There will come a day when the terminally disappointed and disenchanted will meet in a giant hangar somewhere in Kansas. Every dashed dream and broken heart from all over America will converge there on the edge of some dusty little town to awkwardly mingle and avoid eye contact. Just as in Vegas, in the hangar there will be no natural light and no clocks, and the only way to mark the passage of time will be by the exhaustion in people's eyes.
Among those who will make the discouraging trek: The man who once upon a time dreamed of becoming an astronaut and grew up instead to become an unhappy insurance adjustor. The woman whose naked body was never seen --let alone touched-- by anyone outside a doctor's office. The failed writer of science fiction novels who lived with his mother until her death and, oafish and sweating, stalked about his old neighborhood in camouflage and, well into middle age, raced remote control cars up and down the sidewalk in front of his house. The jilted lovers, brides left at the alter, and infertile couples. The boy who asked Santa Claus for a Dukes of Hazzard pinball machine and received instead a Slinky, a seemingly small and isolated letdown that nevertheless in time planted the seeds for a lifelong pathology of disenchantment.
Also present: Beauty pageant rejects, disgraced public servants, neglected children, actors that never got a break, persistent writers of ignored doggerel, congenital ingrates, bitter misanthropes and alcoholics, those for whom an adolescent crisis of faith became crushing and permanent, brooders and pipe smokers, and all manner of neglected or talent-less musicians, artists, and philosophers.
You can be sure the sleepless will be there, standing in zombie pockets at some remove from packs of the pathologically shy, the socially awkward, and the chronically fatigued.
Should you make the pilgrimage you will be joined as well by stalled middle-managers, the perpetually startled, orphans, gimpy quarterbacks, cheerleaders who grew old gracelessly, bankrupts, and scores of broken refugees from Nashville, Hollywood, and New York.
There'll be quite a crowd, to be sure, and you're virtually guaranteed to recognize all sorts of old friends, neighbors, and former co-workers, and they're certain to bitch ceaselessly, provided they haven't been made entirely mute by their disappointment.
God knows there'll be plenty to bitch about: It will rain every day, the food will be lousy, and the accommodations will be sadly lacking. Entertainment --for lack of a better word-- will be provided by an assortment of some of the worst garage bands, barbershop quartets, choirs, magicians, mimes, ventriloquists, and baton twirlers you've ever seen.
As the evening wears on a bullhorn will be passed among the congregation of the disappointed, and each person will be allowed to shout out one sentence or declaration.
It's interesting, if fruitless, to speculate what those present might make of this brief opportunity to express themselves. How many do you suppose will use their moment in the spotlight to merely blurt terse, general condemnations laced with profanity? How many, however disappointed, will declare some enduring love or eternal regret? You can certainly imagine that there will be a great deal of stammering, and many will simply attempt to articulate some already broken promise, ineffectual apology, or impossible wish. Others, of course, will have nothing to say.
Should you or I find ourselves there in that awkward crowd of the bruised and broken what words would we find to speak to the assembled? What might we say to the better, happier people we --all of us-- should have been? And do you suppose there will be even one among us who will have enough small courage or faith remaining to utter some message of hope?
Finally, at some point in the endless night, black and white balloons will be distributed, and on command they will be released to rise slowly up into the dark and distant rafters of the hangar. This gesture will mean different things to different people, and to some it will mean absolutely nothing at all.