Birthright

“Joel, I can’t stress this enough, you need to reconsider this decision before it’s too late.” Richard Collins said.

“Dad, it’s what I want to do. It’s not like I just woke up this morning and suddenly decided to change everything. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and nothing else makes sense to me. It’s the life I want, it’s who I truly want to be.” Joel said.

“To be a cook, you’re giving up on college to become a cook? What kind of life is that Joel? It’s certainly not the kind of life that a Collins is destined for. Jesus Christ, your great grandfather was on the Supreme Court! Your grandfather was on the Supreme Court of the State of New York. And, although I chose a slightly different path, I still went to the same law school they did. I doubt I’d be where I am today with Goldman, if I hadn’t chosen to follow in their footsteps.”

“I get all that Dad, but it’s just not what interests me. I have no desire to be a lawyer, or a judge, or a politician like Uncle Robert. Going to a top notch culinary school isn’t like I’m some kind of university dropout who’s heading off to vocational school. I’ve been to three interviews, and a pretty tough skills evaluation – all of which I passed with flying colors. That means they see something in me that they want to have at their school.” Joel said.

“Sure they do Joel, they see the Collins name and know there’s a cash-cow to milk. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound as harsh as it did, I know you have a lot of terrific qualities son, and maybe that’s why this is such a difficult discussion for me. I don’t want to see you waste those talents making dinner for a room full of strangers.” Richard said, calming his tone.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not a money thing Dad, they’ve got dozens of students who come from wealthy families. The people I’ve already met there seem to have a lot of integrity, and I doubt they would be just winking me in because they’re after another tuition.”

“I’m trying to think of a way to put this that you understand; that you’ll possibly see from my point of view. You’re in a very privileged group of people Joel, and I don’t just mean our family or friends. I mean you’re in the upper half of a percent of American wealthy families. We’re the people who helped build this country into what it is today. As I was getting to earlier, we’re the lawyers, the judges, and the lawmakers that help keep America in good shape. In a way, we’re the backbone of the American system, whether it’s in business, politics or finance. We set the course, we influence the political system, and we discourage the usurpers who want to change that.

Life in this country is pretty damn good Joel, and that didn’t happen by accident. It takes committed men and woman who know what parts they need to play. You’re part of a very special group of people, but it’s also a group who has a set of responsibilities laid out before them Joel. I’m not saying that you’re predestined to one single occupation, you still have plenty of great choices son. They’re simply choices that better fit our station and responsibility. They’re the kinds of professions that contribute to the betterment of this country of ours.”

“Wow, that’s pretty dramatic Dad. Are you about to tell me about the secret society I’m going to be inducted into? Do I get to learn the special handshake so I can gain entry into their lair? I’m sorry Dad, I’m not trying to make a joke out of this, but I really doubt that one Collins son heading off to culinary school, instead of an Ivy League law school, isn’t going to radically shift the course of the country. Look, you and Mom have always told me that I should make the choices that make me happy. I’m just following that advice now, so it’s not some rebellion or acting out, it’s me doing what I truly want to.” Joel said.

“Back when your mother and I said that, we were talking about what little league sport you wanted to join, not your life’s work. Joel, you are destined to be an influencer of other men, the kind of man who others look to for their own direction. I’m not disparaging the culinary profession Joel, but it certainly isn’t what we tried to set you up for. You went to the best schools, you had the best mentors and guidance we could get for you, and that wasn’t so you could become a chef. It was because your mother and I both believed that someday you’d become the kind of man that we both knew you could be.” His father told him.

“Wow, you’re really serious about this, aren’t you? I mean, I get that it’s not what you and Mom pictured for me, but it’s exactly what I want to do. I’ll just be right up front about it, I have zero desire to be a lawyer, zero desire to be a judge or politician. Let the people who want to be those things pursue those paths, but don’t expect me to. I’m not going to spend the next four years of my life trying to be something that I already know I will hate. What kind of life is that?” Joel said.

