I was in high school when The Truman Show came out. My twenty-two year-old journalism teacher, Mr. V, highly recommended it, and he was the resident boy-genius at my inner city high school and would never steer me wrong so of course I dragged my BFF at the time to the movies one Saturday morning to see it for myself. I also had a vague crush on Jim Carrey growing up so we went to the movies often back in the ‘90s. That was years before our small, four-screen movie theater was closed to make room for one massive Walgreens.
Mr. V was right—the damn thing blew my sixteen-year-old mind! The sheer paranoia I felt as I crawled out of the darkened building reeking of old butter! Forever mind-numbingly sober, I wondered if that’s what it felt like being high. Was everything fake around us, I wondered as we crossed Coney Island Avenue, walking up Kings Highway back to my parents’ second American apartment. The sky—was it naturally blue or was it a set? Was someone behind all the green pedestrian lights? I drove my friend nuts all the thirteen street blocks up to my house but the whole euphoria of stumbling on something truly life-altering wore off by Monday. Having reported to my teacher that I saw and loved the movie, I was free to move on to whatever other obsession I was hyper-focused on at the time. It was either Spice Girls or Prince William, depending on the month. I don’t remember much about the specifics of the timing but eventually I must’ve decided that it was irrelevant to me if the sky was real or painted. Whether or not my environment was manipulated and/or manufactured, I still had to pretend to study for my SATs. If my sky was clear—it was worth it, regardless of whether or not there was a control booth involved. Growing up, my agnosticism decided there wasn’t, anyway.
Fast forward twenty years… whoa, I only now did the math… I need a minute…
So, fast forward twenty years. I am thirty-six. To escape reality if only for a week, I recently took a trip to a beautiful island in the Caribbean. I won’t name names for the sake of preserving some pretense of anonymity, but suffice it to say, it was warm, exclusive, and incredible. In fact, it was so incredible, that the many palm trees planted on the luscious grounds of this Vegas-like grandeur didn’t sway in the breeze. It was full on Truman Show again! I was sixteen again—back to Mr. V, back to Stan, my then-BFF. I swear to the deity of your choice, no matter the wind speed, those trees stayed put. Much can be discussed in rational and learned manner about manicured resorts in countries where cost of living for an average citizen leaves much to be desired and whether or not our going there helps by way of taxes and jobs or simply depletes the resources, but I must admit—I loved the picturesque sky and the perfectly still palm trees. I didn’t care if they were real. If any of it was. For a week, I felt safe and happy. It didn’t need to be real. In fact, I wanted there to be a control booth.
Is that what fiction is?