We were, even then, an odd pairing. The ne’er do well with so much potential and the tightly-wound budding intellectual. Both angsting in our own ways; echoing secrets down the mysterious corridors of our inexplicable loyalty. You desired my approval and I, to be your object of desire.
We’ve played this way for over a decade; a long, slow game of tag. And suddenly it’s different now. We’re different now. You are different. The potential I felt, first before anything and anyone, has begun to slay shadows (and still: hearts). It stirs within me something new. Indescribable. Something that runs deeper than loyalty. Not binding, but melding. You are my first…exercise of faith.
I see who you are
is no longer convenient,
has paid off.
All else is heresy
I see who you aren’t
is put to bed,
than you are,
and your beloved.
All else is surrendered
I see who you are
is closing in,
For you and
your self is suspended
It’s me, not you. Who am I to question you? So what if you confuse narcissism with self-reflection and confidence with egocentrism? It’s me, not you.
Gaslight the way. When you get there, turn, and expect to see me a step behind, you’ll know that it was me, not you.
At ten past the hour, the rain was falling in sheets and dozens of flies had collected on the window screen. The metered voices of talk radio hung heavy in the air.
“If you’re not here to apologize, then why are you here?”
The refrigerator clicked twice, shuttered and began to purr.
“What I need to say is greater than an apology.”
“What could possibly be greater than apologizing for ruining my life?”
Over the past few months, I’ve heard the word dignity thrown around quite a bit. In most cases, the discussion was about poverty. On one hand, the poor needed to have or show some dignity by working harder, by “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.” And, on the other, the working poor deserve a livable wage so that they can live with dignity. In fact, because I’m finally in a job that uses and tests my education, I now have a more dignified job.
My response, sometimes vocalized, was one of confusion. Is being poor or working a job that doesn’t require a degree or a particular expertise, exclusive of dignity? According to the aforementioned paradigm, yes.
In both instances, a lack of money and capital equates to a lack of dignity. Consciously, subconsciously, and culturally, this language suggests that our bank accounts are intimately linked with how much honor and respect we are given and with which we view ourselves. Yes, living comfortably on the salary of a single, 40-hour-a-week job is a luxury everyone should be afforded, but not living such an existence doesn’t necessarily make people feel less worthy of respect. I hear stories about a middle-class that once existed in this country, a middle-class that prided itself in working hard and earning a living. As those people continue to tumble down the tax brackets, now it appears that they had only dignity in numbers of the populist kind.
It’s unfortunate (though hardly surprising) that something as subjective, personal, and unique as respect has been usurped by a symbolic practice. And until money ceases to be the token for succeeding at life, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. If even the deeply altruistic believe dignity is bestowed with cash, then even the good guys are cogs in a system that must, at the very least, be re-calibrated. Honestly, we’re all just rats the maze. But seeing the dignity in others should have nothing to do with their bank accounts. Unless, you truly believe a person can be paid their worth.