My story is presented more in a short story format as I got a little too into it while writing it. I feel the story represents the idea well enough to lend itself to a film adaptation. Some context not explicitly stated in the story I’d like to go over to turn this into a more comprehensive treatment is as such. The story is most definitely taking place in fairly present day in a purposefully non-descript moderately sized city in the United States. The collection of characters briefly described is a small group of adults in their mid to late twenties of various backgrounds. Most likely a group of friends brought together through school, past jobs and mutual acquaintances. The important part of their relationships with each other is that they don’t build their friendship off of the usual exchange of life experiences and quality time spent together but rather the draw of common interest in a select few activities. The point that in “real life” they wouldn’t all get along, due to clashing ideologies and personalities, is paramount. They get together solely for the purpose of enacting these ritualistic practices, engaging in versions of the same debates, watching iterations of the same bad movie, falling into their own tropes.
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It may not be a basement, per se, but it might as well be. I think it is technically a sunroom but we haven't allowed the sun in since I can remember. This group, our group, is about what you would expect. Or maybe not. I don't even know what the cliché is anymore. We go to our respective jobs, interacting within normal social parameters until we get to come here. In any other circumstance we probably wouldn't be able to stand each other. Conflicting political, social, spiritual ideologies but in this space those things are beyond secondary. I feel like people try to define and distinguish nerds and geeks and the losers of our kind but it doesn't matter. We share the obsessive compulsive devotion to these things and feed off of each other. The worst thing would be to try and explain it to someone else. I don't know how to justify the continual and monumental waste of time that occurs when we get together. I'm not going to defend it either. But I'm here again. In the dark sun room with the same people about to have the same conversations. But not the painful elevator small talk co-worker babel that I can often feel sucking the life force out of me when I get cornered in the break room or get stuck with an overly chatty cashier. These discussions may be repetitive but they are the only ones that make me feel alive. The ones that make me feel close to another human being. I'm not that distant of a person, I don't have overarching social problems. This is just where it is comfortable.
And as I settle into the same couch divot that I do every Friday night I am overwhelmed with conflicting feelings of relief and dread. I know exactly what is going to happen but I almost look forward to it. Juan and Victorian gave me a causal glance of recognition when I first came through the door but it isn't until I assume my readied stance do they actually talk to me. Nothing of note is exchanged as we know we'd just have to fill anyone else in as they arrived. Headlights reflect through the room as a car pulls into the drive.
"TJ" I mutter before Victorian even has the moment to ask who is next to the ritualistic party. His car has a very distinctive whine every time he pulls up. That or I am just hyper observant or painfully optimistic. But it is him. He lingers outside, finishing his cigarette, before he finally comes in. We are never overly excited to see each other. There is no surprise of relief. We all know we are going to be here. Again we kill time with work updates and family matters. These are the real life topics we don't mind missing if we're late. An occurrence that always happens to Brendon and Rena. Last to arrive but always the ones to kick things off. They always arrive together, as they are never apart. They aren't married but even if they were it would fall short of describing their relationship. Co-dependant sounds so condescending. I wouldn't consider it necessarily a bad thing. But then again I have adapted to quite the opposite. Now that we've all assembled Brendon places his hand firmly on the table and asks "Well what first?"
The night spirals out into match ups of card games and video game tournaments. When our cognitive processes no longer allow us to make intelligible decisions we collect around the couch and begin the arduous process of browsing Netflix. Between our collective viewing history, TJ's aversion to subtitles and Brendon's downright refusal of half of the content for looking lame it regularly takes us a full theatrical run time to come to a decision. Through the course of whatever awful B-movie we ended up on this time Victorian leaves, Rena and Brendon fall asleep on the couch and I have a full internal meltdown.
- - -
It didn’t come all at once. This has had to have been brewing in the recesses of my compulsive behavior for a long time. I just can’t understand why now. It was just another stupid movie. I fail to remember the details, the plot, any character of note. I’m just overcome with resentment. Why isn’t this my life? The simplicity of what Hollywood lets us know the future will hold. Sure halfway through the movie everything goes to hell and the robots take control and we all die but before that. The establishment of the utopia. I am suddenly grappling with the meekness of what we have been presented.
The walk home is excruciating. Nothing fills my mind but the failure of the human race. We can’t solve any of our own problems. Have we really matured that far beyond the days of caves and fire? We can’t cure anything, people die by the hundreds of thousands from the same diseases. Cancer mocks us for the primitive beings we are. We don’t know our own world so how could we possibly earn the right to explore others?
There was a time, there around the sixties maybe, where this seemed possible. We had suddenly breached our own atmosphere and actually touched the infiniteness of space. If we just could continue down that path. If science wouldn’t keep telling us that warp speed impossible, life in zero gravity impractical and food replicators improbable. The sting of the night air doesn’t even faze me until now. I’m several blocks off course as I have been far too in my own head. The familiar glow of a convince store brings me in and gives me a moment to breathe.
A pack of cigarettes and a cardboard cup of stale coffee later my heart rate has returned to normal. Again outside I peel the cellophane off the box. It sticks to my fingers for a moment before being carried off to roll with the other sidewalk refuse. I lean back onto the cold glass storefront as I light a cigarette. The first draw reminds me why I don’t regularly smoke but the second reminds me why I always come back. The inhale gives me a moment of peace. I extend my arm out to watch the smoke curl off the tip when the noise shatters my calm. That sound bring back everything I just repressed, everything I was coming to terms with. But there it is, the automatic sliding door of the convenience store, mocking me. This is the extent of the progress we’ve made. It isn’t even one with a motion sensor. It has the God damn pressure sensor in the pad on the ground. This isn’t what I asked for. I’ll argue all day against flying cars but where are the sleek jumpsuits of the future? The solving of food shortages and outbreaks of whatever. I’m not even sure what I’m mad about anymore but I know I’m not letting it go.
- - -
The whole point of the progression is that after all these years of watching what the future should have become we are stuck realizing that we haven’t come that far. The model homes of the future dreamt up in the fifties never happened. What people thought the year 2000 would look like falls so very short. We are still plagued with many of the same systemic problems society has dealt with. My idea for the progression of the story leads down the proverbial rabbit hole when you stop accepting the status quo. Not in the revolutionary sense, just from the angle of a frustrated nerd who has consumed too much media promising something so much better. The automatic coffee maker, the self-check out at the grocery store, automated customer service. This won’t be tolerated any longer and the mental breakdown that brings this along is subtle and obsessive.