“Now who’s being dramatic? You already know you’ll hate it, huh? Where are you hiding that crystal ball, in your back pocket? You can see into the future so well, but yet you can’t see the writing on the wall right in front of you. The gloves come off now Joel, I thought I could encourage you to reconsider, but I see that’s a lost cause now. So, I’ll get to the bottom line then, law school will be fully financed with a stipend to boot – anything else will have to be done on your own. I’m truly sorry that it has to be this way son, but take some small solace in that you’re not the first one to face this choice. My own father had to do the same thing with me, back when I couldn’t find my own ass with both hands. I chose the right path, in hindsight, I really did. I still think you have a good shot at doing the same thing, but you need to stop getting in your own way. Those high ideals about ‘doing what you feel is your true calling’ are just misleading you son. Sometime in this life we all have to do things that, at first, aren’t what we want to do. It’s that illusion of free choice, versus predestination that fools us. We all have parts to play, and this is yours, Joel – if you take it. If you don’t, well… I don’t want to have to imagine that.”

“Are you freaking serious right now? You’re just going to cut me off for having the audacity to pursue my own dreams? For not towing the family-line? And, Mom, she’s cool with this too? Wow, this really blows apart so much of what I was sure you guys had taught me while I was growing up. Well, I’ll tell you what, I don’t want to be in the ruling class Dad. I don’t want to be ‘special’ or a person others look to for guidance. Not unless it’s in a Michelin Star kitchen! If I have to work a job all day long, I’ll still take my classes at night. Sorry, but your threatening to cut me off isn’t going to stop me from doing what I know is right for me.” Joel said defiantly.

“I’m really sorry it’s come to this Joel, I truly am. I can only hope that someday you will reconsider this conversation, and realize that it wasn’t some evil plot to force you into a life you’d be unhappy in. We don’t always get our way son, and that’s okay – we adjust to what life brings us. I hope you’ll see that one day.”

“Whatever you want to think Dad, it’s cool. Although, I am really curious what it was that you gave up on to ‘do the right thing’ like your dad wanted. What did you want to do with your life, before grandpop talked you out of it? What was it?” Joel asked.

“Not that it changes anything now, but I wanted to go into the sciences, physics specifically. I was fascinated by Einstein’s theories, and Planck’s writings, and I also had a head for numbers. I’m only telling you this because I want to add that I don’t regret my choices Joel, not one bit. The world is full of great physicists, but it’s not many that get the opportunities that I’ve had since those days.” Richard said.

“Really? You really believe that investing other people’s money in the stock market has been more satisfying than possibly discovering something in physics? I just can’t see the comparison Dad, I really can’t.”

“I know you think I just massage people’s money to create more wealth for them, but it’s so much more than that Joel. We make decisions almost weekly that affect different events all over the globe. Choosing to fund, or not to fund, the different projects, governments, or individuals we deal with, changes the global landscape and balances of power. Goddamnit Joel, we’ve stopped coups, funded rebellions, and made or broke world leaders during my time at Goldman. You have no idea what we’re capable of influencing, or directly affecting. It’s not all pretty, but it’s part of what we see as our responsibility to maintaining this way of life we all enjoy. The American dream is a reality because of a system that was put in place over two hundred years ago, and it’s up to real people to keep that dream alive and well.”

“So there it is, finally laid out in its full glory. Keeping the American Dream alive! That’s a pretty lofty purpose Dad, I wish you all the best with it. Me, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with it. I guess it’s a surprise to you that I don’t actually want to keep everything just as it is. There’s so many underprivileged people in this country, marginalized and cast aside to suffer their fates, as you see them anyway. I don’t want any part of that unless it’s about helping them all get more of what they deserve. Because, I don’t think those people really are predestined to a life of poverty Dad, I think they’re in the situations they’re in because of people like you. To you, the status quo means the rich staying rich, and the poor staying poor. Let the middle class do all the work, and sprinkle them with a few toys to make them feel good, and all is well. Isn’t that the idea Dad? And when anyone, like some ambitious politician, puts his hand into the pockets of the rich, you cut that fucker off, right? No one takes from this ‘upper half of one percent’ if you can help it, I’m positive that’s a fact.

