Boredom and Fairy Tales

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Boredom and Fairy Tales

Submitted: October 25, 2011

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Submitted: October 25, 2011




by Janis Ordonez

I must have smoked at least 20 cigarettes in the last hour. One after another, they pop into my mouth like candy, enticing and bright and shoved right under my nose, mocking my self-control. But a resigned Spirit, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, whispers indifferently, "What else is there to do?"

It is a small town after all. I've spent a good portion of my life memorizing its dusty, rock-laden roads, its quaint little shops, its dark-skinned inhabitants, and the cliffs hovering boastfully over its outskirts. I can tell you that if you look long enough, the marble cliffs will turn sharp shades of grey after it rains, like that of a drenched watercolor painting with its monochromatic colors running down in jagged streaks; I can tell you that sand flies, those hideous, dot-sized monsters that feed on your blood until you're sleepless with agonizing itch, populate the beaches that townspeople generally don't, so that an unassuming visitor would serve as their occassional lucky feast (so beware); or that the town locals would rather spend their hours gossiping about another town local, another innocent victim of boredom in the hot, lazy afternoons.

I've had more than my rightful share of the natural wonders that surround this place and transfix the eye with their God-kissed beauty; emerald-green waters and limestone caves in marble cliffs are only the beginning. And I've had more than my share of the victimizing tongues of man (sometimes, I do admit, I was a participant to this in my most restless and uneventful hours). So better to shut the eyes from the dullness of too much beauty beheld, and close the mouth so that it can't go astray, save for inhaling and exhaling the delectable smoke of tobacco to at least bring one into an illusory world of "Having Something To Do." This is my way.

Urban dwellers would perhaps gasp in horror at the bitter complaints we rural dwellers pose about boredom; they, who have no time in a day to ponder on the whole reason for existence because they have jobs to attend to, mountains of bills to pay, laundry to take to the cleaners, and kids to rear, whose lives are just as busy as theirs. But the urban dwellers don't fool me.

I once lived in the big city too. I held a job that ate up more hours in a day than I could show with all ten fingers. Traffic was part of this dire situation, of course. And when I got home, I had dinner to prepare, dishes to wash after, and a child to send to bed, ceremoniously, as children would have it. Weekends were just as packed with activities: chores, errands, groceries, and family gatherings. And I would end each day as exhausted as the last, and as listless and dispirited for the next. In the whirlwind of activities, I was also keenly aware of the unacknowledged and brutal fact that I, like most other urban dwellers, am unconsciously filling my hours in hopes of outrunning that Beast that menacingly shadows every human being's life: Boredom.

The only difference between urban dwellers and rural dwellers is that the former has a vast array of choices in the city, with which to drown himself in meaninglessly. This, of course, he would never admit to. Self-importance, though a figment of the starved imagination, is at least the fuel that keeps a person from plummeting off a building to his own death. But if I may say so, the tactics of urban dwellers with which to busy themselves each day are a degree less destructive than the musings that bored rural dwellers have in mind.

As I've said before, my town is a nest of natural wonders. Because of this, many tourists from many different countries come to experience the place. And because getting to the town requires a long, gruelling trip on rough roads, most tourists who come are backpackers, in search of adventure. One of the common sub-themes of adventure is to sleep with a stranger from a strange land - a fantasy we've all entertained at one point, either with denial in the form of disgust, or with unabashed self-indulgence, or something in between. As such, the locals find in the backpacker's thirst for adventure, the daily opportunity for a challenge in courting non-committal sex.

I was witness to this local game when I walked into my favorite bar hangout later than usual one night, to find a number of male friends sitting on the balcony overlooking the beach - a good location for spotting potential females - waiting like hawks for their next prey. When one of them had spotted two single females walking over to one of the customer tables on the beach, he called to his comrades, "Let's sit down there", a signal to the others that potential mates have been found. They quickly scrambled to the table next to the girls', eventually managing to invite the girls to join them at the new table. And the battle was on for which of these men the girls would choose for her Don Juan.

At times, fist fights would errupt between the locals over, for example: a tourist that Local #1 had called "shotgun" on, for Local #2's information, so that Local #1 could court the tourist to bed without the threat of rivalry from Local #2, which agreement Local #2 had breached by sleeping with that tourist anyway.

The results of these sexual conquests, more often than not, were: (1) infidelity (the local married man was able to sleep with a traveler without having to worry that the traveler would be hovering around for long like smoke to fire, threatening the man's marriage), and (2) betrayal among peers (the locals' brotherhood pacts regarding sexual conquests were often broken by none other than themselves, in the face of an alluring opportunity for sex with a traveller).

