It’s so rare I get to show up a smart guy who’s my friend too, that I jumped at the opportunity from heaven when buddy said he didn’t get out and vote in the election last week.
‘So what’s all this about being so smart then?’ I said to his face.
‘Yeah, damn it,’ he said, ‘I was really aching to get out and get my word in, but geez if the last couple of days haven’t been hazardous enough.’
So I asked him to tell me the deal.
The whole affair hinged on a couple of complete unforeseeables that, added up, fell down into place like sheer stupid luck, unconnected, but by the power of mathematics, wearisome.
‘Happy New Year!’ he said, ‘this is my story.’
First he was sitting around one day, reading a book, probably, and out of the blue the phone rang.
‘Just a fluke of nature,’ he said, ‘and not foreseeable in the least. My mother’s only friend went down with a case of coming undone at the seams and they took her away to the hospital. Poor lady has a twelve year old daughter, and though my ma offered and asked to take care of the girl, the services came and took her away. But she also has a cat and nowhere to put it into, so I took it on, as mother has the fear of animals and viruses. So I got the cat, and you know, the thing is just adorable, but I must admit I know nothing of how to care for animals, the sphere of my knowledges being limited to politics, and I felt obliged to keep it entertained like any old guest. So after they brought it by, I was spending my time rolling around with it on the floor; I went to the store and bought a ball of yarn, and I’ve been rolling around throwing the ball of yarn at it, and basically we’ve been having a grand old time. Despite the wounds on my face and arms, we have bonded famously and I call him little cat face, and it’s great. Eventually I had to go to work and do my thing there though, and poor cat face, as any guest could be expected to, got bored. So when I got home I found he had eaten everything made of material, and scratched the walls up to boot, and I had a long night stitching up my business suits and making the place liveable again.’
‘That’s all interesting and good,’ I said in impatience, ‘but I don’t see how it kept you away from the polling booths.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘seeing as your culture is one inclined to impatience and punch lines I can forgive you, but if you just let me go, I’ll lead you on to the end.’
‘Ok,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry.’
‘A couple of days later another thing happened that was just a complete fluke too, and not an everyday occurrence. While I was snoring in my bed for the night, dreaming of all the slurpees my modest wages bring me after the loan payments have gone through, I found myself awoken by the telephone with another urgent bad call from my mother. This time a robber had cracked in and broken the window by her backdoor, and made haste with her purse. She had no documents and didn’t know how she would recover her peace of mind, or convince other people she was who she said. I managed to calm her down enough to make out her words and promised to stop by and help her talk to the police. I did just that, and said “thank you” to the officer, and was about to leave when my mother asked me to give her the cat for company and to feel protected.
‘“The usual collocation is guard dog, mother,” I said, ‘but if it will help with the tears, I guess you can have him.”
‘So shattered as I was at losing my new companion who understood me so well, I took the cat over to my mother’s and said farewell.
‘I have to admit I was feeling a little down, but I still had all my destroyed furniture to look at and remember him by, and there’s no use getting down every day.
‘Then the coup de grace struck me right off. You know I’m really in love with the modern world, I’m not a student any more, and I see no point in protesting against the new technologies; I love spaceships and TVs and online banking, but I couldn’t get into my account. So I ran in to the bank and asked them what the problem was and they told me they had sealed my account on account of my suspicious activities.
‘“And what’s so suspicious about loving the modern world?!” I said.
‘“Well,” they said, “it’s the way you gave all your money to a stranger by email.”
“Mama Mia!” I cried, and when they managed to calm me a bit down, they promised to find who had taken it, maybe, and explained that it was common practice to shut people out of business when such suspicious transactions happen and take place.
‘“But if you had really been itching to close me down, why couldn’t you have done it before they took all the 944 dollars I’d managed to save by pinching pennies together and rubbing dimes? Or let me live my life in peace with the money stashed under my bed, instead of insisting with your buddies in the government that in exchange for my hours of backbreaking, the companies I sell my soul to have to deposit my worthless life directly into my account? Why can’t I just be paid in potatoes immediately at the end of the day? Or do I have to move to some corrupt third world country like Russia or Australia where people still rely on the barter system?”
