We used to have milkshakes like we were Marie Antoinette. Not in such silly clothing and we didn’t face the guillotine afterwards. But we were careless, as she always seemed to be, of what a privilege it was to have them. We drank them quickly. We didn’t savor them. We wasted occasions away like they were any time in other day in any other place. Like they were common. Which they used to be.
We never thought about all those trivial and inconsequential things that used to differentiate the hours of our days from the other. Having a coffee with a friend, sitting three abreast on a park bench sharing a cigarette, going to a smoky bar at 2am because why the hell not. These kinds of minor luxuries don’t seem so much when our lives are packed with them.
It sometimes seems like it takes not having things anymore to give them significance. If you think about that fact for a minute, you’ll realize that it’s both the height of banality and a bit of a puzzler. ‘You don’t really know what you’ve got until it’s gone’. Sure, yeah, rattles right of the tongue. But how can it be that your significant somethings only have their significance it when they’re no part of what you’re doing or how you’re living.
The answer is that it’s the often the absence of things, not their presence, that makes things seem worthwhile. Since with worthwhile things, to seem is to be. We’re incapable of recognizing how much various things mean to us until we see what a hole their absence leaves in our lives. Most of the time anyways. A startling thing to realize
As a million songs built their success on, we’ve nearly all experienced that with an ex, even if we described it differently. Nearly all of us have. Those who haven’t, we salute you. And because it’s so common, we don’t think much about it. It’s not really such a big deal after you’ve done it once or twice (Actually, it is a huge deal, we just pretend it isn’t in the age-equivalent of being too cool for school. No one wants to hear about your transient sadness after 30.)
What’s more interesting now is how much like an ex-lover tiny luxuries used to be. I never realized how much of my way of being was wrapped up into my handshakes or hugs until I couldn’t deliver them anymore. It wasn’t clear to me that I’d nearly break down in tears over seeing photos of me hosting a barbecue or going to the beach with more than one other person.
Like an ex-lover, they can make you sick for thinking of them. I don’t even want to contemplate what I want to do first when we can return (or not!) to the lives we used to have. On my birthday a few weeks ago, a friend texted that he wished we could go for a dance. It put me in a mood for the rest of the night and half the next morning. Though to be fair, those times were continuous since why go to bed when there’s nothing to wake up for.
It spills over into the dating world as well. What used to be a standard routine on dating apps – chat for a while, connect, meet for a drink, fuck perhaps or not or maybe just realize you’d be great mates – has been stymied by our inability to morally meet. Conversations stretch over weeks and months and we divulge far more than we ever normally would to people who might remain complete strangers. Worse, we plan what we’ll do if and when we meet, before slinking back to bed in a heap of mashed up frustration.
I hope that when it is over that we can reflect on how much yesterday’s banalities actually do mean to us. But I suspect we won’t. Unlike Marie Antoinette, we’ll be given a chance to change and we’ll blow it. We always do. It’s just too easy to forget how important things were when they’re common again. As we do with our new lovers, letting the past and the pain of the breakup fade (though never letting the damage it did completely go away.) This period will haunt us for the rest of our lives, I suspect, but we’ll go right back to ignoring just how special it is to be able to physically interact with so many others in the world.
This should depress me more than it does. Like minor luxuries themselves, it’s been too commonplace a fact for me to think it’s much more than the human condition, writ small. I wonder if I’ll appreciate this quirk of human psychology if it’s ever gone, just like I appreciate right now so much that wasn’t apparent to me before. I hope I do, but again, I suspect I won’t. I’m as predictable as anyone else and I barely remember half the people I once thought I couldn’t go on without. But I hope I do.
Because right now those things appear to me to have so much value that I’d do nearly anything for them. What I would give now for a quick and fancy drink at my local. What I’d give to share drugs with a stranger. Or to have a chat with a random stranger in the subway where we didn’t stand a hockey stick apart. Even to kiss someone after a dance at a club. What I’d give for a milkshake.
by Jack Woods