“Yeah I fucking said it. I’m the greatest. Everybody knows it. And oh you all look at me, safe in the frameworks of your skulls, and you think I’m nothing, but we both know the secret truth don’t we.”
He was spouting gibberish and his flatulence was terrible. He was not a very nice creature, and I sincerely hoped that either he would leave, or just shut up. The bus is only so large, I can’t drone out his banter, and what started out as amusing is quickly becoming aggravating.
“See, I live in a park. I go out, I catch a duck, and I eat fucking duck. When was the last time any of you, with your jobs, and your degrees, had duck? Huh? It’s a special occasion sorta thing, and I eat it every night.”
“Sir, please be quiet.” Why did I say that? Fuck. Now I’m involved. The ragged looking man looks up right in my eyes, breathing contempt.
“Oh, kid with a gold ring said something? What the fuck do you know? When I was your age, I was like you, I was all pretty and dolled up, and I was miserable, and I’m happy now, and if you’re lucky, maybe one day you’ll be like me.
“Sir, while that may be true, I’m not asking you for your opinion of me, and the people on this bus aren’t asking for your views on life. We just want to get to where we’re going, and to do it in peace.”
“Sir, I’m neither scared or unscared, I’m just trying to lean back after a long day and not have someone interrupt my peace with his musings on why I should be miserable.”
“Well, fuck you, you’re blind, sitting there high and mighty, like you own the fucking earth, but oh, I know you, I can see you, your penetrable heart, the things you think about when you think openly, and I know their darkness. You want me quiet. Superficially, its because I’m annoying you. You think me nothing. Some drugged up brain dead fuck up who just happens to be a drugged up brain dead fuck up whose near you. Well, its not like that. See, I am you. I’m the you that you’d see if you spoke all those pretty fancy words dancing through the back of your mind. I’m the honest you. The you who you dream about being, and look how depressing it is.”
Christ. Now everybody’s looking at me with the same expression of resignation they reserve for this guy. How did I get drawn in? Why didn’t I just shut up.
“Sir, I don’t want to talk to you. Frankly I’d rather you just not talk. But say that’s not a choice, say it’s a choice between the both of us talking or just you talking, then I’ll choose just you talking, and I’ll sit here, and I’ll listen to some music, and look out the window and frankly try to pretend you don’t exist. You think you speak wisdom. That there’s hidden depths to what you say; You try to make me into you, and I don’t want to rebut you, because to feed you is to satisfy your ego, look at how you’ve made me talk as proof, but the real truth is, the real truth is, and this truly is the last thing I will say about it, is you look at me, and you want me to be secretly unhappy, you want me to be secretly miserable, because in some strange sense, this justifies the way you have chosen to live. However, and in some way I’m sorry to say this: I’m happy. I’m content. I acknowledge the limits of the world, and instead of trying to cast them aside and grasp at the nothingness you seem to have achieved, I live life by the rules of life. So continue sitting there. Blabbering on, that I know nothing, that I am delusional and the universe sides with you, or whatever the fuck it is you think, but realize that every single person on this bus is thinking the same thing in the privacy of their own minds, and that it’s both arrogant and obnoxious of us to say it out loud. And now I’m stopping, and my stop is coming up, and I can’t perceive myself talking to you again, here or anywhere. Enjoy your day.”
Ahh, he got me, I talked, and I talked on his terms. I can sense him building up. Formulating a rebuttal, looking at what I said, and not hearing me. Not even knowing what he thinks himself. Just prepared to give me a lecture on who knows what just because I decided to call him on his arrogance. How great the world would be if everybody would just shut up. I pull the string for the next stop; I don’t care that it’s not my stop. I look out the window and wish I could shut my ears like I shut my eyes.
“Oh thanks all knowing one, any other fortune cards to read. You think you know everything, maybe. Pshh. You think you know everything, but look at this bus, you’re the youngest one here, and age really does count for something. Intelligence doesn’t exist, only time, and time is always spent on something, and cumulatively all these people have more life then you. I see your fucking bag with your fucking books. University must be nice. But you’re an ignorant piece of shit. Thinking reading books might teach you life, just shows you know nothing, nothing at all. You want to know something…
And I snap. I am just tired. Not tired angry. Not angry, something a word can’t contain. That animalistic urge to howl at the moon for being so bright when all you want to do is sleep. That recoil against the world for being imperfect. I look up. I stare him in the eye.