‘But unfortunately there aren’t answers to everything, and though the sum may be laughable on big banking streets, it’s gonna take me 14 years to get that much saved again from working all day long at the library, and by night at the bakery.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘as they say – super! But I’m damned if I can see the connections or how the election is to blame.’
‘Yeah, damn it, what connections are there in life? And nobody here is blaming anyone, except maybe the laws of probability. It’s nothing. It’s only something because last year the lady at the bank with the black hair - you know I love the dark hair - said a document concerning my student loan had been lost and she had promptly given my case over to the agency for deadbeat dads and other working class scum. And that’s fine, hold on, I’m not going on and on about it, though I might feel entitled to – they never even said, “Mister, hey buddy, we’re terribly sorry,” and I’m by nature inclined to the politeness of the British. No, that’s not the point, and I’m not getting my legs all bent out of shape by it. There’s no use in pointing fingers all day long. I just want to complain once and a while too, you know, like any other normal person who hasn’t yet found out that life wasn’t meant for pleasure. I think it’s all incredibly ironic that it happened on the very day we are to pick the ruling class – which is full of all the people who refuse to accept that death and disease exist to keep the population down at a normal size, and that hurricanes only exist to destroy all these stupid beachside condos we exchanged our natural habit for.’
‘Hold on,’ I said, ‘you’re starting to let fluency and beauty of speech get right in front of logic and sound argument. Death and disease is all very good, but what is our natural habit then, eh?’
‘Caves, buddy, caves. We sleep at night because it’s dangerous to wander out from the cave. We sleep around the fire because if the wolf tries to pull your baby away, you throw flaming brands at it. And now that we don’t live in caves and only rarely battle wolves we suffer from insomnia and stay up all night watching soft core porn, our eyes barely registering what we see, but our minds not missing a single frame. And so when we get old we need Viagra because our brain has a different idea of beauty, and it’s always at an angle we can’t reach anymore. The doctors can say what they want about inflamed prostate glands – we all know it’s an inflamed sense of false eroticism. In this sense the continental Europeans have always been superior to us. If it weren’t for the fact that their cities are thousands of years old, and the fact that the plague could suddenly pop up out of the ancient sewer systems, I would move there without even saying goodbye to my urologist. As it is we are trapped, and if it isn’t a lie about the reasons for sexual dysfunction, it’s civic duty. There are so many traps out there you can’t take a step without becoming a victim of your own stride.’
‘So what are you going to do now?’ I asked, unable to resist the feeling of being a little lost at sea.
‘What any normal person would do.’
‘And what’s that?’
‘I don’t know. Forget about the whole thing for a while. Get drunk. Work lots of overtime. Who cares?’
‘That’s ridiculous and I feel like I’ve been robbed of my reason and sanity. How can you justify talking about nothing but yourself and lying? I feel strange and violated.’
‘Listen buddy,’ he said, ‘just get a girlfriend and you’ll come to adore the feeling.’
‘But you’re not my girlfriend and what you’re saying has left the bounds of reason. You can’t falsely advertise what you are going to say and then not say it. I’m sure I could take some sort of legal action against you and your family. Not to mention the difficulty you would have justifying your reasoning in front of a judge if I told him the rotten and perverted things you said about girlfriends.’
‘Our culture is indeed one that crossed and left behind the bounds of understanding many years ago in the past, but I would hardly say I have left you any reason to be dissatisfied with my answers. On the contrary, I ought to be lauded and told wonderful things, and I wish you would stop reminding me about girls.’
By this point both of us were quite beside ourselves and livid by the direction the conversation had taken, which was quite understandable, to be perfectly honest. I should have known better than to try and show buddy up. Nothing begun with its motives in pride can come to anything good, and what were my motives if not my pride, based in my desire to show myself to be superior and better than buddy.
So I got up and walked out, and left buddy alone. And he did the same.