But, before you shit yourself and call me a communist, let me say one more thing; I’m not some naïve social justice warrior Dad, and I’m not a closet Socialist either. I’m just a guy who thinks that the deck has been stacked against the little-guy for far too long. All those other ‘privileged families’ you were talking about… they should take a look back at history, and learn from it. When the rich deprive everyone else for too long, bad things happen to them. Reference the French revolution if you don’t believe me. When the scales tip way too far in your direction, and for too long, people will do something to regain some balance. I know where I want to be, when and if that happens, and it’s not holed-up in my mansion on the hill somewhere.” Joel said.

The Stable Hand

Many centuries ago, in a land overseen by a benevolent Queen, lived a simple stable hand. He worked at the Royal Stables, and he was very good at his job – in fact none were ever better. He took great pride in his work, and always gave his very best. He felt that doing anything less than his best effort was cheating his employer of their money.

He wasn’t particularly handsome, or muscular, but he was quite pleasant looking to all who knew him. While he worked, he would spend his days daydreaming about what he would rather be doing. His great dream was to become the Queen’s court poet. It would be so wonderful to recite his best writings to the courtiers and the Queen. But, it was just a dream. He had no idea how he could ever get the Queen to read, or even hear one of his poems. She lived in the great palace, and he was not allowed there.

One day, after his work in the stable was done, he decided to practice his readings in front of the animals he loved so much. He liked reciting to them because they never complained or criticized his work. After one of his romantic poems, he suddenly heard a very deep voice say “That was wonderful, the Queen would love that.” He looked around in dismay, and saw that no one else was there. As he looked about, he noticed the Queen’s stallion looking straight at him. “Did you say that steed?”

“Yes, your poem was quite wonderful.” came the response. Bewildered, but believing, he asked “You said the Queen would like it… is that true?”

“Yes, I am sure of it. She loves romance and anything associated with it.” Said the steed.

“Do you think you could get her to read one?” The hand asked. “I’d love to be the court poet someday, but I do not know how I would ever get the Queen to see or hear one. But, with your help, maybe it would be possible.”

The steed considered this request for many minutes, and then answered “Why yes, I would be honored to help you. You’re an honest and true man, and the court has too few of those. The current court poet is a terrible man, and his writings make my mane crawl.”  The stable hand was beside himself with joy. Finally he had a chance to get a poem to the Queen, and to have her see his work and just possibly, achieve a dream.

He cautioned himself to not let his hopes rise too high. So many different things could go wrong, the worst of which was, what if she did not like his poem? The horse, seeing the distress on the face of the stable hand, spoke up “Don’t get too far ahead of yourself on this, everything will turn out the way it should, just give it time.”

“Really?” He asked

“Yes, I’m sure of it. Now, let’s get to choosing which poem you want to give her. It’s important we chose the right one.” The horse said calmly.

It was just the reassurance he needed. They got right to work looking through his best writings, and separating out the very best ones. Then he’d read them aloud to the horse, and await his reactions.  The horse had very good taste in poetry, so their task went quickly. When they had finally decided on the right one, it was a short, but very romantic poem – straight from his heart. The horse knew this would appeal to the Queen, who was very fond of romantic verse. The current court poet mostly wrote about great battles and hard-won victories. These bored the Queen, but he never seemed to notice that. A romantic poem was sure to catch her attention, they both thought. Then, maybe she would ask to see its author, and finally his dream might just begin.

Several days passed without the Queen summoning her steed. The stable hand was beginning to get worried that their plan might not work out. The horse reassured him that everything was fine. It was not uncommon for the Queen to be very busy, and not have time for riding. But, he knew she would be calling soon. She loved riding, the wind in her hair, the smell of the fresh country air were all elixir to her soul. They were the remedies for too much time spent in the stuff old palace.

Finally, after five long days, the call came down that the Queen wished for her mount to be readied for a ride. They were both excited, and as the hand began getting the steed ready, they finalized their plan.

“How should we give it to her?” he asked the horse.  “Do you think you can give it over to her?”

