How Much is Enough?

by on December 12th, 2010
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Enough is enough, he found himself wondering as he walked in a daze down the long corridor that stretched from his bedroom, past his office and then his wife’s, and then another bedroom reserved for guests. The walls that lined the corridor were covered with a mural: one side a mountain range scene at mid day with the white sun high in the sky, the other a starlit night scene of a placid lake that reflected the sky and the full moon above.

He trudged down the hallway, still reviving his body from the deep sleep he had just woken abruptly from, passing evenly dispersed pictures of him and his wife at various events and vacation spots they had been to over their past twenty years of marriage. From the amount of pictures one could deduce that they had been almost everywhere.

The tile floor beneath his feet was an elaborate mosaic that resembled ocean waves, which seemed to carry him toward the stairs, which stood in the middle of the hall. He drifted past the back balcony, past the bannister, stopping at the top of the stairwell. A flicker of light down the other end of the corridor caught the corner of his eye and brought his bleary eyed gaze up to see what it was. Then he thought he saw someone he hadn’t recognized, a figure he swore was grinning at him. He blinked his eyes hard and opened his eyes wide in an attempt to clear his vision and crosscheck what he thought he saw. At second glance he realized that the man was just an image of himself in the mirror that spanned the height of the far wall.

At that moment he stood looking at himself, a dark figure silhouetted by the single lamp that lit the top of the stairwell in the upstairs lobby. He began to feel like a stranger in his own body. Rather than continue his way down stairs to get a drink and some medicine to help put him back to sleep, he turned around and walked apprehensively to the rear balcony door, deciding instead to get some fresh air. The door slowly creaked open revealing the vast expanse of twilight framed by the glassy lake that was immediately in front of him and the black, forest-covered hills behind it.

Gazing upward in awe, he thought of his childhood and realized that his childhood was the last time that he really took the time to appreciate the wondrous spectacle. The picturesque seen was humbling and he felt himself becoming estranged even more while the butterflies swirling about in his stomach developed a tornado tearing up everything in its path. Feeling light-headed he decided to take a seat on the nearest lounge. Closing his eyes, he breathed a couple deep sighs of relief as he leaned back and put his feet up.

Staring skyward, he found himself trying to remember what it was that had stirred him from his sleep. The dream he was having had slipped away from his conscious mind as quickly as he had from his unconscious sleep. Still, there was a lingering sense that the dream he was having was some kind of nightmarish reality, or lack thereof, without any substance.

He decided that he wouldn’t dwell on it any further. Closing his eyes, he again took a couple of deep breaths of the fresh spring air. He could smell life all about him. The remainder of his senses sharpened and he began to pick up on the subtleties of spring: the gentle breeze pulsated through the trees and across his face tickling his nose, the leaves dancing while they rustled with its passing. Even with his eyes closed, it was as if he could see what he heard, smelled and felt unfolding all about him.

Small white lights sparkled on the blank black canvas of his closed eyelids. Shapes of light came and went, materializing out of nothing. Faces floated across his empty field of view, faces he didn’t recognize. Then, all of a sudden, the images stopped and he returned to the black landscape until moments later the sparks of light began to appear once more, less white than they were brighter shades of black. They appeared like the snow on a analog TV screen that wasn’t tuned in to a channel.

He laid there for some time observing the peculiar nature of the oscillating particles, how long he wasn’t sure. Time had seemed to be absent from his calculus. Concerns about what was and will be seemed to slip away into the blackness while the entirety of his focus remained on these fascinating, dancing orbs of light: thousands of them, maybe millions. The longer he watched them playfully bouncing all round him randomly, intermingling with each other, the more there were amassing.

The joy they seemed to move with brought a gleeful smile cracking across his face. That same joy seemed to fill his entire body, emanating from his chest outward through his limbs. He felt as though his body began to float upward. Amused at first, he then became curious as to what the source of this force was and he quickly became very frightened. Opening his eyes he found that he was looking down upon his manor: the sole property on the east side of the lake. He drifted higher and higher, as if something was pulling him upwards.

Wondering what was pulling him, he began to wonder why he was being pulled and to where. Fear poured from his wandering mind and he began to struggle, flailing about in an effort to break free from the force that seemed to encompass his entire being. Finally, the force gave way and he found himself falling to the ground, relieved to be returning to his familiar home. He became frightened as he fell closer to the ground.

