The suburbs have been much with Donald Trump. He shared an article on his Twitter feed warning that Joe Biden was trying to destroy the suburbs. He addressed himself to Suburban Housewives of America. And he tweeted — in his usual deafening, racist whistle-tone, in which he is now reaching Mariah Carey-like levels of proficiency — about rolling back fair housing policies to benefit those living the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream.”
But what, exactly, is the Suburban Lifestyle Dream?
You are mowing the lawn. You must mow the lawn. It is imperative that you mow the lawn.
“Get in,” a voice says. “We are going to have fun, and to have fun, we must get in the car.”
You look around you. It is true. There is nothing fun, only houses that look like houses that look like houses that look like nothing in particular. Every house is a copy. Was there ever one that was real?
You worry you will not recognize your copy when you return, so you chalk a purple X on your door. By the time you finish marking it, a letter of complaint from the Homeowner’s Association about it is in your mailbox. There is another letter complaining about the height of your mailbox and the height of your lawn.
You must mow the lawn. (You just mowed the lawn.)
There are two children in your house. You don’t know whose they are or how they got there. There is a dog, too, but only half the time. On average, you are content.
“Get in the car,” the voice says. “To have fun we must get into the car.”
A man is walking out of the house on the other side of the cul-de-sac to retrieve his newspaper. A man is walking out of the next house to retrieve his newspaper. A man is walking out of the next house to retrieve his newspaper. Soon it will be the man in the house directly next to yours. The men turn toward you and begin to wave, in unison.
A child is riding toward you on a bicycle. Another child is riding toward you on a bicycle. They are riding down streets toward you that have the same name but different names. Maple Road. Maple Trace. Maple Drive. Maple Crescent.
You get into the car. You listen to a podcast. You listen to another podcast and another podcast and another podcast until the voices blur together. Is there only one podcast?
You arrive at the Applebee’s. You arrive at the Ruby Tuesday. You arrive at the Olive Garden. When you are here, you are briefly family. But you are not here long.
You arrive at the Barnes & Noble. You arrive at the Costco. You arrive at the Walmart. There is not an end to the Walmart. Is this even the same floor you entered on? It must be, but you cannot see the exit. All you see is enormous cages full of rubber balls.
This is fun. You are having fun, now.
You arrive at the mall. The first level of the mall is fine. There are stores with sweaters and stores with perfumes and stores with electronics. You descend one level in the mall and all the stores are dimmer. There is a store that is having a sale of crystals. There is another store that is having a sale of dolls. There is another store that sells something sticky. You descend another level. There is a sign saying They Will Be Right Back. There is a pretzel, but it is far too big.
“Hello?” you say. The mall is empty but there is no echo. It is as though something has eaten the sound. You find the escalator but it only goes down, and you do not want to descend again.
You are in the parking garage. It is full of cars like your car. You hit the button on your key and all of the cars begin honking in unison.
The first car you try opens up. Can that be right? Your head is starting to ache. You smell casserole.
You drive around a roundabout. You drive around another roundabout. The traffic circles are supposed to be calming. They are not working.
When you return to the houses, all the doors have purple X's and letters of complaint. You do not remember which number was yours. You call out to your family, but all of the families answer in unison. Where is yours? Is it still at the Olive Garden?
You try to wake up. But you are living the Suburban Lifestyle Dream.
You get the lawn mower. You get the newspaper. You wave, down the street, at a new arrival with wild and frightened eyes.
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