“No” The horse said, “I can’t be the one; she doesn’t know of me like you do, she believes me to be a common steed, only you know my truth.”

“But, what will we do, I can’t get near her, the guards make me leave as soon as she arrives.”

“Don’t worry my friend.” The horse said to him. “I have an idea. Fold your poem up and place it just under the front of the saddle, below the horn. Make sure it sticks out a bit, and she will surely notice it.”

The stable hand did as he was instructed, and placed the parchment exactly where the horse said to. He hoped with all his heart that she would see it, and read it. If she did just that much, he felt he had a chance. He was standing on the very edge of a dream now, no turning back. This was his chance to reach what he knew was his destiny.

As the horse was now ready, the Queen’s guards made the stable hand step out of the area and into a empty stall. He’d become used to the routine, but this time it stung him more dearly. As door to the stall was closed on him, he moved his face close to the edge of the door, checking to see if he had a view of her. He could just make out the rear of the horse, but nothing else. His heart sank a bit.

Then he heard the clomp of hooves on the stone floor, getting louder, coming his way. She didn’t usually exit the stables this direction, but today she was. Seconds later she rode past him, he could see her well through the crack in the door. She was so beautiful, up on her steed, raven black hair flowing in the soft breeze that cuts through the stable. Her bangs neatly trimmed above her eyebrows, and those deep brown eyes that held every image they saw in soft consideration. She wore a purple blouse, and black trousers, with a golden belt. She was a vision he savored like the taste of ripe summer fruit. She rode out of his sight, and now, even with his soaring heart singing to him, he still felt nervous when he let himself think about her finding the note. What would she do? What if she hated it? Worse yet, what if she missed it entirely? Oh, he knew he’d be sick if, when he was grooming the horse after her ride, he found the note still there where he’d put it.

Out in the green meadows of the countryside, she rode swift and far. She loved the wind in her hair, and the smell of the trees and grass. With a gentle prompt she urged the horse over a fence or two with majestic jumps. She was in her bliss. After some time, she knew her mount needed a rest, so she headed for a small glade. Apple trees and green grass, sun and a breeze – a perfect place to stop. As she dismounted she noticed something under the front edge of the saddle, a small parchment. She held the steed steady, and removed it carefully. Curiosity was suddenly overtaking her, and she unfolded it to see it was a poem.

It was a romantic poem, of great sensitivity and depth, honest and heartfelt to be sure. It was a true heart’s pouring, and it moved her greatly. She read it, and re-read it several times. She could not help but wonder if it was written for her, but how could that be? And who could have written it? Certainly this was not the work of the court poet, his ramblings were as dry as his humor was. He knew nothing of this level of feeling, or this idea of love. No, this was someone she did not know, but she would find out. She knew she had to, she would not be able to rest until she knew this man, until she could look into his eyes and see what was truly there.

As she reread the poem one more time, she heard a voice ask “So, do you like it?” She spun around, but no one was there. There wasn’t another soul to be seen anywhere. Was she going mad she wondered?

Just then though, she noticed her steed had taken a few steps towards her. He was looking right at her, right in to her eyes. But… Before she could think any further the horse asked again “Do you like it?” This time there was no doubt, that horse had spoken! Spoken to her, as any human would. She felt dizzy and confused suddenly. Horses just simply did not talk, yet he had. “I.. I did like it.” she said haltingly.

“I liked it very much actually. But how is it that you are asking me steed? Is this some trick, or black magic?” The horse tried to manage a smile, as best a horse could, and whinnied as a laugh. “No ma’am, no magic, just me. I could not remain silent any longer. The question was burning me up.” She approached him and still in disbelief, she continued, “Why are you so curious good steed? Was it you who wrote this poem of romance?” Another whinny escaped him, “No, certainly not. I’m just a horse, we rarely compose romantic verse. No, it was a good friend of mine who wrote that, and I just wanted to know if it pleased you.”

“Tell me steed, tell me of this friend of yours please. For now I am greatly curious as well. I very much desire to know the kind of man who can write with such feeling and grace. Who can pour out the contents of his heart with such conviction.” The horse had not anticipated this question, truthfully he had spoken without thinking at all, and now he was in a predicament. He truly did not want to reveal the identity of his friend, but she was the queen, how could he lie to her? He hung his head low.

