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Drowning in Conformity

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Drowning in Conformity

Scott MacPherson

A person can hold their breath for three minutes before they pass out. I sat there in class thinking about my parents and their divorce. Six times I had moved and six times I had been in this situation. There I am, sitting in class, knowing no one, thinking back to being six and walking around the zoo with my parents. The penguins were sliding and swimming and diving and cuddling and playing and sleeping and dreaming and living. Stuck inside their bubble of glass and faux ice. They never knew anything but the fish that were fed to them six times a day and the six hundred people who would come to stare through their world and steal their freedom and privacy with their watchful gazes. There was no sympathy in a world like this. No freedom. “Excuse me, that’s my pencil.” Her words broke through the smoke of my dream sequence. Every time it was the same. I looked down at the chewed stub of a borrowed pencil and felt my face burn with embarrassment. I wished I could be trapped in a world of comfort, to never know anything, to wear my tuxedo with no formal occasion. No need to dress up, yet comfortable in my absolute conformity. I wished I could be the same. I never wanted to have to feel or hope or expect something better. I wanted complacency. I wanted to tell my parents that I didn’t care about them and didn’t care what they did. But I did. I cared more than anyone could. I hoped and dreamed and wished that they could pull their heads out of their anger and see the life they had built together. But they wouldn’t. Anger blinds us. The same old same old of everyday life makes us wish for something (someone) better. It doesn’t matter if it truly needs to change, but in our minds we see the life we live in and want something different. The penguins live their lives in their glass palace with their too-formal costumes and pretend they are living the best life they can. I can’t be like them. I know too much. I feel too much. I am not content. I want freedom. My three minutes were up. With a gasp, I let all the carbon dioxide escape my mouth and felt my burning lungs fill with oxygen.