Erica was finding it strange–Twilight Zone surreal–to be back in America. Having returned to square away certain matters regarding an inheritance she had received from her last remaining grandparent–specifically her grandma on her mother’s side–she was obliged to stay for several weeks in San Diego so as to endure the bright, suffocating red tape of California Estate Planning laws. The bureaucracy of it was enough to make one wish to never inherit anything. But then, there was no denying that Erica was strapped for cash.
She could most definitely use a replenishment so as to remain in Europe comfortably while working only a bullshit under the table job at a restaurant where the number of customers that filtered in throughout the day made her wonder how it could possibly still be in business. So yes, she was in no position to be complaining about receiving roughly $10,000 after taxes from her share of the proceeds from the sale of her grandmother’s house in Coronado.
Killing the hours that found her in the paradisiacal purgatory of California, Erica was in a vulnerable state when she accepted an invitation from an old college friend to attend a party she was having at the exact same apartment she had lived in near SDSU for the past eight years–an apartment, evidently, she felt no urgency to leave despite the entire building and neighborhood teeming with college students that could only serve as a painful reminder of being a relic. To make matters all the more macabre, Erica’s ex, Landon, whom she had trifled with for three of those four college years, was there with his girlfriend, recently ascribed with the title of “wife.” They had only just married six months ago, he informed her as the blunt was passed around.
Dear god, why had she agreed to come here? Even staring at the ceiling had to be better than this. The same people doing a more pathetic version of the same thing (for everything is made to look and feel more pathetic the older one gets). She evaded a toke at all costs, though she knew that the garden variety stoner could sometimes take offense to this, as though it was some indication you were rejecting them instead of their weed. Yet one would think they would be only too elated to maintain more of the supply for themselves. Who the fuck knows? Potheads had a certain Italian quality in that, like this nationality, they got offended at a sign of how they chose to express love and compassion being, for all intents and purposes, balked at. For that’s also how Italians reacted–affronted–whenever one tried to say no to any food offered.
Erica knew, however, that the only thing worse than being sober around these people was to be high around them. As if Erica needed the entire cartoonish nightmare to be all the more vivid and paranoia-inducing. Landon’s wife, whose name was, naturally, Ocean, tried to play nice with Erica, knowing full well that she was the proverbial “one that got away” in Landon’s eyes. So it was that she showcased habitual American stupidity with the question: “So is the nightlife like more funner in Paris?” Erica could barely find any faux response. Did Ocean honestly think she seemed like the sort of person who partook of “nightlife”? And, upon supplying some bullshit answer, Ocean had to go and keep the grating conversation going with: “What do you like most about living in Europe?”
It was then that Erica decided there was no point in not being brutally honest. “Oh, you know, you can talk about things there that would make you come across as a freak here. Like literature, philosophy, quantum theory. People are generally more erudite so you don’t have to dumb yourself down to make your conversation topic of choice palatable to a lowest common denominator.”
Not missing a beat, Ocean inquired, “What does ‘uh-roo-dyte’ mean?”
Erica wanted to strangle her. If nothing else, maybe she could choke the dumbness–a byproduct of comfortable complacency–out of her. It would be a favor to the world. The first step in whipping into shape the generally doltish population of San Diego into more alert, more incisive beings. Yet Landon was eyeing her with a forewarning expression, as though he could still read every thought swirling around in her mind. She hated that about him. It might have been part of the reason she left. She didn’t like to be known. That was just another part of Europe’s cachet: the guaranteed anonymity of being a foreigner. A forever outsider never truly at one with the rest of the culture. Even so, most any culture was preferable to the American one. Erica had made her mind up about this long ago.
The fact that Bernie Sanders was the public’s present source of “salvation” from the other spectrum of an annoying old white man was just another sign she needed to get the fuck out quickly. What was actually wrong with these people? Why couldn’t they see how hopeless they were–how hopeless it all was? The congenital jadedness of Europeans, whose blood was infused with the traumas of endless wars throughout history, was the only thing that made sense to her. Americans, despite a recent rash of disappointments (the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Kennedy’s assassination and up through the escalation of the Vietnam War) were still fucking daft enough to believe “the times they are a-changin’.” Daft enough to think that “Medicare for All” is in any way realistically implementable in a country as behemoth as the U.S.–so overflowing with broke asses one envisions to be encircling the prospect of government-subsidized health care in as frenzied a manner as sperm trying to penetrate an egg (a metaphor also filled with the same one in a million chance of success). Especially when it’s no secret that the Department of Defense won’t be having any extra funneling of their own funds into other endeavors. But the only thing really “a-changin'” in America is how at one–how second nature–idiocy and absurdity is to them.
Erica suddenly looked up at the enraged nazi-liberal California faces around her, realizing she had been ranting this entire monologue after capitulating to one inhalation. It was Landon who broke the silence with hyena-like laughter, prompting the others to cultishly join in (mimicry is just another social cue, after all). “She’s hilarious, isn’t she guys?” And while Landon might have spared her from being chased out of the party (a preferable fate), all it did was make her leave the next morning without bothering to stick around longer to do what it would take to collect her inheritance. She couldn’t stand another second in this place that both took itself so seriously and took nothing seriously at all.