She noticed this behavior immediately, “You do not want to tell me do you? You do not want to break a trust with someone dear to you. I understand that better than you may think. I won’t command you to tell me who it is, but, we should go back now, I have a poet to find.” The horse was so pleased that she honored his wish not to tell her, he thought her nobler that ever. As she mounted up, he turned and said to her “Though I won’t tell you, I will say this, do not overlook anyone. No matter their station in life, or their manner or dress. I believe that when you look at this man, you will see what you need to know right in his eyes.” She smiled, “I agree steed, I very much agree!” And with that, they raced back to the royal stables on a mission.

As the horse and queen arrived back at the stables well ahead of her usual return time, the guards had left to return to their usual posts. The stable hand, of course, heard the approaching hoof beats and came out to see what was going on. “You there!” the queen said. The stable had felt a sudden queasiness in his stomach. He’d never been directly addressed before by her, this was all so different than he had imagined it would be. “Yes m’lady, er, Your Highness, Ma’am…” he sputtered out in answer.

“Stableman, hold my mount, but do not put him away.” she said as she easily dismounted the steed. She was right before him now. He could see into her eyes, he could smell her perfume, and it made him dizzy with delight. “Yes your Majesty, I will hold him.” The queen considered this for a moment, then said “Well, better if you lead him along with me, I have some business to attend to, and this steed needs to be with me, so come along with me please.” He looked right at the horse, and almost didn’t believe it when he saw the steed wink an eye at him. He took this as a good sign…

The queen did not seem to be angry, or even upset. No, she seemed to be very determined, her voice, her pace, all on a mission. They walked briskly up the stone street that led to the palace. He wasn’t sure how far she’d let him follow, but he was keeping quiet for now. He got the feeling from the horse that he should just play along with what was happening.

As they approached the palace main gate, guards scrambled at the unexpected sight of the queen coming their way. All got to their stations quickly, and snapped to attention. The lead guard approached, “Your Majesty, I apologize for…” The queen waved her hand to silence him, not rudely, but as to let him know she had more pressing matters. “Worry not, I came back suddenly, and I have business with someone of the court. Please call the courtiers as soon as possible, I want to see them all.” She said calmly. “Yes, your Majesty, right away. Do you want me to send this stable hand and horse back where they belong?” He asked.

The queen’s face reddened, and in her response to the guard, both stable hand and horse did now hear her in her temper. “You’ll do no such thing unless you’d like to be re-stationed outside the gates! Just do as I asked, nothing more.” She said with pointed exclamation. The guard made a poor salute and ran off to do as instructed.

She entered the main courtyard and started up the palace steps that led up to the large doors of the great room. The stable hand paused, and held the horse back for a moment. “You Majesty, um, do you really want us to follow you into there?” The queen stopped, and returned to stand in front of her two new friends. “Yes, of course, my good man. You and this steed will go anywhere I go. Do not hesitate, you are with me now, no one else will question you, or why you’re here. Don’t worry further.”  With that, she took his hand and led them both up the steps and in to the Palace’s great room.

Her lead guard had done as she instructed and gathered the courtiers into the great room. Several dozen people were milling about and talking in a loud and indiscernible murmur. Some were dressed in fine clothing, fit for an audience with the queen, but others were in their evening clothes – apparently caught off-guard by the summoning to the court.

The Queen and her new escort entered the room, heads held high, and walked up the center isle. As she approached the dais where she usually sat, she gestured for the stable hand and horse to flank her to her left. She, however, did not sit down. Standing and facing her quite curious courtiers, she looked them over, one by one.

“Today, an extraordinary thing happened to me.” She said loudly enough for everyone to hear. “I was on a ride into the countryside when I discovered something truly wonderful.” The stable hand glanced at the horse, who suddenly appeared concerned that the queen was going to tell the world his secret. If a horse could actually look nervous, the hand thought this one sure did.