“I don’t want to know something. I never purported to know anything. And I certainly never asked for you to tell me anything. You look at me, and you tell me: we’re the same. And fine, we are the same, maybe we’re all the same, but that doesn’t mean we act the same. You call me ignorant: I think you’re obnoxious; but what we both are is two people speaking different languages who are miscommunicating. You think that I think that you’re on drugs. Well, I do drugs, I understand drugs, and what I really think has nothing to do with drugs, or poverty, or alcohol, or anything peripheral. No, I look at you, and what I see is weakness. Life is like boxing, and you’ve gotta play by the rules, and you’re right, I don’t know much yet, but I’m learning to fight, to stay in the ring. I know the ring is meaningless and the fight is meaningless, but those are abstractions. Doesn’t change the fact the guy is going to hit me. That’s a reality that affects my reality. And I’d vastly rather be myself, somebody whose learning to sidestep, to hit back, to operate in the world around me, then some wretch like you, someone who doesn’t learn to fight, somebody who crouches down and puts their head in the sand saying that now they see reality, yet, what they are really saying is: don’t hit me, stop hitting me, if I don’t see you, if I don’t acknowledge you, I can pretend the pain is pleasure and that my ignorance is enlightenment and oh, how this is wrong, how this is not a way to spend your collective conscience. You want a reality? Here’s a reality. Life isn’t perfect. We operate under imperfect conditions. And you are on a quest in life that you won’t complete, that you shouldn’t complete. You want to swim across the ocean but you’ll barely get away from the sight of land and drown. I am a creature of the land, and I understand that that is a meaningless abstraction, that really I’m an entity and I should be able to exist as anything, but goddamned it, if life’s a fight why pick an unnecessary fight? So I’ll be that creature of land like that creature whose womb I popped out of taught me to be and I’ll operate as a creature of the land and learn as a creature of the land and when some drowning creature like you comes to tell me that I know nothing, I’ll have no response but that you’re drowning, dying slowly and painfully and unhappily while thinking and hoping that everybody else is having the fate that you are suffering. So in a sense fuck you, and I’m sorry to everybody on the bus, but sometimes, somebody sais something that you respond to, and I’m sorry to interrupt your day, and here’s the stop that I pulled the wire for even though its not my stop, but I’ll get off anyway: to avoid this man, and to stop bothering you. Good day.
And I get off, and I’m blushing, and I feel like an idiot, because really I just reduced myself to this mans standard, made myself speak his language, and it’s one of those languages that is designed to sound like intelligence but truly sounds like pretension and anyone with a hint of learning can hear nothing but overwhelming ignorance. I truly am blushing, And walking away thinking maybe I’ll go buy some cheap delicious food to distract me until this fades from my short term memory, and hopefully doesn’t enter my long term. And then I look up, and here’s this wretch behind me, and he came off the bus at my stop, and he looks mad, like he might hit me, like he might hurt me.
“So you think you’re a fighter. Great, I get it, you think. I already said you think you know everything and here you go trying to prove it. No, don’t you fucking walk away. I swear to god, I will kill you if you walk away, and you already think I’m fucking crazy so that had better stop you. Oh good, you stop, and I’ll walk towards you, and we can settle this man to man. Oh don’t look like you’re going to fight me, you were the one who just talked about life like boxing, so let’s box. I know nothing about you but the fact that you know nothing, and that’s more then enough. Shut the fuck up. I can see your eyes wanting to talk, and I’ll answer your own fucking question. You want to tell me that I know nothing too. Great, aren’t you a philosopher. But really, words don’t speak what I need to say to you. Maybe I should just fucking hit you. Pain can be like a drug and expand your mind; but you, you’re the type of guy who would lap it up to get a clever witticism out. So you’ve got something to say to me. You said things to me. I’m going to respond. I’m not going to hit you. But oh, I want to, to take that smug look out of your eyes. You think I’m the one whose outside of reality, but the truth is I’m disenchanted from reality. You make it all into some philosophical game, swimming and boxing and all that shit. And what I want to do is make you feel pain. Make you get to the point where you can’t play mind games, can’t wonder at reality, make you get to the point where cells are running through your nervous system paralyzing your brain with their resounding feedback. You think I’d say things like ‘you don’t exist;’ well fuck that, what I say is you do exist, right now, and what you are is a pile of cells that have somehow decided to be conscious and that this isn’t a beautiful thing to make you appreciate life but a terrible thing, a thing to make you conscious of the pain and wretchedness that is the fate of everything in the universe. Cells divide, stars explode, the land ruptures. Thank god nothing but humans have become conscious, imagine the suffering of the universe if it was conscious for the big bang? But oh, we don’t have that luxury. What we have is to be deteriorated, for our cells to die and flutter off, for our bodies to be blasted constantly into decay. Oh, you think I think of life poetically! Nothing is further from the truth. You in your tower of reason is the poet. Me, I sit around, do drugs, talk to strangers, and don’t give a fuck because why should I? I was always dead: from birth on, my body just didn’t know it. I look at you. And you know what I see? Some boy with a comfortable upbringing who tries to be sad to impress his friends, to artificially make drama in his life to make the good times seem better, someone who dreams about sadness and whose greatest dread is reserved for thoughts like ‘do I exist when I die,’ and what happens to my memories. Well, here’s the truth, and I’m not preaching, I’m talking from one universe of cells: one to the other: we are dead. We were never alive, we are walking nothings, and your deciding that this is not the case does not change its reality.”