At the moment he collided back to the lounge, he awoke, abruptly sitting up to find himself laying in his bedroom next to his wife. He couldn’t help but feel confused. It was the most lucid dream he had ever experienced, and he was conflicted about how to feel that it was a dream. He thought he should be happy because he was alive: the ultimate desire of daily human life – sustaining it. However, he had never felt as happy as he had felt in his dream and he was disappointed to find that he had reached such a state only in his mind. Maybe it wasn’t happiness that he had felt, he thought, maybe it was the fulfillment the dream instilled.

He sat in his bed contemplating what transpired in his dream for hours until the sun rose and the blinds began their timed ascent. Soon his wife began to stir. Stretching her arms wide, she slowly sat up leaning forward for a moment, then swinging her legs to the side of the bed and hoisting herself off the bed onto her feet. She strolled around the end of the bed, tilting her head to scratch the top of her head with the least amount of effort as possible. Doing so she noticed his eyes were open staring at the ceiling.

After greeting him with a good morning kiss, she flung the covers off of him and encouraged him to start getting ready for the eventful day full of shopping and entertainment they had planned to do sitting in bed the previous night, before they went to sleep. They had to get ready to meet some friends for a seven-thirty tee-time at their local golf course, after which they had to stop by his wife’s parents’ house for a quick lunch before setting off to accomplish the shopping they factored in their agenda. They had planned to pick up the new drapes they had custom-made a couple weeks back to accompany the new spring season. They had also planned to go shopping for some new attire to wear for the skiing trip they decided to go on for a week in Austria with some of their friends from the club, the flight for which they had to catch at six that evening. That meant that they had to be back at their house by two in the afternoon, packed and leaving their house by three, and arriving at the airport between four and four-thirty – giving them enough time to account for any unexpected delays.

He found himself almost lost in all that they had to do. They had meticulously planned every minute of their busy day, which was how it had always been: very little spontaneity and relaxing, and even less thinking; just planning. Nevertheless, he brushed off his intuitive introspective fancy as mere distraction and began his morning matutinal rituals, and in a flash he was locking the front door and driving out the front gate with his wife in the passenger seat, scarfing down a granola bar while fixing his hair in the rear-view mirror.

The golf outing had proved to be very entertaining for him, driving around with one of his good friends, cracking jokes and taking jabs at each others’ golf game – spurring on the friendly competition they had established with a small wager of a couple hundred dollars. Both of their wives seemed to be equally enjoying themselves.

Following the conclusion of their golf round, they had driven quickly down the road to his in-laws’ house for lunch, which lasted only minutes before they were out the door and driving into the city to pick up the drapes and get some shopping done before they had to get back to pack. His wife’s parents stood outside the front door waving goodbye, wishing them a safe flight as they backed out the driveway.

The drive to the shopping mall, where they were going to get some items for their trip and pick up their drapes, proceeded in a similar fashion. The drive seemed to be filled with recalculating the time they had left over and what they could do in the remainder. Worried that they might not have enough time to visit all of the stores they wanted to visit, he decided to have the GPS recalculate a more direct route that might save them a couple minutes. His venture was a success. The voice of the GPS, speaking to him through his car’s speakers, directed them down some side streets that stretched through a low-income, residential neighborhood. The one-story, ranch styled houses were dilapidated and all throughout the neighborhood there was little more than 10 square feet of uninterrupted landscape on which the children could play.

Driving down the street in their brand new luxury sedan brought attention from the older youth who watched as their car rolled down the street – a rare site for those that lived there. He and his wife became frightened that they might get robbed, or worse. Mistaking their curious and admirable glances for menacing and envious glares, they were quick to make sure the car doors were locked and brought their speed up slightly faster, slowing down only for stop signs, for which they made only rolling stops.

As they sped through the course the GPS had outlined for them, they encountered a group of young kids playing in the street, none more than 7 years of age. As they approached they worried that they might have to come to a complete stop, but the kids payed heed to the oncoming car and moved their game temporarily to the side of the street, continuing to play while they passed.

