This city wasn't built for me. I can feel it, as I go about my life. It opens its door for things other people want to do, but for me it brings only isolation
. I sit in my apartment, alone. I can write, I suppose, but that is very much the same thing as being alone. To each side of me are other apartments, with other people in them. What do they do about it? I don't know, I don't see them that often. They are generally a bit older than me and wrapped up in their lives. The leave their doors closed, then they leave for work, come back, close their doors, and repeat.
It is as if the building is whispering to them, telling them that its rooms are private, that one apartment belongs to a person and that they must guard theirs vigilantly. They must fill an small apartment with themselves, leaving no room for anyone else to encroach on them. Then they drive off in the evening and go to bars for that quick hit of human contact, then come back.
Maybe the building tells them to do this. Maybe it just implies it, through some trick of its structure. Or perhaps this idea comes from somewhere else, and the building is innocent. But then where does it come from, that soft voice that tells people how to live their lives? Maybe I'm just going crazy.
I am too young. That is why this city gives me nothing. It should be obvious that the city was not built by young people. It was built by people who worked long and hard to get to where they could shape this place where we all live. No sixteen-year-old ever designed a building, nor knocked one down either.
I'm lucky to have a job. Lucky to have an apartment. But now what? My luck has backed me into a dead end. I'm saving my money, and maybe someday I'll have enough to rearrange to world to my liking. More likely I'll just grow old, and the world will rearrange me to its liking. So I walk from my convenient apartment to my convenient job, and try not to think about stagnation.
What do other people do? They slip by me as I watch. They go from houses from far away to their jobs downtown, near me but not in the same neighborhood. The city, crisscrossed with roads, lets them do this, lets them drive anywhere from anywhere. I should get a car. That would certainly improve my lot in life. I could pick up Marie, and we could just drive. I could drive her home from my place late at night. She could stay longer, no need to catch the next-to-last bus out of my neighborhood. Why don't I get a car? It's a question of money, I suppose. Or maybe I know subconsciously that soon Marie will tire of this, and then what will I use the car for?
If I could design my own city, I'd... it wouldn't be like this one that's for sure. Movie theaters everywhere, for entertainment? Don't make me laugh. Have you ever looked at the people in a movie theater? Go sit at the foot of the screen and look up into the seat, see all the people sitting in rows, not moving but to eat popcorn, flickering light dancing on their foreheads. Why are they sitting there passive, in organized formation? Do they believe that they are sharing an experience with the person sitting next to them? Go see your friends, talk to them a minute, sit for and hour in the multicolored light, talk to them another minute, and then go home to your compartment. What a social animal we are.
It might be noted by the astute reader that a quality I criticize the cinema for having, that of sitting still and passively absorbing information, is shared by one of my preferred occupations, which is that of reading novels. The differences between these two leisure activities, however, are important. I read on my own time, when the inclination grabs me; I do not set up a time when I will be with friends, so that we may both stare into our books and not at each other. Even if we were to do such a thing, we would most likely sit in chairs opposite each other. Then, when we looked up from reading, we would see our companion engaged in the same activity. The mere act of sitting across from a person, whether at the dinner table, the game table, or anywhere, implies a sort of connection. Do the people in the theater have a connection to the actors they sit across from?
Dance halls, I guess. Maybe coffeeshops. Maybe I would invent some entirely new form of entertainment, and when I knocked down all the movie houses, I would replace them with that. And from there to the bars, what would I do with those? I must confess my ignorance on the matter. I look even younger than I am, so a fake ID is usually met with bemused glances. Still, I have gone enough to get the general idea of the matter. The city has allocated the drinking of alcohol to these particular compartments, and so that is where people must go, to drink, to talk, to play pool and other games.
I cannot say for certain that the city has made them do this. But why else, if drinking and talking and playing is as important as the number of bars would evidence, is it done in its own small apartment, by people who will then go sleep in their sleeping apartment, and then to work in the working apartment? The last time I was at a bar, with people from work, and having drunk enough to forget that I was far younger than all the people around me, these things seemed to make sense to me, but that sensation quickly drifted away. Now I can only watch the people hurrying to and from, and wonder if this city was really built for them.