Our Roaring Twenties

We sat on the roof of a friend’s house and slowly sank deeper into our beer bottles and glasses of SoCo, believing this was the way to anyone’s adulthood. I suppose we imagined ourselves to be a couple of apathetic hipsters suffering the trials of the twenties, with no direction for the near future but with big plans and grand ideas for twenty years down the line. What we were missing was the bridge to get us moving down the road, yet no one seemed too concerned with that detail as we floated on air between now and later. It’s as if we were immune to failure; immune to the possibility of goals being lofty and unreachable. They had instead become our mile markers. You were lost if you had no direction and no final destination; you were simply a youth and a victim of the stagnant economy if you had that destination in mind but no route (yet) to reach it. It didn’t matter what came in between now and that end point—we’d all get there eventually.

Some of the kids were still in school, just finishing up their last semester of senior year. Others worked in kitschy city diners that stayed open until 3a.m.; their friends, hungry and hungover, making up the majority of their clientele that late into the night. Others worked on art pieces, worked in offices, and applied to any job willing to hire them.

I had work the next day at 7 a.m.—the usual for a Saturday morning. When I first arrived at the party, my goal time to be out by was 11:00. Get home by 12:10, 12:20 at the latest, get 5 ½ hours of sleep, and be jolted awake by my alarm. That’s how I operated, on an hour-to-hour basis; a hereditary curse I carried with me. As 10:30 slowly approached, 11:30 started to sound like a better time to be out by. I convinced myself that five hours of sleep was still alright. I’d still be able to function. And there we had it: little direction or discipline but with a clear view of the end result and the fact that I’d get there eventually.

I grabbed myself another drink and settled down on the wooden floor while admiring the orange glow of the city skyline.

“You still working at Fox?” a girl asked.

“Yeah,” I responded with a small laugh, what I hoped added a hint of neutrality to the tone.

“That sucks,” she said, with a look of sadness and regret on her face.

“That place sucks. “You should find another job. Have you thought about leaving?”

“Anywhere I go will be pretty much the same. It’s 24-hour news. That’s just how it is, ya know?”

“Yeaahh,” she said with the same, I understand, you poor girl, you, look on her face.

I was pissed—annoyed that I felt the need to defend a job I no longer enjoyed doing, as if it made me a better person—a greater adult. I turned away and smiled at someone else as I took a long drink from the bottle. We all seemed to somehow and subconsciously operate by speaking the fragmented truth to each other.

Yeah, my schedule did suck and yeah, I was disenchanted with my job—with my life. But hey, it’s the curse of the 20’s. It’s the curse of our generation. It’s the curse of the economy. Yet despite our cursed circumstances, we were alright as long as we gathered on Friday and Saturday nights—glitzy heels, dirty converses, bare feet; all the girls made up for the pictures that would inevitably be taken.

We gathered because we needed fun; because we needed others like ourselves as reassurances that we were not alone in our perpetual state of limbo. We had become a generation of silent braggers and public sufferers. Martyrdom was all the rage in the city, and we slowly yet eagerly sipped from the communal bottle because we needed to believe we’d be rewarded for it in the near future. I took the biggest gulp before passing along the bottle, hardly any self-sacrifice left for the poor bastard next to me.

I checked the time—11:00 p.m. I ended up deciding on an extra 30 minutes. One more drink and I’d be gone. The deeper I fell into my bottle, the more I began to realize that what were once very clear and distinguishable conversations on the roof had begun to blend into static noise—a buzz that grew louder and more hollow whenever a breeze came blowing through. One level below, inside the house, the music grew louder and gave the rooftop deck a slow and steady pulse. Somewhere below us came a crash followed by loud laughter.

The deck continued to thump as the house quickly shape shifted into a body with the rooftop deck as its heart. I had a flashback to a Woody Allen movie scene, one of disorganized chaos and talented youths; their freedom and aimlessness clotted and congested in a ball of energy that reverberated between the walls of the bars and the houses they spent their time in. Eventually that energy reverberated throughout the decades.

I wondered if these were the characters we’d eventually morph into, if we hadn’t already. Would we eventually become the pillars that would support the next decade or the decade after that? I looked at the group on the roof and at the paired off couples in the dark corners and I didn’t think we were capable of that responsibility or honor. Not at this time. After all, we weren’t partaking in mind-bending conversations, the kinds that become the cornerstones of future opinions and actions. We were on this roof to fuck around in our best party attire and to occasionally delve into slurred political conversation that would grow louder as more empty bottles rolled across the table.

I looked around the group, loving everyone that danced their dance around a wide and empty cul-de-sac.

“No offense, N.!” I suddenly heard from across the rooftop.

“I missed it, what?”

“Talking about the news and the lame stories we saw on Fox.” He laughed. “But we like you! By the way, when are you going to find another job?”

“When someplace is willing to hire me.”

I stood up on my wedged heels with my empty bottle in hand. I placed it on the table with all of the other empty ones. Jade greens, browns, and coppers; in the dim light they almost looked like instruments waiting to be played.

Most everyone was sitting as I made my rounds of good-byes. The music jammed louder than before. I felt the floor shake a little as I stood in my heels above the city; an instrument myself, like an antenna shooting towards the sky giving off signals for an S.O.S.


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