I've been thinking about Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" recently. I saw it for the first time freshman year at Whitworth. I went because my freshman-year-crush had an extra ticket. He went because his that-year-crush was acting in it.
The first act depicts average American daily life in the early twentieth century. We watched the characters mime chores. The Stage Manager (a narrator-type role) commented on the scene. He said that it was only one in a thousand people -- or maybe one in a hundred thousand -- that ever did anything interesting in life. Everybody else only had three things happen to them: they were born, they got married, and they died.
The second act depicted two of the characters' love and marriage. The first act was so boring, and the second one looked to be no better. I would have walked out except my crush was sitting next to me, and he would have walked out except his crush was on stage getting married in 1913 rural regalia. (Hell is other people.)
The third act took place in a cemetery. The female character had died and come to join the ranks of characters sitting over their grave stones. She revisits scenes from her past, not heeding the warnings from the other dead characters, and experiences painful nostalgia.
In the last scene, after the mourners have buried my crush's crush, she says, "Good-by, good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners... Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking... and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths... and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
"Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?--every, every minute?"
That phrase has kept with me like a gong resonance -- every, every minute. The intensity of leaves sometimes gets me. I get stressed that I'm missing life: holy shit, I am not paying enough attention.
And lately I've caught myself not paying attention. I get to live with my friends, have friends next door, up the street. We have a patio. I'm growing vegetables in pots. There's coffee and beer. Books, magazines, TV shows. Bike rides. Yoga class. Pizza. And I can't quite absorb it all.
I'm stuck visiting stuff that's already happened, thinking about how I'll miss these folks when we move -- when we succumb, eventually, to the diaspora of American youth to suburbia -- and formulating unlikely future situations when I can have something like this again. I'm missing it.