“The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!”
–Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
“Someone needs something to debate out. We’re just animals in need of…Otherwise we’re fuckin’ DEAD.” The man said to no one. He leaned over his drink and peered at the bottom. “This whole fuckin’ thing is a disaster.”
Jeremy observed the man from his booth. He caught many of words, but most were lost to the musky air of the bar. Jeremy wasn’t sure why he was still there. He had just bombed a 15-minute routine and the drunkard he’s watching was the man who had heckled him mercilessly halfway through.
“Ah, shut up! You’re nothing special!” was what the man had yelled out at him as Jeremy struggled through his set. No one was laughing until they heard the man’s interjection. Jeremy stopped, stammered, and trudged through the remainder his jokes then quickly left the stage to a scattering of applause. It was embarrassing, but he was used to it by now. So, why was he still there? And why was he now fixated on the man that had, somewhat successfully, humiliated him?
“Puny. Puny…MAGGOTS!” The man’s voice bellowed out, but no one seemed to react, and the man fell back into himself, slouching over his drink, muttering.
Jeremy once thought he could be a writer. When he was younger he would sit at bars and observe his surroundings. Snatch snippets of faces and conversations that he could internalize and use for his writing. But whenever he would try to write “seriously” he would either lose interest, or the whole project would “fall apart.” Instead of finding the truth with his writing, all he found were some half-baked ideas and pretentious ramblings.
So he switched gears to something he believed he would be good at: comedy. But it wasn’t something he was passionate about, but he made people laugh, or at least he used to. And while he wasn’t passionate about it, he thought comedy would have been more useful to pursue something he was good at rather than chasing something that was beyond him.
“God. Not fuckin’ again.” The man muttered some more. Why did every bar seem to have one of these guys, Jeremy thought. And did any of them look at themselves, realize that they are just repeating the same patterns and behaviors as each other and going nowhere? A few years ago, Jeremy probably would have composed a whole life surrounding this drunkard. Something unique. Something explaining why he was in such a condition. But the reality was was that he was just some guy, and there were millions like them. Nothing interesting about them. Just sitting at bars, groveling and yelling at people. Broken animals with nothing better to do.
For a second, Jeremy thought that, perhaps, he was as deluded and discombobulated as the man at the bar, but he knew that wasn’t true. He saw himself clearly. He was just a young man who was told throughout his life that he had something special, something to offer people. He was going to be a great artist or comedian. And he wanted to believe them. But the truth is he didn’t have that much talent, nor was he that deep. He was just another guy just trying to get by. And that was the reality. No, not the truth, because the truth has a deep, moralistic weight to it. People have, for thousands of years, pursued some “deeper truth.” A big neon sign that would bring answers to the universe, but all there was was reality. The things that happened in the day-to-day. And to think otherwise was delusional, Jeremy thought. Maybe the man at the bar realized this, on some level, and wasn’t smart or creative or mature enough to transcend the void. Again, another broken animal.
God, Jeremy thought, this not what I wanted to think about. But what did he want to think about? Jeremy, for all of his self-awareness, barely knew himself or why he did the things he did in his own day-to-day. Some have said that the purpose of life was to know the self, but what if he would never truly “know” himself, even when he’s 80? Or, what if he finally knows himself, and doesn’t like what he sees? What if he turns 34, and knows everything about himself? Now what? Where does he go? Does he just exist? Like the man at the bar, or a spider weaving something in the corner though barely comprehending to ask?
Jeremy swiped away such thoughts. They lead nowhere. It was best to stop bitching about things he had no answer to, things he had no control over, and focus on something worthwhile, even if small, that could help bring meaning to others. Even if it’s just an odd joke or observation. Soon, Jeremy found himself turning away from the man at the bar, and entering night; walking down the street towards the hotel. Tomorrow he’s going to head out for another show. And maybe soon after he will quit comedy. Or keep going. Either way, it didn’t matter. At least, that’s what he told himself as the night air curved around him and disappeared.
My response to Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt was to “open book, point, write.” I closed my eyes and flipped through my copy of the The Importance of Being Earnest and found the above line which is spoken by Algernon, one of the funniest characters ever. However, what I ended-up writing wasn’t all that funny. But for something that’s “stream of conscious” it’s…a thing.