1. It’s 1995. Around 7 p.m. my trailer park closes down. My neighbors leave their porches and trundle into their trailers and turn on televisions. Men slowly get drunk. Women quickly get angry. Their arguments start around 8 p.m. on weekdays. On weekends everything is pushed back an hour, maybe two.
2. I enjoy sitting on my porch, smoking, staring at a flat moon. It isn’t much of a porch. Three steps and a platform, large enough for one person. My light blue Ford Taurus, always in some state of disrepair, squats on the nearby concrete slab like a constipated metal king. Beyond my car are more trailers, all with blinking windows, television sounds. I don’t own a television.
3. People in trailers are people in boxes. People on TV are people in smaller boxes. So you have people in boxes watching people in boxes.
4. Or rather I do own a television. My parents gave me an old set they were no longer using. But I never plugged it in. It sits in the corner and holds piles of books. My parents thought they were doing me a favor. They thought I might be lonely living by myself with no one to talk to and nothing to watch. I don’t know how to tell these people who watch seven television hours per night that I prefer an honest loneliness to a false company, a substantial nothing to a ghostly nothing.
5. There are two kinds of people: those who live their lives and those who live other people’s lives, often fictional people’s lives. Sitting on my porch, I know which is more popular. I see it in every window, trailer after trailer, tombstone after tombstone.
6. My parents, ever helpful, buy me a cat for someone to talk to. My cat loves to squeeze her lanky body into the smallest box possible. She’ll pull down the flaps to completely immerse herself in box darkness. I purchased her expensive toys and there is a whole trailer to explore and I put her on a leash and let her sit on my porch with me, but she prefers burrowing into an empty Corn Flakes box and hisses when I try to coax her out.
7. Televisions have gotten bigger. Our smaller boxes are growing, electronic malignant tumors, trying to take over our bigger boxes. Last month I saw a neighbor struggle to fit his new set through his trailer door. This slumped man and his withered son needed to twist and turn everywhere to wiggle their box inside. You should have seen their joy when they finished. No one has seen them since.
8. Someday, perhaps, we will live inside our televisions. Gone will be trailer parks; we will live in television parks. We will enter our televisions after work and greet our smart-mouthed spouses. Everything we say will be followed by a laugh track. Or we will need to stab zombies in the head until morning. Then we will leave our television parks and drive to office cubicles to catch up on what happened to those unfortunate folks in China, who’ve once again had their television hours rationed.
9. Already richer people own home computers. I call and ask to meet. They cannot. They are immersed. They say I don’t understand. Computers aren’t televisions. They engage the world. Real people exist on the other end of this box. Soon all boxes will be connected and it won’t be like being in a box and won’t that be great?
10. Well, won’t it?
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