A Warm and Blue Day in Our Nation of Nations
My name is Jim Haskin, and it’s my job to make you You. Not the small you, the lowercase, the intractable you, not the first you, the true you, not the you of unbiased judgment; not the you who will help your elderly neighbor rake leaves in autumn and shovel come winter and water come summer, and pick up their paper, and take to them supper, not you the dissenter, not the you of love unconditional; not you the good parent, not you the free tutor, not you who will talk for as long as you want with the store clerk, the teller, the waitress; not the you who still knows how to cook, how to bake, not the you who can change their own tire; not the you who can name your sky’s constellations; not the you who has given up soda; not the you who picks trash up from off of the street and repairs it to some place more proper; not you the hand-holder, not you the weigher of options; not the you who turns shirts that are stained, ripped or wrecked into rags for the floor of the bathroom; not the you who can sew on a button; not the you who can sit very still on a couch or a bench or a seat of a bus, turning a library book’s pages; not the you who keeps taped to the door of the fridge the number for your state representative; not you the scribe, not you the philomath, not you the sesquipedalian; not the you who still looks at the afternoon light of a Sunday with the bare grace of wonder; not you who is staid, not you the succor, not the you of no mistress or ex-mistress or mistress-to-be; not the you who writes letters, those small noisome things; not the you who can do their own taxes; not the you who is happy to walk down the street because you know your city and you know your neighbors, and know too the names of the trees that you pass, and know also the names of the birds on their branches, and what types of clouds are right now overhead, and what days of what months mark the passing of seasons, and tells drivers at nighttimes to turn on their lights, and stops well before crossing pedestrians, and sleeps soundly and dreams and knows when to indulge and does possess inner resources, and does not think, as the poet once said, that life, friends, is boring; not the you of the mind like a trap made for bears; not the you of no party alignment; not the you who has placed, per federal law, a five-year moratorium on firm offers of credit, and has also stopped getting thick mailers of coupons, and removed your name from catalog lists, and does not own a cell phone or mp3 player, and does not have in their closet a near-lake of shoes, and more ties than they know what to do with; not you the aplomb, not you the fomenter; not the you who dispels the contumely, the flouters, and does curse but rarely and spends within range; not you the roisterer of viral malaise, who is not too ashamed to let loose in ways healthy; not the you who thinks twice; not the you who checks labels; not the you who cleans up; not the you who stays after; not the you who calms down before violent action and thereby avoids both regret and shame (I need you to have those: hit harder, hit often); not the you who can find on a map the Black Sea, not the you who can find on a map Costa Rica, and also the Balkans and Burma, Peru, and can locate yourself amongst all this terrain – remain who you are and what you want to be in the face of subversion, in the face of debasement; not the you who tries daily to do what they can; not the you who staves off, not the you of the well-balanced diet; not the you who attends monthly community meetings, who knows when they are, at what hour they meet, and where they are held, and just how to get there, and which topics, on that night, might be discussed, and demands to know why, and always wants better, and raises their hand and puts thought into words, and lets not their thoughts be usurped by the language of others; not the you who is critical; not the you who is patient; not the you who is even and open and public; not the you who dislikes but supports nonetheless, not the you of the complex position; not the you who is happy with what you possess, not the you who is happy not possessing; not the you who lets the other person go first; not you the observer, not you the fact-checker, not the you who keeps at it in the face of complaint; not you the supplicant; not you the line striker; not the you who packs out all the things they brought in; not the you of greased elbows and dutiful ethic; not the you who pulls over on the side of the highway to wait for the tow truck with some total stranger, only to watch them beg off and say help’s on the way but thank you, thank you for stopping; not you of the scales, not you of the fulcrum; not you the big tipper, of present unearned, not the you of guerrilla altruism; not the you who is charming by being yourself; not the you who is loyal; not the you who stands guard; not the you who could but won’t do it; not the you of no diamonds, no makeup for face, no shots for smooth skin, no breast augmentation, no pills for erection, no treatment for baldness, no pump for your penis, no contact lenses that alter the iris, no dye for your hair, no ink on your skin, no piercings thrust through some soft bit of flesh, no three-inch wedges that blow out your ankles, no silk pocket square to make your suit pop; not the you of good thoughts; not the you of no watch; not the you who embraces the holidays of foreign religions; not the you unconcerned with what others may think; not you the uncertain; not you the imperfect; not the you of deep breaths nor the you of cloth diapers; not the you who is humble, not the you undeserving; not the you who keeps track; not the you who leads through example; not the you who is kind, not the you who is lucid; not the you that deep down you have truly always been.
