I have an idiot friend who has an idiot theory.
"Technology has only sped everything up, people think all this shit is gonna extend our lives endlessly when all it has really done is made everything we dread people knowing easily available. Now imagine there's a generation right now that doesn't have any qualms about being ignorant AND the fucking worst in public because they do it all the time on the internet."
He usually pauses here for effect, and to ask me for forty bucks.
Earlier that week, we had both gone down to the EDD office, I had moved out on my own and had some income, he wanted to find a place too and had no income so we figured we’d fill out the forms for unemployment and see what happened.
"I mean, the word private is bound to slowly lose meaning...like the word pager. When's the last time you even heard it? Years right? Shame is a luxury afforded only to those who have a functional private counterpart to their public life, y'know. If everything is in public you can't be ashamed or literally everyone would be DYING from shame, just paralyzed by it. It's the same function our brain has in minimizing our recollection of failures and conveniently cutting out memories of bad behavior or poor morals. Without it, society would fail to function and one thing we can all agree on is that humans will treat as commonplace even the most outrageous and heinous things once they happen often enough."
He was talking loud enough that anyone who so desired could have expressed an interest but those in the vicinity stayed quiet. Undeterred, he turned back toward my ear, I wasn’t sure what I had done during the infancy of our relationship to make it seem like I appreciated his garrulous nature, but he’d taken whatever fractional hint I gave and ran with it. Usually he was confident enough to pull it off, though.
“I suppose being thankful for ‘free money’ is nice but sure does seem like it just moved the finish line that much further away, have’s still have plenty and now at least have not’s aren’t dropping dead from starvation right? I mean, how different from slit-your-throat-for-a-dollar capitalism is this?”
“I dunno man, all I know is that as soon as you turn a certain age, there are these papers saying you owe money simply for existing, so conversely, you might as well get paid for simply existing too, right? Doesn’t that balance the equation?”
“Feels like gettin’ put through a wringer twice, though, doesn’t it?”
“I would not even know...what’s up with the party you were talking to Sofa about?”
“How’d you know it was her?”
“There’s a picture of a damn couch popping up when she calls man! Who the eff else could it be?”
Because we had the dress rehearsal, he feels peachy starting in on the same old shit, later that week, after we get to the party.
“Can you believe this dick? Have you ever even considered how much truly brilliant shit has come about because the person who created COULDN’T NOT DO THAT THING THAT LIGHTS THEM ON FIRE FROM THE INSIDE, DO YOU KNOW WHAT BIOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE EVEN MEANS, FUCKNUTS?”
“I’m talking motivating a plumber not motherfucking Picasso, m’dude.”
“So somebody isn’t gonna do their job if it isn’t intimately linked with getting paid, or won’t do the job well, is that the supposition?”
“If he says he’ll get to it when he has time and my damn house floods, who would I talk to about that, huh? Some commie bullshit is all it is.”
“That’s some spurious reasoning, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that you are too stupid to call more than one plumber if your house is flooding, so why did you?”
He’s already started walking away, I think they’d had this fight before too, so the provocation most likely rang a little hollow to him.
“Anyways, talking about just HIS house flooding is much too small a metaphor...er simile, would that be a simile in this case? I mean 40% of Florida is gonna be a real expensive underwater reef in 10 more years…”
Usually somebody who feels like fighting or fucking will chime in here, just toss out an opening salvo.
"You're talking about these things like they are foregone conclusions, but where do you stand when it comes down to it? What about all of our collective future? What good is looking smug and knowing this shit if you are on the same boat with us?" and the like.
Dramatic pauses; my idiot friend plays this game throughout the course of the night where he won't have a drink til there's a dramatic pause with at least ten people hooked, eyes on him.
"I figure I'm here on earth to observe, who else could I tell but other humans? Maybe there is a desire for change in me somewhere, but does a mirror necessarily take sides?"
Very poetic and were there no one interested in fucking him, or at least touching his quite young looking face in some dark corner, there was now.
"And when you think about it, subverting science with entertainment or specious religiously motivated rantings at a time when this island earth [phrasing stolen from a particularly awful b&w movie] is in flux due to eight BILLION people like us, just people, not a fucking nationality or religion, people. homo-goddamn-sapiens... "
My friend takes a drink here because there are fifteen people in a half circle around him, poised like he was going to tell them how to turn toenail clippings into gold.
"I was fucking around with a calculator on my phone early this week waiting to get a physical for this job I'm trying to get, so, picture this."
And they all shuffle half an inch closer to semi-employed Socrates.
