America stood as the eager bride—waiting.
With her eyes open, she allowed the veil to be pulled away. Thus she began her new life. She was no longer the innocent America of the nineteenth century; she had entered a new world of possibilities, eager to experience all of life’s pleasures. She was now in the “roaring twenties.”
She learned new words like research, impulse and desire. She developed a new consciousness in literature, politics, music, social atmospheres, and perhaps above all, the opposite sex.
In an attempt to limit this emerging America, a constitutional amendment was put into effect on January 16, 1920. It was called the Volstead Act, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. But this attempt failed sorely as certain entrepreneurial spirits, also known as the mob, saw an opportunity for new businesses such as bootlegging, breweries, and speakeasies. The mobs, both Irish and Italian alike, fought for control in all the major cities. Life was good for men like Dutch Schultz, Legs Diamond, Frank Costello, and Al Capone. Money never accumulated so fast and neither did the dead bodies.
And then on August 26, 1920, a victory was won for the female population with the signing of the 19th amendment. Women were finally given the right to vote.
America found herself in a completely new arena. Changes and new innovations were unfolding all around her. The trouble was that not everyone wanted new and improved. America herself had become divided into the traditionalists versus the liberalists. Tradionalists were greatly opposed to the emerging youth who bucked restraint and rebelled against the former ways of the proper, American lifestyle. And the liberalists…well they didn’t really care what anyone said. Fueled by post-war cynicism, they lived for the next thrill. Life was calling. It was time to answer.
TOMORROW WE DIE:
Mattie sank onto a limp cushion of her velour couch, placed a cigarette between her scarlet lips and lit the end.
Eliza wasn’t used to seeing a woman smoke, and her father only used a pipe.
Mattie took another puff and held out a tin to Eliza.
“I…uh…I don’t think I’ll have one right now.”
Mattie’s eyes narrowed inquisitively. “Have you smoked before?”
Eliza studied her polished black pumps. “No.”
“Ever go to a club?”
She shook her head.
“Yes. I’ve had a glass of wine a couple times. But it’s illegal now.”
“Just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it’s not available.”
“Yes, but with the prohibition and the police and—”
“Eliza.” Mattie placed a hand on her knee. “It doesn’t matter what the government says. All over the United States, there are tons of underground nightclubs and speakeasies. You can go just about anywhere to get a drink. Lots of people make their own. Fact is…nobody cares about the law. We live by a simple code: ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Merry…For Tomorrow We Die.’ You can thank the government and the war for that one.” She snorted with disdain. “You ever read This Side of Paradise?”
“Definitely. I adore F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
Mattie smirked. “Who doesn’t? He’s a total sheik.”
“Do you remember in the book when Amory Blaine says that he’s grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, and all faith in man shaken?”
Eliza fell quiet. She hadn’t liked that sentence. It was sad and cynical. “I remember it.”
Mattie took another drag and rested her head on the back of the sofa. “I think he’s right. That’s why it’s best to live for today. No one can say what tomorrow will bring. So why worry about it.” She turned her face to Eliza. “Do you agree?”
Eliza stared into her kohl-lined eyes and sighed. “To say there’s no God, no person to trust, and nothing to fight for is a sad statement and a very lonely one at that.”
Mattie gazed at the floral wallpaper curling like potato rinds at the ceiling’s corners. “In my life…Amory’s words have proven true. That’s why I live for the next rush. That’s all I’ve found to live for.”
Eliza’s forehead furrowed. Mattie’s view on life looked much like the walls of her home, barren.
What about you? Can you or have you ever related to Mattie?
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