On Being Average


You think the world is an asshole because the world doesn’t give you what you think you deserve and you think you deserve the best. You think you deserve to be loved at all times. You think you deserve an attractive mate and a healthy family who love you and whom you love back. You think you deserve true and lasting friendships and plentiful food and money. You think you deserve shelter. And why shouldn’t you deserve these things? You are breathing, after all. You do wake up every day and you take and you take and you take and you don’t give a shit and for that, you deserve the best. You are selfish, that is true, but you are by no means the most selfish person you know. And you are by no means the most giving.

It’s not that you never gave of yourself. It’s not that you never tried. It’s not that you never endured sleepless nights, worked multiple jobs, over tipped, volunteered, gave your sandwich away to a man on a street corner. You dropped change, you used your metro card for a stranger, you bought that guy coffee because he forgot his wallet. You smiled at strangers. You gave and gave, but you didn’t get what you deserved. You deserved the best and what you got was a straight line. It was nothing to speak of. What you got was a life of watching reruns on television. What you did was find new paths to distraction. And with decades of practice, you have become very good at navigating spaces alone. You have learned to move through crowds. You have defined every possible way to be solo. But this shit is getting old. It’s wearing you down.

The world is an asshole because it has given you not the best, but the good enough. The okay, that’s cool. The world has given you a pass. The world has given you a common face and a common name and a common story.

The world is an asshole because it has told you to give up. Time and time again it has told you to give up. Not by making you endure any great hardship, because in its own grotesque way that would be extraordinary. No, the world has told you to give up by making you, in all ways, average. Your loneliness is no match for the loneliness of others. Your body is neither grotesque nor sublime. Your skin is curdled, your breasts are slightly more than adequate. Your hands are showing age. Your legs have a nice shape, but veins are starting to show, everything is falling and rising to the surface.

But maybe, no definitely, YOU are the asshole. You KNOW you are the asshole and you still believe that you deserve better. You don’t just want it. You DESERVE it. You deserve to have a nice house and nice things. You deserve big windows and a mind-boggling art collection. You deserve to speak several languages. And you deserve to travel. You should have picture albums filled with your journeys. Instead, the only picture you have framed in your entire home is that of your dog, ten years dead. Long gone and while, at the time, you felt you were one of the few who knew the beauty of that particular breed of dog, now they have become the breed du jour and your affinity for them is quaint. Your fondness for them, cliché.

Your name is easily forgotten. Your work is easily forgotten. You rent your apartment. You don’t own anything of any real value. Your jewelry and clothing (you have too much of both) were mostly purchased at stores geared toward consumers a decade younger than you. You squeeze into dressing rooms and squeeze into knit dresses and imagine how a belt could make you better. Your furniture was left behind in this apartment, you didn’t choose it, you didn’t select the color or the size or even the placement, someone else arranged the room for you. If this building caught on fire, these are the possessions you would rescue: two cats, one purse, cigarettes, sweatshirt.

The reality of all this is getting heavy. The pattern of the days is getting real. It is honest and there is no hiding the details of the alarm, never changing, the pattern never changing. The sound of the key in the lock as you close the door behind you and the walk to work. You work. You walk home. You open the door and close it behind you and flip the locks and turn to your apartment, feeling so full in this space. It is the sound of the lock that makes you sick. It is the sound of the key turning. It is the sound and the motion and closing the door behind you. It is the reliability of it. It is the quiet.

Mary Hamilton is an optician and writer living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Best of the Web, The Collagist, Indiana Review, Storyglossia, Smokelong, and Wigleaf, among other fine places. In 2010 her collection, We Know What We Are, won the Rose Metal Press Short Short Fiction Chapbook Contest. Her short story collection, Kill Me Forever is forthcoming from The LitPub. More from this author →