An Ordinary TV Remote
I am dying; I’d like to tell you my story before I vanish into oblivion.
I know what you are thinking. You think just because I am an ordinary TV remote, my life wasn’t worth living, let alone recording. Unglamorous and undistinguished are the adjectives you would use to define my life. It might have annoyed me, but it doesn’t. I pity you your crass blindness.
Ordinary I might be- because I am like millions of others. But similarity is not a synonym for mediocrity. If you’ve not understood that, you are sillier than you thought.
I am indeed like a million other TV remotes. But my life was given depth by meaning and it has shone with the benign gleam of significance. Let me tell you my story, and you shall judge for yourself.
I was born five years ago in a country you call Japan. I was reborn the day I was unpacked, my companion TV installed and a pair of delicate hands had me up and running by putting in two dry cells into my innards.
My owners were a newly- wed couple. The TV (and I) was a wedding gift from her aunt.
They loved each other deeply. In the beginning they had no time for us. Days would go by before either one of them thought of us. We silently gathered dust and were sad.
We had hoped to live in the midst of a boisterous family. We had hoped to be the focal point around which life, meals and general melodrama of a typical family happened. The spice of children’s innocent sneaking, the endless arguments of adults over the many debates, the ear- drum splitting music of the adolescents- this was a stuff life was made of. Instead of that elixir, all we got was this layer upon layer of brown fluffy dust of neglect. We were sad, TV and I. But we didn’t say anything to each other. What was there to say?
Gradually, they began to notice us. For many months they thought of us only during weekends, since both of them were working. Then they began watching TV in the evenings also, sporadically. They had more time for us. No, that isn’t right. They still only had time for each other, but now we were a part of that time also. You know what I mean, right?
In the second year, their child was born. Again for a few months TV and I went back to gathering dust while the child became the focus of attention. Her parents and brother, his parents and siblings, they all came, stayed for a while cooing over the child and left. At last, there was just us. Man, woman and their child.
She had to quit her job to take care of the baby. It annoyed her in a deeply unsettled manner. He had to work harder because the expenses had gone up and her salary wasn’t coming in. He was keyed up and worried.
They’d both be tired in the evening. He worked longer hours while her duties never seemed to end. Motherhood is not easy after all. All day she would take care of the child, waiting desperately for her man to come home so she could get a break from the child’s incessant demands for a while. By the time he reached home, it would be late and he would be exhausted. He would be in no position to handle a child. I don’t have to dot the I’s and cross the T’s for you, do I?
They began to fight.
Their fights were far from what I expected. She didn’t speak of her exhaustion with the baby; he kept silent about his fatigue. She didn’t say a word about her depression; he kept his worries and stress to himself. Both were trapped in the web made of their sense of responsibility. Both felt they had no right to feel anything but joy as the web tightened around them. Neither felt they had the right to tell the other that the thing which was a joy also seemed like a burden at times. They didn’t think they had the right to feel that way- or that it was okay to feel so. Insidiously, guilt wove itself into the threads of the web and tightened it further.
The elephant in the room was ignored. It sat there, getting bigger and bigger while their fights centred exclusively around me. Their arguments were completely tangential, I am sure you would agree.
I became the bone of contention between this once loving couple. Make no mistake, the war was as bloody as has ever ensued over the possession of property. It was a silent and deadly as a dangerous predator. While the real grouse simmered and thickened, both of them vented their ire on me. Both of them fought wordlessly to possess me. You could see it being played out any evening.
He would come home stressed out and tired. All he would want was to slump in front of the TV and pretend to be engrossed in some obscure program or game with his attention and thoughts tuned out. She, having at last put the child to sleep, would want to watch some silly comedy that would not expect her to pay attention or to think. Both of them felt the other ought to be considerate of their unexpressed exhaustion. Yes, they expect clairvoyance of each other. When they didn’t get what they expected, they turned vengeful. Both of them began playing terrible games with each other; games they carried to the bedroom. It was awful to watch.
They closeted themselves with their own unacknowledged and undefined pain. They closed the doors of their hearts to contain their loneliness. That’s another way of saying they locked each other out.
By the time the child was two years old, they had become strangers sharing a roof. I can’t honestly say they shared a bed. The bed had turned into a weapon of war. It was used by both with a ruthless cruelty that would make you weep. I don’t mind confessing that I wept; we both did, TV and I.
We didn’t want a boisterous family around us anymore. We didn’t give two bits for shared meals, laughter and mundane melodrama. We just wanted this man and his woman to look at each other again. We would have been overjoyed if they had begun to neglect us again because they were too lost in each other and their beautiful daughter. I never thought a day would come when I would pine for the fluffy brown dust of abandonment. We wanted to be abandoned, TV and I. You’ve no idea how we prayed for the cruellest disregard.
The situation was desperate. Then one day, TV and I could keep silent no longer. We decided we’d have to take things into our own hands. We could stand by and watch like inanimate matter. Though I say we, it really was my show.
I would work like a dream all day. Come evening, some inexplicable malady would strike my insides. My buttons would simply not work. No matter how often they changed the cells, I simply refused to respond to their commands in the evening. Watching TV became a tedious task since they couldn’t very well keep getting up to change channels or to adjust volume. Since I worked perfectly all day, they didn’t think there was anything wrong with me- or they might have got another remote. We had prepared for that eventuality as well, TV and I. If I was replaced, TV would appraise the new remote of our plan and things would go on as planned.
For the first few days, they both sat, bored and tired, in front of the TV showing a program one of them hated.
With time, the games they played with each other, having lost it arena, died out. The TV would be put on less frequently. They began to talk a bit while eating their dinner instead of one keeping his eyes glued to the TV while she simmered and planned vengeance. There was no remote to fight over. They were both disgusted enough with me to let the other have me. They began to laugh sometimes. She would recount to him the child’s antics during the day. He realized he was missing her childhood entirely.
She started making sure the child’s nap time increased. By the time he came home in the evening, the child would be awake to play with him having rested enough during the day. She prepared dinner while he romped with the child. They ate together and talked- and laughed at the child’s frolics like pleased parents the world over. They took pictures of their princess and recorded videos of her childish capers. Then they would play the videos on the TV and sit close together, the child in their lap.
The TV was almost never put on again except to watch the videos they had made. They began to notice each other. Tentatively at first, they began to see each other again. TV was no longer the focal point of their existence; their daughter was. Inevitably, their hearts began to open to each other again. I am sure you can imagine the joy TV and I felt.
Yesterday, TV got sold. A friend of theirs wants a TV to put in his rather seedy restaurant. He liked the TV well enough but not me. With a disgusted look at me, he threw me aside and said, “I’ll get a new remote for this.” I suppose the fights between the couple had endowed me with too many battle scars. My body was broken and chapped with adhesive tape barely holding my body and soul together- if you know what I mean.
I have been thrown away in the garbage. I bid TV adieu yesterday. We aren’t much to talk anyhow, so we didn’t say anything. Though he was sad, I know he was also happy. We both are.
I told you, I wasn’t an ordinary, undistinguished remote, didn’t I?
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