The female locals had their own agendas as well: they would give themselves to every tourist who walked into a bar and who so much as batted his eye in the direction of their insistent, sugary smiles, and often scantily-clad bodies - pre-ordained tactics of the more ambitious female for snagging a mate. The goal is to find a male of that wealthy Western world who would possibly fall head-over-feet for them and whisk them away to the Western castle filled with gold, Gucci bags, and all kinds of novelties that the rural dweller of the Third World can only wish for in her bolder fantasies. The result is a gossip-ridden girl, stripped of womanly dignity and branded a 'tourist hunter'or 'whore', with no Prince Charming to whisk her away to her Castle in the Sky. But she is insistent; the Cinderella story still sells well here. The reality that the female local successfully denies is that it's about as easy to find a permanent partner in the adventurous come-and-go backpacker as it is to win the lottery twice in a year.

Nevertheless, these are the hushed sports that hold the attention of many participants in my town. Running under the currents of a peaceful village with simple farmers, fishermen and shopkeepers, industrious housewives, and carefree children playing in the shores, is the yearning to be saved from the unbearable monotony of our lives.

I would sometimes find myself drinking with a local female friend who would rave about the mind-blowing sex she'd had the night before with a John, a Peter, or a Bob, who had already left for his next country of destination; and in the later hours, when drunkenness had overcome her, throw her hands in the air and cry in anguish, "Why can't I find a man who will feed me well and give me a beautiful blonde-haired child, and love me for the rest of my days?!". I, a divorcee who had just recently reclaimed my freedom from a doomed marriage, have no advice to offer. Should I break her dreams of happily-ever-after with Prince Charming, even before they'd come within her arm's reach? And even if I said that pain could glue itself to commitment just as much as it did loneliness, would she believe me? No. It's best to keep quiet about these things. Allow people to dream their dreams; to get as far away as they can get from the mundane present; to have their dreams shattered by the painful breaking of their own illusion; and then to sit again with Boredom, contemplating how next to outrun this Beast. Isn't it the game we all indulge in, after all?

We hide behind the bushes of our own devices, hoping that Boredom won't find us there. But Boredom is a cunning enemy. It shadows our every move, because that's exactly what it has made itself to be: our own shadow. It allows us the temporary elation of having outrun it when we have found a new "bush" to hide in. But when we look behind us, it is right there, where it always was. And we are left with the sinking feeling that Boredom is, and always will be our shadow. That perhaps it's best to resign our Spirit to this unconquerable enemy. So we finally say our last good-bye's to dying Spirit, as we bury It deep into the Earth where hopefully, our pain of losing it won't have to be remembered. Out of sight, out of mind. And we stick to our bushes, day-in and day-out, with the quiet defeat of Boredom's presence in our lives.

But the intelligent mind begs an answer: "Isn't Spirit, by definition, the Hope that keeps us marching forward, no matter how dire our situation? If Hope is Hope, then how can it allow itself to die? Surely it would keep hoping: hoping for something better, hoping to keep moving...hoping to stay alive... Something must be missing here..." We turn the question over and over in our minds.

Then, as if in one instant - just when we think we have buried all its bones - Spirit, that thing inside of us that Boredom has seemed to destroy, suddenly awakens from all this questioning. The thing is, It has simply been in slumber, waiting patiently for its turn; and Its wings are ready for flight once again at the first signs of the inquiring mind. "How could this be? Has Spirit not just died?! When did these wings get here??" we ask in awe and renewed zeal. But the truth that we won't acknowledge is that we do know how it all works: We labor under Boredom's torturous disguise, in order to reawaken Spirit, waiting for that hour when we can fly off again with the latter. We know that it takes a good deal of hanging around with Boredom before we can say, "Enough. I can do better than this." The truth we don't speak in order to keep the game going is that without Boredom, Spirit cannot exercise its mission to become known to us; to boast of its beauty, outstretched wings and all; to take us by the hand and lead us to yet another destination that we haven't seen, so that we can be utterly grateful for Its magnificent presence.

The game we really play is about the hero who rises valiantly out of the ashes of his (albeit, self-imposed) destruction to reclaim his mighty sword. It is the fairytale story we never outgrow.

So I smoke Boredom in and out of my lungs with the tobacco stick in my hand; the townspeople gamble It with playing cards and sexual conquest; and the urban dwellers drown It in careers and shopping sprees.

Then tomorrow, if enough cigarette smoke has infiltered my aching lungs, I just might move on to the next greener pasture.

© Copyright 2018 Janis Ordonez. All rights reserved.

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