Is he crying? For a second I feel like offering this man my change, I feel like he is a beggar on the side of the street, someone to feel secret pity for. But then I collect myself. I think. I suppose. I have two choices: to run or to talk. I’m a good runner, I could run; but I was not joking when I said life was like boxing and here this man has tried to bloody me and I need to prove myself by showing that both his technique was nothing, and that I can go for the knock out.
“You know, I think I like you. I like just you and me and nobody else because I can talk in this brutally honest fashion, this way that I could never if anyone was around because this is just not the way for people to talk. But you want to, so thank you, I don’t like you, but I like the fact that you talk. You are an ignorant, unhappy man, who likely will die with no one around and you might make some philosophical debate about how that doesn’t bother you but everyone wants to die in glory, with people missing you, with people going ‘there goes someone who participated.’ Personally, I want to die surrounded by grand-kids thinking that if life is a delusion, thank god for such a beautiful imagination. And that’s where we differ. Oh, don’t look at me so venomously, but thank you for not interrupting, I shut up for your monologue and I can see you are enough of a man to give me mine. See, we are the same. Maybe everyone is the same. You say this is all a delusion, and want to search for something concrete. Some underlying reality. Something for you to rest your hand on and go ‘yes, this exists’ and that would be enough; enough to make the decay of your cells and the loss of consciousness manageable; oh you fear death like me; you just think your goal is within reach and it will let you stop the fear. You are more delusional then I. What I say is let the delusions exist. Let me think happiness and have it be happiness and if I spend a life believing I am happy then truly that is a happy life. You think one day happiness might come, and perhaps it will, I don’t know how far you will swim, but I know I am happy, and I shall continue this, and that is a good life. And you mock me, and will continue mocking me, I can see on your lips a rebuttal. But you do not hurt me. In fact, I pity you. Because this entire argument we have is about you trying to take my happiness away and say it is all a myth. What sort of a game is this? What sort of a creature are you? Who would want to take the happiness of another? I cannot spread my beauty onto you but at least I take nothing away, so what I say to you is: stop. Stop blindly fighting life. Trying to hurt everything you pass. You have swum to deep and are convulsing, lashing at me, safe on land, and I look at you. I have pity. The land I am on is not the universe of water: I am not drowning. I would like to save you. But I would take you on land, where you would thrash, where you would hate my helpful arms. You would push me in to those noxious seas and jump in again with me; you would try to make me drown too; to save one I have to let you drown. And this is ok, because I am the one who is happy, the one on land and I know you could save yourself. It is so easy but you will not. And I am going to walk away. And I hope never to see you again, because if I see you again, I will have to feel the remorse of not saving you, I will have to fight your drowning claws again, I will have to futilely talk to you while you try to injure me once more. All you do is scratch and bite and participate nothing; perhaps your scars will be on me forever. But you have scratched enough, and, frankly, you can scratch yourself because I am going to walk away right now, on this street, this street you said I could not walk away from you on, and I will walk into my beautiful delusion and forget you, since you are worth forgetting. I will not say good day, since the day will not be good for you, but I will say good luck because you are taking a different route in life them me, and maybe, if you have good luck, you will touch reality, and I pray and pray and pray that you do, because if not, you did worse then never existed, you existed and squandered and made the universe of yourself unhappy. Now get the fuck away from me.”
And I walked away, and he did not come after me, and he was no longer angry. He looked thoughtful for a second, like a man waiting for a bad aftertaste, then opened his mouth to reply, then shut it thinking better. We both knew the truth, and it was that we knew no truth. I think he saw his greed in trying to exploit my ignorance, and I think he felt pain in me trying to reveal his. He looked, for a second, into my eyes, then turned around and walked away. I went back to the bus station, turned on my music, wondered at the beauty of my view, and waited.