He heard his wife utter some disconcerting comment about their plight, followed by a small offering of pity, before she began to make suggestions about this year’s new ski’s from which they cold choose, but he paid her no attention. As they passed the kids, he was transfixed by their gleeful faces perfectly content with their activity at hand. While the kids were aware of the car passing by them, they paid it no attention as they continued their game uninterrupted across the front yards. He became envious and had pity for himself while still taking delight at watching them play, until the simple bliss the kids enjoyed seemed to pour over him.

He tried to shrug the matter off after the GPS interrupted his train of thought, ordering him to take the next left on the road which would lead them to the mall, but a brief excerpt from the dream he had the previous night began to formulate in his mind. Try as he might to put the rest of it together, he could only recall that small bit.

His attempt to recall the rest of the dream was cut short by their arrival at their destination. While the appearance of the kids had come and gone, they changed something in him, and it was more than a knotting of his stomach that he was feeling. He felt as though he had been given a new perspective. What perspective that was, he was yet to decide.

When they pulled up, what was typically a routine attempt to park appeared to him as a scene out of a science fiction horror story. Along the outside of the sea of parked cars, which populated the center of the structure, hordes of people scurried along the walk way past the various stores in a hurry to get to the store that had their desired item. Flocks of teenage girls paraded up and down the walk, decorated in the latest garb, gawking at and gabbing about the various items they passed in a sport like manner. Long lines of people protruded out the doors of some of the stores, budging every ten or fifteen minutes. Arguments intermittently erupted among those waiting in line.

The parking lot was even worse. Cars were on the prowl, speeding up and down the access ways of the lot, combing for any sign that a spot had opened up. They had complete disregard for the possibility that a stray child, or anyone for that matter, could appear out behind any one of the numerous obstructions. The cars would only slow if they were stalking someone that appeared to possibly be finished shopping and returning to their cars, roaring off in a huff if they found different.

While he cautiously made his way throughout the parking lot looking for a spot spot to park, somewhat irate over what was unfolding all about him, his wife would spy a spot on the neighboring lane and urge him to go faster to try and get it before someone else. Periodically, on their search for a spot, they would come across two cars whose drivers were laying on their horns, hollering out their windows, locked nose in front of one spot. Sometimes the cars had crashed together in an effort to steal the sought after spot. Other times there were accidents from people speeding along the parking lanes to try and get a spot and then, unable to stop in time, colliding into a car backing out from an obstruction. Sometimes the drivers in contest for a single spot would be out of their cars in a verbal altercation, which might then escalate into a physical conflict, as it did on one occasion.

A spot finally opened up right in front of him and he was relieved to be able to park, safely behind the row of cars. Throwing off her seat-belt, his wife exited the car, relieved to be getting on with the trip, muttering under her breath a snide comment about how long it took for them to park. Her comment was followed by a threatening promise of some repercussion should they not be able to visit all the stores they had planned.

While his wife was already steaming off to the primary destination, he remained buckled in his seat, hands wet still gripping the steering wheel, staring straight ahead into nothing. He couldn’t help but feel detached. The events that unfolded on his ride over seemed to break through a subconscious dam he had developed a long time ago, which had prevented him from coming to the realizations he was having then.

It had always been easy for him to think so that he didn’t have to think, feel so he didn’t have to feel. Looking in the rear-view mirror at himself, just like the thousands of times he had before, he didn’t recognize the person staring back at him. He found himself thinking about all the time that had passed, all the places he had been and people he had seen, all the things he had done, but still he couldn’t decide who he was; what his purpose was. As long as he could remember, people were always telling him that he was on the fast track, only he didn’t recognize how fast that track was. He was able to sum up his life in an instant and, still, he was unable to discern any sense of meaning. Something was missing, he was beginning to realize, and he had spent his entire life trying to satisfy his yearning to be complete by filling an immaterial hole with material items, looking for immaterial substance in a material world, or by simply neglecting the hole altogether: keeping himself occupied with passing fancies .

There had to be more to life, he thought to himself: more than just regenerating life and sustaining its fleeting, remedial existence; more than just merely living the right, as prescribed by others. What that is he had yet deciphered, but he became determined to realize what that “more” was for himself, because inside he could sense that it was there and everywhere, knocking at the inner most recesses of his being.

His wife, realizing that she had left without him following, returned to the car, opened the door and asked if he was coming with her. He told her that he wasn’t, that they had enough, and that they needed to talk.

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