When I was a little boy, I recall imagining the magical, amazing world that would unlock to me upon maturing to adulthood. When I reached the age of adulthood, I imagined that the depths of my depravity would know no bounds. I would eat ice cream and pizza for every meal, sit at whatever proximity to the television suited my mood at the moment and aggressively buy out every toy aisle in every grocery store in the city. Obviously my capacity for understanding depravity has matured in the intervening years, but unfortunately so has my capacity for self restraint.
I admit that there is still some deep element in my soul that secretly longs to absolutely lose a single day in service to the lost desires of my nine-year-old self. To wake in the morning, watch cartoons for a few hours, rush to the store and buy a quorum of action figures to wage some massive imaginary war across a backyard landscape and then indulge in a Happy Meal for dinner as I stay up way past my bedtime playing video games.
The tragic truth is that even were I to budget both time and dollars to this goal, I would likely get up in the morning, recall some pressing piece of adulthood business that needed to be done and lose myself watching afternoon SportsCenter while I checked work e-mails. I am Sean’s murdered and disemboweled inner child.
My wife leaves me every so often. Not in any permanent or legally binding way, mind you, she simply packs herself and the kids into the flying cylindrical torture chambers offered by major airlines, and flies off to see her parents on the gulf coast. On many of these occasions, my schedule simply can not accommodate this kind of jet-setter gallivanting, and so I am left alone in my house with free control of the television and dining choices.
Now, it is important here that I be delicate about my feelings on this kind of event, as marital harmony and limb preservation are important agenda items that I feel strongly about. So, allow me to put it this way -- when my wife and children leave it extends to me opportunities in my daily life that are not normally available, such as walking through the door on a Monday afternoon with a six pack Coronas under one arm and a rented copy of Halo: Reach under the other.
In the days leading up to my family’s departure, somehow I slouch through the despairing ennui of knowing that I will be without the constant, often boisterous companionship of this family that I treasure, I somehow keep strong my spirit with the imaginings of how many video games will be played, how much football will be watched, how much sitting on the couch will be done and how much junk food loaded with saturated fats and sodium overload will be consumed. Somehow I drown my sorrows of loneliness in the transient pleasures of the digital and digestable.
Yet, when those fateful days finally arrived, my opportunity to engage in marathon gaming sessions punctuated only by long draws from long neck bottles, my enthusiasm for actually living this bachelor’s life evaporates. Even as I sit there pondering the strangeness of it, I live my few days alone pretty much the same way that I live every other day. Oh, there is some video game playing, but mostly just an hour here or there until some other task bubbles to prominence in my desire queue, and I go otherwise about the business of ordinary life.
Just as had been the case as a small child, the life I lived in my head was far more dramatic than the actual. And, the thing is, that within only a few hours I really did miss that havoc that man may only know in the presence of toddlers and eager children. Even as I watched hours of television without once having to herd bodies out of my line of sight or field desperate requests for milk, snacks, playtime, ponies or further clarification on the deconstruction of Newtonian physics within the event horizon of Galactic Center Black Holes, I missed it.
The secret, the terrible truth that I hate to even admit and write, is that the late night hour or so of gaming I wedge into the density of my life is made all the better because it is so hard earned. Fortunately within just a few months I will lose the maps through all the neural pathways that connect the dots to this epiphany, and I will get to learn it all over again.