The queen went on “I discovered a lovely hand written love poem, just under the edge of my saddle. It was quite a surprise for me.” Both horse and hand breathed a quiet sigh of relief. “I have read this poem several times now, and it makes my heart soar skyward each time. But, the poem is unsigned, sadly. I know not who the author is. So, this is why I have asked you to assemble here this evening. Because I want to find this author, and look him in the eyes, and give him my response.”

“I know many of you may think me suddenly mad, but these words have sparked something in me that had lain dormant for a very long time. I must, at the very least, express my gratitude to this author.”

As she was speaking, the stable hand spotted the court’s poet standing off behind the front row of people. He looked as if he thought the queen was going to call upon him at any moment. A large smile, and straightening posture indicated that he was ready to step forward and claim ownership of this writing. Just then the queen spoke up again. “You may leave if you with Mr. Maloney, I quickly recognized that these were not your words, nor your handwriting. You needn’t worry that I will pick on you.” She smiled at him sweetly.

“But, let it be known that I am sure that the true author is standing in this room at this very moment. I shant embarrass anyone by asking for them to step up. No, I would rather use my own intuition to solve this mystery. For whom but I should be the one to begin to know the heart of this man? Such a love professed for me should imbue me with a sense of this person, so I cannot fail at my task.”

Then, most unexpectedly, she turned and looked right at the stable hand to her left, directly into his eyes. He was unable to move, or look away – her deep brown eyes held him captive completely.

“Please tell me your name my new friend?”  She asked him quietly.

“My name is Jonathan mi ‘lady.” He said, with some confidence behind it too.

“Well, Jonathan, you wrote this poem didn’t you?” She asked, smiling a genuine smile at him.

“Yes, yes I did indeed. I wrote it for you.” This he said even a bit louder. It was something about looking her right in the eye – it gave him a confidence that he hadn’t felt in a long time. He was speaking his heart’s truth to her and he wasn’t shy or ashamed.

“I knew it was you Jonathan, I felt it as soon as I returned to the stables. As soon as I looked at you, I knew these words were yours. Also, a good friend suggested that I not overlook anyone in my quest to find the hand that wrote these words.” She and Jonathan both glanced at the horse, who was also standing a bit more proudly.

“I’m no young maiden any longer Jonathan, but a mature woman now. I find myself wishing to be very direct with you, if you will not be offended.” She said as her gaze returned to his shining blue eyes.

“Please, mi’ lady, speak as you wish – I too am no boy, but a man, with a man’s feelings and sensibilities.” He replied respectfully

“I need to know something, and I am desiring your most honest answer Jonathan; Is this love poem a profession of an actual love for me?”

Without a blink of hesitation he answered her “Yes, from my hearts deepest recesses came this vision of love I’d been storing away for you. You may find me ridiculous because I have only seen you from afar in the past, but love does not dwell in logic, does it? It is not decided through calculations and formulas, but comes from the seat of our deepest feelings. From the first time I saw you, I felt quakes inside me, warmth of a thousand fires burning. The poem I wrote is a mere glimpse of the true emotions that flow from me, to the sea of you.”

All who were gathered there were suddenly silenced, not only by his honesty, but also the staggering depth of feeling on display before them. Not one single person spoke, or even made a noise. All eyes were on the queen now, as she was apparently considering Jonathan’s words. No one could predict her reaction to what he’d said. A stable hand, professing love for a queen, no matter how honest and true was still unheard of.

“Jonathan” She began in a very sincere tone. “In my lifetime I have seen and experienced many great and wonderful things. But, today I have been given the greatest gift of all. Your true love for me is both surprising and welcome. When I looked into your eyes just now, I saw such sincerity as I’ve never seen in my life. My heart has opened like a morning glory to the sun. And that sun is you, and your love Jonathan. Do not sit in wonder one more second, because I love you too.”

She reached out for him, and drew him close. He put his arms around her and their warm embrace turned into a passionate kiss. Slowly and progressively the courtiers began to clap and cheer. It rose like an orchestra beginning in concert. Even their mutual friend, the great steed was stomping his feet in approval.

