Downsizing

I gathered my thoughts this morning for an emergency meeting. Times being what they are, I had decided to let some of them go.

First on the chopping block was my most elegant thread: the one that included the image I’d seen long ago in a Time-Life book, the one illustrated by a series of apes gradually learning to stand upright and walk heel to toe while carrying weapons and perfectly feathered haircuts. Along with them went the music to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and a whole set of preconceived notions about propriety among the nations based in mutual ancestry and a desire to keep walking forward, haircuts ever changing as necessary. I knew this would mean a savings on stylists, with only a modicum of increased health costs to cover a greater number of scraped knuckles. I felt a little twinge as I took in their beloved faces as they heard the news, a Neanderthal hooting softly in the background, “Not again.” (I did think, for a moment, about the diversity angle and the potential for litigation, but then I realized that even the lemurs here were destined to be white men according to the picture, and I let that particular fear go.)

Next to go were a small division that I’d always cherished but had to admit hadn’t performed well in recent years: the Wealth Fantasies. The ideas of the house in the country, the good if not flashy car, the ability to travel at will and whim…all had to go. I knew they’d land on their feet somewhere else, so I felt that the discomfort in this particular discussion was most likely stronger on my end than on theirs.

When it came down to core functions like memory and morality, lessons learned and such, I decided that I wouldn’t make wholesale cuts. Too hard to remove the interlinking of them all with each other, I decided. Instead, I offered a buyout/early retirement plan to them, allowing them to leave on their own in the natural order of time. Based on current rates of attrition, I could save big over the next few years by simply not making new memories, by reducing my exposure to new things. Big savings.

I came to the hardest part now: all the small, complex contradictions I’d held about life had to go. In a downsizing, you have to really focus on your core strengths, and while I’m capable of all sorts of esoterica in a given day, over time I’m likely to find them a burden more than anything else. So I released them: the surrealist images, the facts others called “trivia” that I called “general knowledge,” the ease in recalling facts such as how to spell “Ouagadougou” and the British pronunciation of “lieutenant.” I let go the idea that social justice and fair economic policies were somehow linked, and the conviction that everything was possible was fired unceremoniously when it reacted strongly to my saying that it had been chosen for downsizing at all. There is no place for changes of heart or second guessing these days — and I let them go too.

Chosen to remain were faith in the eventual triumph of true love, buckling down, and focusing on the big picture. The belief in God stayed because it was so ingrained in the charter that I couldn’t conceive of moving forward without it, but I decided it would be reassigned in the near future, perhaps given a strictly honorary post in an outlying locality.

After the announcements, all the thoughts sat there for a minute longer than was necessary (buckling down found this annoying) before shuffling off through the far door toward the exit.

That afternoon, I sat on the porch with a glass of lemonade. I had no desire to weep, but I had a heaviness in me that I knew would pass but there was no sense of when that might be. Still, I could not imagine a better time to be alive than now, in the immediate present, a fat man short of breath, staring at the autumn sky, while the thoughts I’d just dismissed picketed on the crumbling sidewalk in front of the rundown building.

Tomorrow, I told myself; I’ll have to do something about this tomorrow if they’re still out there.

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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