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Essays

Beautifully Mundane - a homage to Nicholson Baker (author of The Mezzanine)
04/21/20

AT ALMOST FOUR O’CLOCK I wake up and instinctively make my bed, neatly tucking the blue corners inside the frames. Downstairs, a bitter black coffee, bacon, a slice of toast, and supermarket eggs—the ones adjacent to the organic grass-fed beef—are sprawled across the industrial kitchen table. I scarf down the traditional all-American breakfast, wash up, and get on the bus to school. Due to the unspoken code of conduct, seniority, I am allowed to sit in the first few rows. 1 Sitting, “bounded and segmented by stops in this tiled decompression chamber” (Baker 72), my seat neighbor seems bothered by the silence and attempts to make small talk. I politely engage in the superficial chatter that serves to be a commodity of comfort for the girl. However, I was a bit discomforted by the conversation that brought an end to my daily window-watching activity where I would count how many punch buggies that would pass by. 2 After thirty more minutes, we arrive at school. I thank the bus driver Warren, who I befriended the beginning of this year. He even offered me some of his peanut butter jelly sandwich once but I smiled at him and said, “No thanks. But would you like some of my potato chips?”

I get off the bus and am now sitting in my last class for the day. Our class of eighteen sit in rows but behind digital bluish-green screens that vary person to person. Consumerism fills the room, as some go shopping for the newest dress or jewelry while others watch tiny people pretending to look much younger than they actually are. The desks are lined up like shopping carts, since school is also a factory and business for curating intellectual individuals who will go on to create more workers and, if lucky, employers. I watch the dimly glowing smart board change screens once in a while and occasionally glance at the industrial clock to see when I can become unstuck in time. Before my next cursory glance at the clock, class is over and it's the end of the day. Thinking of how all of today will recycle tomorrow, I feel at ease as the wind breezes over me. I join the long, yellow assembly line and enter the dark, cylindrical bus that takes me home.

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1
When I was in kindergarten, I remember watching an old black & white film of a black man giving a speech about his dream to thousands of little ants gathered below him. The lights were off and the teacher had told us to pass the tea and sugar bowl around. I took one & the sugar cube went ker-plop into the warm, flowery tea. As an adult, you begin to realize how unsettling it is for children to repeat history in a way but was age discrimination really a problem? You “take in the kid-memory—and once you invoke those kid-memories, you have to live with their constant tendency to screw up your…lost of emotion” (Baker 41). Therefore, I did nothing to stop the underclassmen from sitting behind me but there were the occasional rule breakers who would go ker-plop into the seats in front of me. I didn’t mind.

2 I forgave her for this interruption. The endless chatter and forced laughter continue and I feel like an actress “playing people having real-life conversations” (Baker 78). I look out the window for a split second and I spy a punch-buggie. Smiling to myself, I feel relieved to have seen the green manufactured automobile bring cohesion to my routine once again.



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