Fuck that you; it gets me nothing.
The You I make is brand-name. The You I make is primetime. The You that I make is a status update. The You that I make is a wireless router. The You that I make is Your favorite shape. The You that I make is Your favorite color. The You that I make cannot have enough. The You that I make covets and covets. The You that I make is a five-star review. The You that I make hates all of Your music. The You that I make wants to eat healthy but won’t. The You that I make fears their spouse, loathes their marriage. The You that I make sees a shrink twice a week: this world is so awful, what could have made it? The You that I make has more house than You need. The You that I make buys books You don’t finish. The You that I make prefers magazines, their short blocks of text next to pretty, pretty pictures. The You that I make distrusts the valet, and parks in an alley, and is mugged after dinner, and in turn succumbs to racist ideology that I did not make but brought out from in You – think of Michelangelo, the sculpture there always, in Your slab of marble. The You that I make likes shopping online: the malls are too full of the wrong type of people. The You that I make has not been on a bus since the last day of grade school. The You that I make is a driver. The You that I make hates the bus, that long beast, so sure of its tonnage that it blocks Your lane while helping out others that I have helped make, but these others not You, these castoffs are scourge, and their Mongol ways are both base and invasive. The You that I make is proud of Yourself when You drive by the bus and flip off its driver. The You that I make is somewhat overweight. The You that I make puts strain on your organs. The You that I make, without morning caffeine, would implode while both weeping and screaming. The You that I make, when you pass by a bum on the street, is sure they’re a drug addict, because You’re a drug addict, but don’t view Yourself as an addict of drugs, and therefore despise the addicted. The You that I make likes to pout like a child when the You that I make doesn’t get what You want. The You that I make is sure You’re being watched, and the You that I make’s right to think so. My You is a truckler. My You hoards time. My You is fop and subaltern. The You that I make comes in five different flavors. The You that I make loved the season finale. The You that I make owns the boxed set that like You has been digitally remastered. The You that I make weeps out-of-control when the commercial comes on for pets sick, lame and orphaned, but when they show the number that allows You to help, You dry Your eyes and then change the channel. The You that I make hasn’t voted for years. The You that I make owns five dozen sweaters. The You that I make is not worth full words, and will BRB, and is LYAO. The You that I make, no matter what You make, is not making enough, keeps getting passed over. The You that I make has kids that need shots; the You that I make has kids that need braces, and cleats for athletics, and tutors for Spanish, and the right kind of friends and a primary role in this year’s Winter Holiday Pageant, and needs also decals for the back of the car, each family member represented as sticker, stick-figured, one single column of crudely done drawings, all holding hands: please see how happy, please see how united. Please believe what You see and leave us alone and let us drive back to our four-bedroom home of quiet dysfunction. To the You that I make. To the self that I crush. To belief that’s put out like a pan that’s caught fire. To loud pipes of lead. To poor water pressure. To sex toys and end tables and espresso makers. To a thing made of things that must be replaced with other things that are faster and sleeker and splendid, as the You that I make is the new You, the now You, the You who is scared, the You who is perfect, the You who will chew what You’ve been told to eat, the You of true greed, the You of acts violent, the You who feels small, the You who feels slighted, the You of divorce, the You of depression, the You of a narcissism so expansive and base that it functions as both sea and anchor; the You who hates men; the You who hates women; the You who will turn on the TV without thinking; the You of cards made for credit and debit; the You of the mortgage and 401K and portfolio that You’re slowly growing; the You of the website; the You of the pantsuit; but above all the You Who Buys Items, because when You Buy Items You are strong, and You are well, and when You Buy Items You’re like everyone else but You are also very much better, and when You Buy Items You buy Yourself time, and when You Buy Items You show that You’re trying, and when You Buy Items it’s just not Your fault, and when You Buy Items You’re lord and not vassal, Your house now a castle, Your lawns not just land now but kingdom, and when You Buy Items Your flag flies on its pole, and when You Buy Items You own drawbridge and moat, and when You Buy Items You have both sword and armor, as out there are dragons and bugbear and demons, mythical threats with claws on their feet, and great and wide wings, and mouths that breathe fire, and You’ll perish quickly if You’re not prepared, and away goes Your jester and away goes Your mutton, but when You Buy Items Your walls are much thicker, Your escutcheon known, Your allegiance unquestioned.
And when You Buy Items you are a warm and blue day in our Nation of nations.
Charles McLeod is the author of a novel, American Weather, and a collection of stories, National Treasures. His fiction has received a Pushcart Prize and the The Iowa Review’s Fiction Award. He lives in Texas.