If you think you know what set this off, you’re probably right.
There are rooms I don’t go into.
People live in rooms. Sometimes they step from one to another to go see other parts of the world, but they’ll always be back to their own rooms, the four walls that hide most of them from most of everything else. We wander around the world with these rooms. Sometimes the walls are permeable, and we bump into each other and for a while, we’re in the same room. Or we bump into each other and fall into the wrong room for a bit. We might back out and go home. We might stay. For a while, it might even be okay that we stay. The owner of the room might want that. They might not. Sometimes, the people can say, “Hey, get out of my room,” and that’s enough. Sometimes they can’t, maybe because they’d stepped out of the room for a moment and now they have dozens of unexpected guests. Or maybe a guest won’t take the hint and go. Or won’t leave even when asked.
Sometimes, you see somebody in their room, trying to ask all the overstaying guests to go, and you step in to help. Sometimes, you’re overwhelmed, too, so you try to combine efforts. Sometimes you get an entire complex of rooms belonging to people held up past their bedtime. They’re cranky and tired and would really like to be polite, generous hosts, but that’s just past their capacity anymore because they’re already past their limits. You’re still only asking for five minutes, but it’s not about just you anymore. Five minutes and five minutes and five minutes. Lost sleep and stressed patience and your five minutes now carries the weight of hours upon hours of imposition. They get cranky. They throw you out. They ask you not to come back.
Even though it was just five minutes.
Sometimes you look at the tired, cranky people, and you decide to help. Maybe you’re one of them, but have enough energy to chip in anyway. Maybe you just feel bad for them. So you take it on. You join the fight. They whine, and complain, backbite and get distracted by little side issues or things that don’t help or don’t really matter, but you let it go. You’re in their rooms, you’re there to help, they need your help, and, ultimately, this helps you, too. You have a later bedtime, but it’s not like you never have inconsiderate house guests from time to time. Your room is nice. It’s bound to happen. Helping them, really, it helps you, too.
Except, it doesn’t work. You work hard, you do everything right. You work harder than some of the people in the rooms, you take on the nastier jobs, and you let them slide because hey, they’re tired, you aren’t. Not yet.
You lose because the people you were trying to help didn’t do what they should have in order to win. You lose because they were so busy whining and complaining that they didn’t really ever get into the fight. You lose because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much five minutes after five minutes adds up, it’s Just Five Minutes. You lose because you weren’t ever going to win.
Now you’re tired. And you’re cranky. And you’re surrounded by tired, cranky people who still can’t get the house guests to leave, and aren’t really even trying anymore. They’re just talking about how much they’d like them to. Repeating slogans from the fight.
You pass old graffiti that says, “Support early bedtime,” and where it used to make you smile and feel like you had support, like you were getting somewhere, now you just want to tear it apart and set it on fire. What the hell were they doing, wasting time on graffiti, when they could have been helping? And why is some of it fresh, new, when it’s been a year since you lost? Don’t they understand that now you’re worn out and tired and you’ve locked your room because you don’t want to deal with anybody and it’s their fault for needing help and failing to use it?
And why is it that, here we are, a year later, and there’s no retrospective, no analysis of what went wrong where and what’s going to be done about it. No apologies. No blame. It’s like the fight didn’t happen, and the people still playing soldier are happy to move on to something else while everybody else just shrugs and says, “Oh well. Let’s bitch about five minute some more.” Or worse, they’re acting like the fight is still happening and blithely ignoring the part where THEY LOST.
Fuck your five minutes. Fuck your righteous indignation and your platitudes about this and that. Fuck your stupid early bed time and your utterly pathetic weakness about enforcing it. You could have had it better and you dropped the ball so just shut the ever loving fuck up and get the hell out of my room.
There’s another fight brewing. Different people. Different rooms. Same structure. Same pattern. Same options open to everybody. Same potential for things to get better, for people to finally get some rest, for the well-intentioned guests to learn and the malicious ones to accept their exile.
There are rooms I don’t go into.
Right now, that’s all of them.