"At this party, there's like eighty people, and anybody who's worked a shift at a restaurant today will have probably encountered another sixty to seventy people, so for a pull-it-out of my ass estimate to make it easy, let's say one hundred and fifty people you theoretically could have met today. Say you did that every day for this year and the next eighty years you live. One hundred fifty people every day for eighty one years only equals four point four million or so. MILL-I-ON. You'd have to spend eighty one thousand years meeting people to hit four billion."
He is pausing now because he wants to drink, but it's done brilliantly well. Once the can is lowered from his mouth he hits the punchline: "and that's only HALF THE FUCKING WAY THERE! Crazy, huh? But anyways, unfettered commodification is anti-human progress and the way the rich justify profiteering and thriving off of ignorance, mob mentality and fear through the media is hilarious once you get over being scared of dying."
Three seconds after he finishes somebody just drunk enough to get it will laugh once, a high hard 'HAH!' like a cough.
"Zombie movies make it into something outlandish and other-worldly but coupled with demonization of sciences and empirical thought i feel it's more likely a moron 12 years of age might kill me and eat my brain because there could be a funny meme in there and that youngster wants to get more reddit points or whatever."
He's entertaining, I am always first to admit. We met freshman year of high school, one of a hundred and ten new students wandering around aimlessly on the first days in September. Two weeks later we ran into each other at a video rental place in the city we both lived, about fifteen miles from the school. His situation; browsing video games while father and brother wandered elsewhere in the store mirrored mine, discovering he lived only a half mile away meant we started carpooling once I could drive. Were adolescent boys capable of such leaps I would have realized after about two months that I loved him, partially but not simply because of how much I felt we were the same person, or two facets of the same person.
I'd think about that feeling later, when I felt his slipping away into situations akin to the tunnel vision that comes before blacking out, choices narrowing and time becoming less an irritant. He never got there, had too many support mechanisms maybe but I remember talking about it with him in a protracted and difficult way when his addictions were at their worst. It was doubly hard because I also felt in my mind that I viscerally understood everything, of course, right? We’re two halves.
And what we both knew was this; there's a glimmer of satisfaction among those who lead truly desperate lives, stripped of meaning beyond that of facing a hangman, or picking up a handgun. The satisfaction is that of a person who no longer has any petty thoughts of whom they could have been and instead is FINALLY fully aware of who they are, right now. And right now it felt almost generational, like a baptism into the bleakness, and everyone adolescent learns how coercive the void can be, but when it is right there, like a massive beast breathing through a wooden fence, hot and smelling of decay, it becomes something commonplace. Omnipresent it changes into something else, a wish to escape, to death or space or love or pain, or anywhere.
Years ago when I wrote a short diatribe that went on (maybe too melodramatically) about the differing flavors of desperation, I didn't shrink away from such a comparison because I feel like taste is a good metaphor for describing desperation. What seems understood when it comes to tasting things (chocolate is good, bugs are bad) are not even remotely universal.
So a random person who happens to be at a shitty party my friend and I have also had the great honor to receive invitations to desires a certain flavor of desperation that particular night, my friend, with his sometimes witless indictment of the young, or the old, or poor, or the rich provides said flavor. They fuck (sans gender, a true millennial) and instead of continuing a (wonderful) delusion together, talk shit about each other, write it off as a mistake and never speak again.
He says this in response to my astonishment, sitting on a curb outside another party (bag of frozen peas and carrots held up to his eye socket).
"What'd I just say man?! Everything sped up. We know, everyone knows the life cycle of a relationship. Even a five year old knows what a breakup speech sounds like and when we live 120 years like most of us will, how can it make sense to do the whole 'til death do us part' thing? Imagine saying that and knowing that means sleeping next to the person for ten decades. TEN DECADES. I'd kill anyone i know and love if I had to live that long with them. Marriage was an institution designed for people who died in their forties and fifties and now we live more than twice that long. Throw it out or make it a ten year contract, that i'm down with. I've been in a relationship with somebody I'd commit ten years to but to have it open ended...or just don't even pay it any respect and get divorced within six months, how does that help anyone have faith in 'the sanctity of marriage'? It doesn't work anymore, why don't we try something new? Sheesh though, say this to nearly anybody, especially a newlywed, psh, just fuckin forget it!”
"No, no, yeah. You were trying to convince a newlywed."
I paused to light his cigarette then mine.
"Not about your ridiculous theory of marriage, you were trying to convince them to fuck you. That's why you got punched. Don't blame it on reactionary thinking, just don't put a hand that has a wedding ring on it over your cock and try and be smooth about it."
Posted by Chris Castro on Sept. 19, 2020, 3:36 p.m. from Oakland, CA
Last updated on Sept. 29, 2020, 3:19 a.m.