I have to admit, after The Writer said that Chopin could eat an asshole for the second time, there was a safety valve of sorts that shut off in my mind. The Writer kept talking, babbling on about despair, angst, and how The Arcade Fire was terrible. Myself, I was so bored I started stealing glances at our companions.
The Traveler fought off sleep. His head drooped, jerked back up, he cleared his throat, did it all again.
The Stalker, to his sparse credit, kept on listening to The Writer babble on. His face turned redder by the minute, and, I think, if you had noticed his hands, you would have seen them clinching and unclinching at roughly the rate at which his heart beat.
The Student, that respectable academic, gave up even the pretense of paying attention, sat back down in his seat and began reading Kim by Rudyard Kipling.
The Drunkard attempted to refrain from bursting into laughter every few seconds. While he succeeded—for the most part—a rare chuckle escaped his mouth from time to time.
And, his audience’s attention wavering more than a wheat field in a high wind, The Writer continued on.
I could not tell you how long he went on, but it was a while. He was so interested in his story, in the nuances of how to tell it (I had never seen anyone pause for about twenty seconds to really drive home what would be blank space on a piece of paper), that he completely forgot about his audience. In essence, he was talking to himself. He was telling a story to hear his own voice. You might say that he was telling the story as an exercise in storytelling theory rather than with the intent of telling a decent story.
He went on, and I realized what The Drunkard had realized. This was a man for whom Art was more important than Creativity. While I did not particularly agree with the way The Drunkard registered his dislike of The Writer (for I have long been a believer in the wonders of civility), I now understood exactly why it was that he felt how he did. I started daydreaming. The center of my ruminations was how I could come upon the funds to commission the construction of an X-Wing—for you see, it had been a dream of mine since childhood.
At some point, The Writer stopped talking. He finally looked around him and made note that everyone except for me had dropped off to sleep. Now, being busy trying to formulate a fool-proof scheme to buy an X-Wing (I’m afraid it can’t be done), I didn’t notice when they all fell asleep, but thought about how lucky they were, for they probably wouldn’t be jetlagged.
“Well,” said The Writer, “I guess they don’t know what they’re missing.” I assume that he was praising his own story. “But never mind my review,” ah, I was right, “what did you think?”
I’d never been able to come up with blatant lies on demand. Most of my family are able to, and they, generally, are much more accepted among society than I am. “Ah,” I remarked. “It was…” I searched. Luckily, The Writer appeared to assume that I was made speechless, and, judging from the grin spreading around his face, that was a better lie than I would have been able to tell.
“So glad you appreciate it. So few people really get what I’m trying to say, you know? Take the Neanderthals on the literary magazine where I went to undergrad. The fools. The morons. The imbeciles.”
“The shmendricks?” I offered.
The Writer wrinkled his nose. “I never like using Yiddish when I speak. Don’t agree at all with Israel, and that’s what they speak there.”
This was quite possibly the dumbest thing I had heard the man say, but I had the impression that The Writer would defend anything he said to the death. So, that in mind, I let it slide.
“Anyway,” he continued, “so glad you enjoyed the story. I need to come up with a title, though.”
“How about ‘Sheol?’”
He stroked his goatee. “Yes. Yes, I think that will work. It brings to mind the absence of any good that we usually stumble upon in a given day. Relationships are Sheol.”
I had suggested it because listening to the story was the aural equivalent of rolling around in a trash heap—and ‘Sheol’ originally referred to a trash dump outside of Jerusalem during the Kingdom days.