The Argument

“Is everything you bought organic?” He asked, as he was helping unpack the hemp grocery bags.

“Yeah, I’m still making sure I don’t buy any genetically modified foods, so organic is the only safe stuff I can depend on.”

He noted a mild irritation in her voice when she answered him.

“Sure, uh, okay.” Now he was taking cover since he suspected he’d most likely triggered a small storm. (He was right.)

“Well, that was kind of a lame ‘okay’ from you. I do this for us you know. Don’t you want me to get healthy foods? Do you want the cheap freaky GMO stuff? Because I don’t, I really don’t.”

“Yeah hon, I know. I wasn’t saying anything against it.”

“Well, you could have fooled me. I saw your face, and could almost hear your eyes rolling when I mentioned GMO foods.” She was on a roll now and there was no place to hide. He’d seen this wind-up so many times before that he knew all the signs, all the signals. A gasket was about to be blown, and there was no way to stop it.

“I didn’t roll my eyes, I didn’t make a sound.” He said quietly.

“I can hear things in your voice you know, I am aware of when you’re mocking me. But that’s okay, if you want to be like that it’s fine with me. I just do what I think is best for us and I am not expecting a parade for it. I just thought you were behind this idea a little more than that.”

His better judgment told him not to respond, but he couldn’t stop himself, the words were already coming. “Look, I’m as concerned as anyone might be about GMO crap, and I don’t want to eat it either. I guess I just didn’t think that every single non-organic product was suddenly GMO laced.”

“Well, I ‘m not saying it is. But, the fact is we don’t really know, do we? So why take a chance on it then, right? And, furthermore, I don’t think you’re as concerned as anyone else, unless you’re speaking of people who aren’t really concerned. I think you just go with the flow, and nod your head a lot. I don’t think you really see what’s happening. You can’t see what this is going to do to our kids, or their kids!”

“Well, you’re right, I don’t know what it’s going to do to them, I don’t know what it’s doing to anybody. I’m not a scientist, I don’t read medical journals, so I don’t know. I just hear it from you, or see an occasional news story about it. I’m not on a crusade against the evil corporations that are going to screw up our food system like you think they are. I happen to think that for every evil corporation that’s messing with things like this, there’s good people, and good scientists that are working on unscrewing it!”

“Oh Christ, that’s so naïve David! Why would any scientists be working on un-modifying GMO foods? There’s no money in that, there’s no research grants for that. The money is in tweaking things they barely know about so they can save the corporations millions of dollars. So they can get ten stalks of Franken-wheat from one seed. That’s where the money is and that’s their motivation.”

“God, your view of the world is so negative. It’s like you think there’s sinister forces controlling everything, and we have no chance of escaping them. Well, I don’t buy it, I can’t believe in a world like that, where conspiracy lurks around every corner. I just don’t believe that’s how things are.”

“Okay Pollyanna, you keep telling yourself that, and in a few years we’ll see who’s right and who’s wrong. I know for a fact that people are motivated by money, and that’s about all that corporations care about is their bottom line. They don’t give a rat’s ass about us, or what their products do to us. They don’t care if we start dying from their GMO foods because they will already have our money. You think I’m being negative, but I am just being a realist. You’re the one with his head in the sand.”

“I am a positive person, and I’m not an idiot. I just don’t see things as negatively as you do. I tend to think that things will get figured out, that they’ll get better in time. It’s just how I am. But you label me as Pollyanna and Mr. Positive, and other names meant to demean me, just because I don’t see the world like you do. I believe there’s good people who do see the big picture and some have dedicated their lives to helping fix what’s been messed up already.

It doesn’t even make sense that big-agra would want to loose upon the world harmful products when their families probably eat the same stuff! Why would they knowingly produce foods that could kill their own families?”

“Because there’s no one-person at a corporation David. There’s no one single boss who has his little family working there with him. It’s a board of directors, and old men with fancy titles that are all paid way too much for what they do. And, there’s the stockholders who want to see a profit every single quarter. None of them give a shit about us individual people! They care about money and growth, and that’s it!”

