a plate for the steaks.


the three men sat on the porch, drinking beers, barbecuing meat, while the two women sat at the table, talking and not drinking, as both were pregnant. as usual, i fell somewhere in between. i don't drink, but i'd feel compelled to if i was in the company of these men. and age has nothing to do with it. i was around their age, younger than some, older than others. one woman was only twenty-one and pregnant with her third child. her two kids, sonny and stephanie, tinkered with toys in front of me. the boy revved up a small motorcycle to show me. i was trying to watch an episode from season two of this american life, but the children would not allow it. they screamed and cried and fussed over toys each claimed he/she owned. the mothers usually intervened. "play nice," one would say, while the other would plead, "please don't do that." selfishly, i wondered, would i ever really want kids? i mean, they're cute and all, but could i handle it? and i don't want to use the cliche: "i can barely take care of myself" because i know that's bullshit. i can handle myself.

every now and then, one of the boyfriends would open the sliding glass door. "could you get me a plate for the steaks?" "diana, your mom's here." what were they talking about outside? work, maybe. or else it was something like: "the worst is when she just gets really quiet. that's when you know she's pissed. i fucking hate that shit." later, my cousin would tell me that the women talked about particular cravings during pregnancy. "i have the urge to eat laundry detergent. sometimes i'll volunteer to do everyone's laundry, just so i can smell it." "i want to eat paint and sometimes wood chips."


in the episode of
this american life that i briefly caught but did not finish, an iraqi expartiate went around the united states with a booth that read: talk to an iraqi. he met an ex-marine that claimed he didn't regret all the civilians he killed and tortured. he fought for freedom and that was that. it left me feeling helpless, defeated. i looked at the children and they looked back at me. i'm supposed to make this world better for you, i thought. but i have no idea how. if i don't act, if i don't do something, by the time they reach my age, they're going to live in an unspeakably unpleasant world.

so, how is your job, the path you've chosen, making things better for yourself, for anyone? shouldn't we be asking that question everyday, or is it impossible to live in that state of perpetual questioning? while the rest of us are figuring things out, those on top continue to gain. it's so much easier when you just want money, fame, status, stability. what do those who want to do some good get? we get stuck somewhere in between, wondering what could be.

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