seems to me that you can’t have a relationship when no one knows what they’re supposed to do? Its like nobody knows anymore. I don’t know . . . maybe its just me. Maybe the problem is me?”
“I don’t think you are the problem. You’re speaking of things I’ve heard other people mention as well. You’re not quite as alone as you may think.”
“Oh, and they expect us to treat them like goddesses . . . I mean the girls expect that. My mom expected that too, and her whole generation . . . and my generation too. It’s like they expect the world to be handed to them on a silver plate. They expected the guy to give them everything and cater to her every need. But, yet, what do we get? We don’t get crap from them. Take the girls of my generation. Many won’t even speak to you unless you please her in some way. It’s all about what SHE wants . . . everything. The whole relationship thing is based on pleasing her, as if she’s the only important one. What’s pathetic is that many guys will do just that: suck up to them. If they don’t they will never have a relationship! They have no choice. It’s like all the guys have become a bunch of suck-ups, catering to the females so he can get into their pants . . . and they’re willing to do anything thing to do it . . . including being a suck-up. It’s like its become their whole life. It’s all they do. My dads generation and my generation, it all seems the same. It’s pathetic. I just can’t help but think: This is it!? This is the male! This is the female! This is what relationships have come to?! This is what it’s about! Its like they’ve destroyed it all . . . male . . . female . . . relationships . . . everything. But, the thing is, after all that they’ve destroyed, what’s left for us that follow?”
He then slowly, as if in slow motion, lifted both of his hands and placed them in front of him. And then he slowly rotated his palms upward and says with a perplexed expression on his face, ” . . . There’s . . . there’s . . . nothing. What am I supposed to do? I don’t know. Most of my generation, at least a lot of the friends I know, have been brought up in single parent homes. We don’t even know what a father is . . . I’ve never seen one. At least, I don’t think I have. We . . . we have no idea what a father is . . . except maybe from movies. I mean, what exactly does a father . . . or even a husband . . . do? Do they even have a function? I don’t know! No ones every told me . . . or us, no less shown us. This is what pisses me off about our parents. They came up with all these fancy reasons and excuses to justify all that they did but they don’t seem to realize that they destroyed it all for us. . . and they didn’t even give a thought of the consequences. Yeah, like a bunch of selfish people . . . and that’s exactly what my parents and their generation are: selfish people. That saying . . . ‘It’s all about me’ . . . yeah, that says it all. Tell me about it . . . no, no one needs to tell me. And look at us. Look at us! We have nothing as a result of what they did. Yet, they don’t seem to care about us. They don’t care what they gave us . . . or how little they gave us. There are times when it seems we are all stupid. Not just us, but our parents, and maybe their parents. We seem so . . . stupid nowadays.”
He spoke in such a desperate way, almost as if he were on the verge of tears. I couldn’t help but look at him in a caring way. I could tell he was hurt by all this.
“Isn’t it weird?”, he begins again. “Aren’t we supposed to be in the age of knowledge or something? We know all this crap about everything. We can build all these fantastic electrical gadgets. We can build huge skyscrapers and massive ships. We’ve mapped the genetic code . . . but, yet . . . we don’t know crap about US. Who the hell knows anything about US anymore? Certainly, not my parents generation. It just seems to me that without knowing about US, first and foremost, then all that other knowledge and crap is useless. And that’s where we are.”
Suddenly he sits up and looks out of the bus window and says, “Oh, there’s my stop!” I stand up as he quickly gathers his stuff up. As he squeezes past me he says, “Good conversation. I hope I didn’t bother you with my complaining.”
“No, don’t think that. I enjoyed our talk. We’ll see ya”, I replied, as I watched him lug his backpack onto his back and walk out the bus door.
Good conversation? Yes, I agree, but he did all the talking. I felt such compassion for him. I hoped to see him again but he seemed to disappear into oblivion. I never saw him again. I must admit that, there’s hardly a week that passes by that I do not reflect on what he said. I know that there’s truth in what he said. I know it! I can’t help but think that it’s true . . . what have we turned ourselves into? . . .
(This story was actually inspired by actual statements I heard from a guy in his early 20’s some time ago. He did, in fact, mention some of the things I wrote above. He mentioned how little their parents left them and how, because his generation is brought up in a single parent home, no one knows what a father is. The reference to the competition between mom and dad, of the war of who the ‘breadwinner’ is in the family, comes from a statement I heard from a teenage boy about 5 or 10 years ago. I also added some stuff to it as well, based on my observation and feelings about whats going on.
I think that it is true, that the previous generations are leaving very little in the way of identity and relationships to the following generations. That’s the premis of this story. The previous generations has done great effort to destroy and undermine naturally appearing and human patterns of behaviour which has been with us since the beginning of time. They have done great effort to destroy the male and female identity, to destroy authority, to destroy and undermine social hierarchy, to destroy and undermine the purpose and need for relationships, and set the stage for conflict between the sexes. This, in a way, is the legacy they left for the following generations. They put great effort to achieve this too, almost like it was some sort of a cause! I, myself, watched it happen. To this day, I still can’t believe it. Its one of the things that put the American character in great doubt and why I have a poor view of Americans. What kind of people do that?
But, despite all their explanations and logic, which sounds so convincing and ‘official’, all they did is create a condition where the following generations will have little, if anything, to work with. In effect, they have guaranteed that the following generations will be ‘poor’ of identity and relationships. It’s a unique form of poverty, of a type that has probably never been seen before in history. It’s a poverty that will probably never be acknowladged either. I will probably be the only one. We must remember . . . Mr. American will explain it off. He’s good at it.
After the example they set, how can you have a healthy identity and healthy relationships? Looking at the younger generations, you can see their dilemma. The male is a ‘nothing’, with no value anymore. A lot of the females spends their time trying to be a boy or being conceited. Relationships and marriages are a joke. This society, in my opinion, has become ‘screwy’.
To set the stage for all this I made it so the first paragraph referred to the themes of this story. The reference to it being ‘nippy’ and that he’s glad he brought a jacket is like saying, “it doesn’t seem to be a problem but it is”. It’s a reference to how this problem isn’t looked at seriously, but yet its there. This theme would be repeated later when he says that “everyone talks about it but . . . no one talks about it”. It’s a reference of how we sort of are in denial of this problem.
The reference to his stomach grumbling, and thinking about what he wants to eat, refers to how this whole theme revolves around a ‘hunger’ in us that remains unsatisified. A hunger of knowing who we are and having a healthy relationship. In fact, the kids whole frustration that he expresses in this story is nothing but a reference to this ‘hunger’. And this ‘hunger’ is really nothing but the ‘poverty’ they are now in, of having no firm identity or a firm pattern of relationships, which was created by the former generations.
We speak of passing things onto the younger generations. We speak of leaving them a world to live in. But this is usually only taken from the material aspect, of the environment, of the earth. Hardly ever do I hear people speak of leaving the younger generations HUMAN things, of leaving them a culture, a belief system, an identity, a role, and relationships worth having. Is it not our responsibility to give them that? Are not the current generations failing in this responsibility? The current generations seem like they are hacking all this to death. Sure, save the world, but what about our humanity?)
Copyright by Mike Michelsen