Saturday, June 16, 2012

Latchkey nation

I’ve been getting that spooky feeling lately, of walking in the door to find that things are unusually quiet. There are signs that someone was just there—soiled coffee cups on the table, still-smoking cigarette butts crushed out in the ashtray—but your hollered hellos go unanswered. You pick up the phone and dial, but that seriously annoying fake-chirpy voice comes on: ‘The number you are trying to reach is currently unreachable. Please try again, or call later.’

It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Where did everyone go? Were they called away to an unspeakable emergency? What if they were kidnapped and/or killed and are currently divided up into several messy suitcases? Why didn’t they leave a note? What am I supposed to do now?

This is how the Government of India makes me feel these days: as if nobody’s home. Where are you guys? Why have you gone AWOL? It’s not that I miss you, exactly, but there’s usually some comfort in knowing you’re around, even if we’re throwing rotten tomatoes and smelly eggs at you.

As things stand I can let myself in like a good latchkey kid, I can cook a little latchkey kid meal of stir-fried onionskin and cucumber peels with a side of eggshells. I can glue my little latchkey kid butt to my desk and finish my homework, and forge your signature on it. I can watch a little latchkey kid adult television, I can make some latchkey kid crank calls, start my own little latchkey lemonade business, and even work on my quite serious science experiment and put my little latchkey kid self to sleep. I’m practiced at all this, since even when you’re around you don’t do much for me. I’ve been perfectly functional, therefore, but I still keep waiting for you to call or come home, or at least send an aunt over to check on me.

I’m beginning to suspect myself of harbouring unrealistic expectations. Maybe wilting by the phone for the calls you’re not making is just not allowing me to move on, and I need to. Maybe I need to harden myself a little. It clearly hurts me more than it hurts you, but who said life was fair? As the days and months tick by, it seems clear that I’ll have to stop expecting you. Unless, of course, there’s some very good reason why you’re absent—and if you’re willing to explain, then I’m all ears; because, really, if we can fix this thing between us, it would be the best solution. I’m aware of how few alternatives there are. Are you very busy doing secret, very important things that are saving my skin? Yeah, sorry, that doesn’t make me feel better.

I should clarify that I’m using this latchkey metaphor purely to see if I can pull an Antonio-Banderas-in-Shrek look on you. Don’t for a minute think that you’re really the boss of me. Basically, I gave you a five-year power of attorney to handle some of my most important systems, and after a spectacular run of cock-ups, you’ve decamped without a word. Who moved my big blue-turbanned cheese? What’s that excitable dude who’s supposed to keep the bank account going even doing? Is anyone going to explain why everything seems to be spinning out of control? Either show up and shape up, and promise not to behave so badly again, or let’s agree that I don’t really need to depute my affairs to you, and we can end this relationship.

I could move out and stop relying on you. But I’m more inclined to just stay right here and change the locks. Powers of attorney are revocable, you know.

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