A World of Contrasts
Let me start by saying I slept well last night. Well, I’ll be honest. I slept well but not very long, which is better than sleeping long but not very well, I guess.
I fell asleep before 11 – no disturbing late-night phone calls. I would have shut my cell phone off, but I needed the alarm clock. Oh, wait! I didn’t need the alarm clock(s). I haven’t needed them all week. Every day this week, I’ve been awakened by natural juices or whatever it is that wakes a person up. In cases where families have small children, it’s not natural juices that awaken people, it’s a four-year-old. In my case, however, there are no four-year-olds handy, so I have to rely on mechanical devices or natural juices to awaken me. This week, natural juices have been the soup du jour.
So, this morning, the natural juices began flowing at 4:35 AM. Do not ask me why. I do not know. My eyes flipped open at 4:35 and they have remained open since. As I lie here in a semi-catatonic state, I am watching several “beautiful people” bouncing around on exercise machines and smiling with freshly whitened teeth — “toning their abs” and working on a perfect body, I lie here like the corpulent non-beautiful, non-sexy, person that I am, contemplating how many people, at that very moment, are eagerly dialing phones, ordering the Max Slimmer, as they dream of the summer days ahead. Ah yes, summertime: Beautiful people clad only in the skimpiest bathing attire, objects of the oglers’ eye, exquisitely desired by members of the opposite sex. Or the same sex – after all, this is the 21st century.
These thoughts lead me through a labyrinth of mostly unconnected thoughts. The older I get, the more unconnected my thoughts become. I guess this is nature’s way of preparing for the day when my thoughts disconnect entirely, and I float around mindless in some malodorous nursing home and being attended to by a bevy of chortling young, underpaid nurses. Let’s just hope they all bought Max Slimmers. With my luck, none of them will have and they’ll be Twinkie eaters – i.e. “curvy”. I probably won’t’ care, but I’m just saying.
Anyway, the smiling Max Slimmer boys and girls are telling me I could get Max Slimmer for eight easy payments of $39.95 – but wait! If I order right now, they’ll knock off one of those payments and include a free “How to attract ….” book. Wow. Now I’m listening. These beautiful people really care about my fat, aging carcass! They want me to have six-pack abs and a sexy body. If I don’t see results in six weeks, I get my money back but I can keep the “How to attract….” book PLUS the free workout DVD with special grooming and health tips, guaranteed to make me irresistible to the opposite sex – or whatever. Guaranteed, huh? Wish they would have had this kind of guarantee when I was like say, 18 or 19. Again, my luck is not so good. Now, if they could guarantee that women would slobber all over my wrinkled, old carcass now! But…I’m dreaming. They’d just send my money back.
OK so I’m calculating… let’s see…$39.95 times seven payments. I don’t have a calculator because I don’t sleep with one. I sleep alone. I can do the math in my head, but my head is muffy with the leftover detritus of sleep; still, I’m pretty sharp. I figured for around $280 – give or take a few bucks – I could change my pathetic life. I could strut around city pools and beaches in my slinky Speedo, flashing my abs and twisting my sleek, glistening torso and watching the women drool as I glide by them.
It’s an interesting thought.
Now I’m tossed between the Max Slimmer on TV and the box of donuts I know is sitting on the kitchen table. Too late. The Max Slimmer infomercial has ended and I can’t remember the toll-free number to call. I didn’t have my credit card handy anyway.
I almost go for the donuts.
Then it occurs to me that we live in a world of such contrasts. I note this as I am looking at the screen, the same screen which just moments before was full of “beautiful people” vigorously toning their “beautiful bodies”. But now I see non-beautiful people. Men and women and little kids wandering around aimlessly through the ruins of cities and piles of rubble; the aftermath of a horrendous earthquake.
It is a tropical landscape gone sullen and somber – surreal devastation everywhere.
Some of these people are so badly injured they can barely walk. I see utter devastation all around. Haiti’s few hospitals and clinics have been destroyed. There is no electricity. There is no water. There are no beautiful people. There are only people. People crying. People cling to the only thing many have left: their family.
I watch corpses being tossed into front-loaders and thrown into the beds of pickup trucks. I see people covering their mouths and noses with handkerchiefs and towels in a desperate attempt to escape the overpowering stench of death.
I look away.
Everything these people have ever owned, which wasn’t much, they now wear on their backs. Tears stream down anguished faces. Some of them look dazed. Some of them look confused. Some of them look shocked. Some of them look stunned. Some of them look terribly injured. All of them look pathetic and scared. All of them look hopeless.
“Fifty-thousand or more may have died, hundreds of thousands injured,” the announcer says in a somber monotone. Many of the dead are buried under rubble tens of feet deep. It may be days or weeks before some of these poor people know if their loved ones are dead or dying or alive and injured.
All these poverty-stricken people, who never had much, to begin with, now find themselves with nothing at all.
I stare at the screen until my heart hurts and my eyes sting. This morning, already, I’ve seen such amazing contrasts. I’ve seen a world where there is too much and a world where there is too little. And my mind cannot reconcile the two.
I get up and I pass by the box of donuts and decide coffee is enough for me this morning.