“That’s so fucking dark Rachel, it’s like you take the smallest thing and blow it up to some uber-negative conclusion.”

“I do no such thing!” She screamed back at him.

“You sat there in bed, just after I read you that small paragraph about the genetic transfer thing and you said Well, we’re doomed then. Humans deserve to all die from what we’re doing to the foods. You said we all deserve to die! Everyone! Do you even remember me asking you if you were for real? Everyone around the world deserves to die because some corporations are fooling with the food? I’m still shocked.”

“Maybe I do think that sometimes, so what? Humans have fucked up this planet and for what? Always the same damn thing, money! If it makes a buck, then screw everybody and do it! That’s the business mantra, and has been for like two centuries. They’ll mow down the entire rainforest if they could make a buck selling chopsticks!”

“All I know is one simple story like that and you go into a negativity spiral that I can’t follow you down! To hear one news story and decide that we’re all going to die, and deserve to, is just crazy in my book. I think there’s a lot more good people in this world, who are working on solutions to the fucked up things we’ve done thus far, and they’re going to make a difference. Hell, they already are! Our country passes all kinds of laws to protect the environment, and in Europe, they have even stronger laws. I can’t believe you think politicians and business owners don’t think about their own kids, or grandkids. They know they have to live here too, and no one wants to poison the future intentionally. These are people, not monsters.”

“They don’t have to be ‘monsters’ to worship the dollar more than other people’s lives David. They can be regular church-going people, but still value money more that anything else. I mean, even if they get old and realize what shitty choices they’ve made, it’s too late! The damage is done, and they can’t do a damn thing about it even with all their money. And, they ain’t giving that up!”

“You know, truthfully, it’s been like this almost our whole relationship. You can’t even watch the evening news with me because you get too depressed about the stories you see. It’s like we’re hearing two different broadcasts. I’m not blaming you for being the way you are, but it’s so different from how I am that I feel alienated from you. I have to work hard to not slide down that hole you’re in. That dark place where everything’s wrong and everyone has some hidden agenda. I can’t go there! I don’t want to go there.”

“I’m not in some dark hole, you asshat, I just think about how screwed up things are and it depresses me. Maybe I’m more sensitive than you are. Maybe I have more feelings for things like the planet and animals and birds eating plastic. People do screwed up things every day and no one seems to want to inconvenience their lives in any way. I mean what? Use a reusable bad for groceries and not a toxic plastic one? Oh no, that’s too much trouble! That’s how people are David, face it.”

“Look Rachel, I love my life, I love the people I know, hell I love people I don’t even know yet. I know the world isn’t perfect, I know there’s a shit load of things wrong all over the globe, but most of it has so little to do with me that I can’t relate to it. I just keep my focus on my life, right here, right around me.

I have concerns about the world, but I can’t take on worrying about it like I have some affect over it. I can use a cotton bag for groceries, I can never use plastic water bottles, and I can make a compost pile in my kitchen. But that’s me, just me! And you know what? If other people see me doing that, maybe one or two of them will decide to try it too. That’s how the world changes, in tiny little steps.”

“Oh and you think that’s enough? You think people all over are going to notice that David has stopped buying plastic water bottles, and change their whole fucking way of life?”

“I don’t know Rachel, and suddenly I don’t give a shit either! I just want to be happy. I just want to live my life for me. Not to please the rest of the world, and not to please you either. I just can’t live like this anymore. I can’t live for a future that only exists in your mind. There’s not enough room in there for me anymore, and I think you sense that too. You’re trying to make me into something I’m not, and it’s like being a shoe that doesn’t fit right. You keep trying it on,  but it still hurts.”

“Wait, what? How did this become about our relationship? What did I say, or do that made you suddenly want to leave me?” Tears were close now, a rare thing for her, and he knew that.

Become about our relationship? It’s all about our relationship, it’s always been about our relationship! Everything we do, or don’t do – every choice we make, every discussion or fight we have are all affecting and forming our relationship. It’s a living and changing process, and ours is actually dying. There’s a lack of oxygen in this living space, Rachel, and we’re suffocating slowly.