Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Catch a Thief

When I was nineteen I got my first apartment. I had spent the year in the dorm  and when summer came I was not ready to yield my newly-won independence by returning home. I got a job and together with a friend found an apartment. We climbed the stairs to the second floor of a white house, facing a tree-lined street near the university, but its side bordering a busy commercial corridor. I,too, was similarly situated, at the crossroads between my cloistered college world and the larger world. Each day I caught a bus to my job across town at an insurance agency. I felt very grown up. Looking back, I cheer myself on across the decades, marveling at my youthful clarity as I began to shape my life.

I remember that apartment in varying degrees of vividness.  My memory begins in the worn brown chair in the living room from which I watched the Watergate hearings. That was the epicenter. Memories spill out from that point, paling as they extend their tendrils like water. To the left of the chair was the kitchen, a largely useless room to me at that time in my life, so only lightly sketched in memory. A splotch of orange, perhaps a dish towel, colors the room.  It was not until a few years later that a boyfriend would teach me how to cook. From the living room the hall extended in front of me, linking the two bedrooms and the bathroom between.  I picture a claw footed tub, uncertain if my memory is embellishing. My memory is of institutional green bedroom walls, not an inviting place, save for that first taste of freedom it afforded.

It occurs to me that it is significant that my memory begins from that chair. Watergate was the obsession of that time and my first exposure to the seaminess that politics can offer. It is the only thing I ever recall watching on that TV. We had no cable TV, no CNN, no Facebook to share our reactions, no Internet; just me in the chair and that TV. It was a simpler world, but unseemly human behavior still was what drew our attention.

Next to the chair was a bowl of nuts, my fuel for the Watergate viewing. Each morning I would find it emptied and a trail of shells nearby. One day I caught a glimpse of a bushy squirrel tail as it slipped out the window through a narrow and barely visible space next to the air conditioner. Our thief was revealed, a fitting parallel to the Watergate saga, closer than I had ever imagined. We'd been burgled.

Since that time, I have not been as engaged by political scandal; the glued to the TV, watching the swimmer, awaiting the shark variety. It’s the kind of impending doom that has ominous music playing in the background, just before the shark makes contact and blood fills the water.  

Now once again I am obsessed with the news, but this time in all its channels and Internet varieties, 24/7. I wake to the New York Times and Washington Post on my iPad and go to bed to PBS NewsHour. Even our entertainment is marinated in politics and serves to reassure us that we are not alone.  The highlights in our household are watching Stephen Colbert’s monologue and Saturday Night Live.There is no escape. My husband is similarly obsessed, perhaps even more so. While I am grateful that our view of the world aligns, it adds to an inability to escape this perpetual news cycle. It is a bit like trying to cut out sweets and having your husband bring home a box of chocolates. Even if I momentarily choose to tune politics out,  I am gradually lured by the drone of that nearby TV, beckoning me to hear what new horrors await. I feel as if my home has been invaded by something far more nefarious than my one time bushy-tailed burglar. This thief has taken our peace of mind, and our trust in many of our neighbors, our government and our country.

So many of us are united in our abhorrence  for what is unfolding. We can hear the ominous soundtrack and await the denouement of this horror show, praying that it comes before too much damage is incurred.

No comments:

Post a Comment