The Sad Suburban Life Contest
“Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.” – The Smashing Pumpkins
The prizes were too good to be true. Your father calls
you to relive a terrible memory. There are rotten tomatoes
in the refrigerator. The manager at Dunkin Donuts
always gives you the day old donuts for half off
if you come in before 7am on your way to work. You chew
through stale sugar. You chew through your insomnia.
You chew through never ending traffic in your 4 door sedan
like your name is Steve and you are 36 years old– and that,
for once in your life, you’ve decided to rub the raspberry jelly
that’s fallen out of the donut further into the fabric of your car seat
rather than out. You get into it. You get really into it.
You get so into it, you push your sugared thumb so hard
into the car seat, that the fabric stretches the boundaries
of time and space. Loud noises can be heard. A burst
of light pours into your corneas. You cup your hands
around your eyes trying to grasp what is going on. A voice
comes through the speakers on your car: Awwwww yeah
Steve, way to rub that jelly in. Congratulations, you’ve won
two free iPod nanos! Click here to claim them. You get excited.
This is the best day of your life. You start pressing
all the buttons on your dashboard, but you can’t see shit.
You smash your fingers deep into what remains of the jelly donut.
You take two fingers and smear crumbs and jelly under
each eye like warpaint. You smear the jelly like this is bigger
than donuts. Bigger than the storage on two iPod nanos.
Yes, much bigger than that. Because in this universe,
you are no longer Steve. Steve is dead. And nevermind
how that happened exactly. It’s in the past now. Yes, here
in this time and place, you are someone different. Someone
with more potential and and lower cholesterol. Yes, here
you will be known as Steven. Sure you could’ve been more
creative, but change is scary and you’re not sure if you’re ready
for that. The light bends and blurs reality. It reflects
off the silver Prius in front of you. It reflects off
the semi trucks on both sides of you, boxing you in.
The jelly mixed with perpetual light has somehow
made things worse: your eyes swell beyond reason.
They swell to the size of a moderately priced, family size
pack of Chex Mix. This is not the first time you’ve been
blinded by something so beautiful. At home, the fridge
light is broken. When you open the door, you stare
into darkness. You use the flashlight app on your phone
illuminating a cascade of condiments: old jars of mayonnaise
and pickle juice, packets of soy sauce and ketchup.
You imagine that this is what you look like on the inside.
You reach as far back as you can, the cold darkness pooling
around your fingers as if searching for momentary happiness–
your mouth begging for something more substantial.
Something to cure the sadness. The voice in your car
speakers calls you back, asks you to close the refrigerator.
Tells you, this is not what you look like on the inside.
Takes hold of your steering wheel and drives you
to the nearest fast food outlet. Says, I like my Whoppers
with cheese. I like my songs in minor keys. Says, I wanna get
sad with you. Pulls into the outskirts of the parking lot,
tells you: we are all instruments of our own destruction.
Carabella Sands falls asleep to the sounds the moon makes. Find out more at: carabellasands.tumblr.com.
Paul Asta was born in South Korea. He is bookbinder and writer from the Chicago Suburbs. He currently serves as a Poetry Editor for Hobart and is one part of Frontier Slumber. Follow him on Twitter @impossipaul.