The question put to Marty Byrde by the drug lord was simple and direct.
What do you want?
Marty, under some duress, being held in a stone cell with blaring music and bright lights, was hard put to come up with something. So back he goes to his dungeon accommodations to ponder on it some more.
Halfway through the third season of “Ozark” the kidnapped Marty is given an opportunity for clarity and focus, although we can all agree the wages of his particular sins will be death if he doesn’t come up with a satisfactory answer.
I am re-watching the series in preparation for the fourth and final season, and because of the language and violence and unsavory characters—most all of them—I can’t recommend it. It is a “buyer beware” kind of situation, not unlike “Breaking Bad,” another train wreck of a story line that was just like a train wreck to watch. Upsetting, loud with lots of screeching, explosions and double-crosses, and yet, we can’t look away.
The line was delivered as I sat high over the Gulf of Mexico, the door to the balcony slightly cracked against a bright day with cool winds. Not quite south enough to offer a feel of the tropics in February, but still, the sun was warm and palm trees swayed, and it is enough to give a hint of spring, and that was just fine for now. And yet, beautiful though it was out the sliding glass doors, it wasn’t enough. Not exactly.
It is very nice. I am surrounded by friends. A change of scene is always good, especially in winter. There is lots of love here, and laughter.
But it isn’t all I want.
And I feel full of hubris and a bit embarrassed to even be having this conversation. Do we, any of us, get what we want? Can we engineer it, craft it from pieces of pine and wood glue, set it in a corner or on display, this thing that is our heart’s desire? Is it even a worthy use of our time, such contemplation?
Well, yes and no.
We can plan and wish and worry and wool our lives away. I do this with notebooks, calendars, planners, notes on scraps of paper, written in the dark of a movie theatre, in bed, as ideas come to me. That I never return to them later in the cold light of day doesn’t seem to faze me. Somehow, writing it down makes it so, a hold over from childhood when my dreams were bigger than the fat pencil I used to record them. Grand, but really, beside the point.
Beside the point because a child has so little agency, has so little means to make dreams come true. Maybe that is why they are so big, those dreams. The elephant rides across the Alps, the Olympic gold medals for ski jump, traveling to Mars, saving the world with a towel pinned to a pajama top, tight fists jutting out, fighting for truth, justice and the American way.
I rode a slew of horses when I was a child, saved many, many lives. That’s me, right there, riding along side Penny and her uncle, Sky King. Dale Evans and Roy Rogers relied on me, too. And Cheyenne, although ours was a complicated relationship. I had a crush on him, you see, or what passed as a crush for an eight year old.
Perhaps I was so busy doing heroic things because so much of the time I was just plain scared. There is much to spook a child, and I had my share. The dark. Creaky old floorboards in creaky old houses, the bully who chased and sometimes caught me coming home from school. Losing sight of my mother in a crowded store, the mysterious things children see but don’t understand.
By now, I have a handle on most things, can outrun a bully because I drive a car, am comforted by the sounds of an old house settling, as I sit and settle, too. I have agency in spades. But time? It no longer creeps up on me, it races by as swift and violent as a purse snatcher.
The beach is nice, but, for me, it is a kind of staging area, not a final destination. It is so much nicer than Marty Byrde’s dungeon cell. But deciding what I want seems as critical and time-sensitive as Marty figuring out what he wants. But we will both feel better, I think, once we strike on the true, and have heart enough to utter it aloud.