I am caught in between, in some place between my life and the lack thereof for the nameless masses. I myself am free, free in my own spiritual beliefs, free of racism and sexism, free of bad movies, mindless TV and the whirl or shapes, sounds, and colors that is modern advertising. I am free of the need to get more stuff, free of the need to waste money on clothes that no one really looks at anyway, free of the need to force my beliefs on others, free of the mindset that the ultimate goal of marriage is children.

Of all these things I am free, and yet they still surround me like a putrid puddle of water in a parking lot, sludge lapping at my ankles.

Can't get away

I stand in the wide halls, alone in a sea of unhumanity that flows past me unaware of what I think I see. Music blaring, pounding on my inner walls that I've erected to keep it out. Chatter of the others around me merges into an indecipherable hum that never lessens in intensity, pushing at me, threatening to sweep me away if it can ever breech the walls.
And the smells - nauseating combinations of grease and potpourri and the too-strong perfume of a dozen others in my vicinity, thick in my nostrils, choking. I cough, closing my eyes, trying to shut out the sight of milling people -too many- clutching their shopping bags, wishing I could sink into the stone floor like some wraith and leave this place.

I am here not of my own volition - a single store that my new mother-in-law wants to take me to, to see the 'things' that I like... I keep telling her to just get us gift certificates to a bookstore, but she wants to know my tastes so she can buy us more stuff - a valiant effort to get to know me, true, and it does not go unappreciated - but why now? Why go just because everyone else is? Could've done it in August.

The headache is starting now. I attempt to enter an Old Navy store with my husband to find the rest of our group. I make it about 4 steps in, and cannot go any farther. Music, sparkling things hanging from the ceiling... and the people, the masses of people holding overpriced clothes that are no different from the stuff already packing their closets, articles of clothing that they might wear once or twice... the din is incredible in here, the atmosphere seems to be physically pressing on me, bearing me out towards the door. My husband sends me out with a sympathetic glance; he understands, but has a higher tolerance than I.

The mall is finally left, the sky opening up above me, its like emerging from a hell as we leave the noise and people and money and trash and food and senseless junk that I thought no one would ever buy.

Home to the talking heads in the box, saying the same things over and over, broken records, broken brains, broken concentration and I turn the damn thing off at the first opportunity once I see that no one's looking at it anymore.

Off to another place, this time not in a mall thank the gods... grandmother-in-law starts looking for singing santas and talking fish heads, saying that they're cute... mother-in-law is now looking for a nativity set for us, even though she knows I'm not Christian... my husband is, though, so I guess I'll tell myself its for him and just stay out of the finding process.

Out of the blue I get hit with another side comment of "it's so much easier on the kids if you all are of the same religion" by the m-i-l, thought I had settled that but I guess she didn't hear me when I said "I don't care what anyone else believes, and no I don't think Jesus is divine" so many months ago... next day she picks a passion flower to show it to me, and again out of nowhere starts in on this "and these three parts of the flower are for the three persons in God, and here is the crown of thorns, and there are 12 petals for each disciple..." I don't care, okay?. Give me any religion and I'll find some naturally occurring symbology for it. I barely manage to refrain from walking away and instead just stare politely off into space, her words sliding off me like oil.

Out of one puddle of sludge and right into another... they're everywhere, unavoidable, I see my cousins drowning sometimes, pulled under by their parents, and I shudder and know that the only thing I can do is send them a Harry Potter book for Christmas and hope for the best. There is always hope for the others, the others whose voices still resonate in my head even though they are miles behind me now; but they're really not, they're all around me here, crawling across campus like a self-sustaining plague, huddling in their bottle-strewn hallways of the frat houses, killing time until the next drinking party.

I've got to get away from this place, from these people

But there's nowhere can I go that will be different, no matter how hard I try I cannot change anything, I am
caught in between

Oh! The Angst! Over a decade later, my opinions are still similar, but I just don't experience it as an almost-physical pain like I did back then. It's more like I'm okay with the fact that I can't change the entire world, but I'm also aware that I can change my small part of it, so I go do that.

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