September 19, 2011

Ready, Set, Get Out(set)

Print More

Here you sit, on a bench on the edge of a frat dance floor, twisting the tab on a half-empty Keystone, observing the gyrating crowd. The sight has a sort of foreign virtuousness, which, although irrelevant to you, is appreciable from the outset. You’ve had the feeling before, looking at abstract art. Concentrate.

It’s a peculiar place to sit, but you like that. You’re pretty conscious of what you look like right now — it’s one of the first things on your mind. But not the first thing, right? No way it’s the first thing. God, it better not be the first thing. It’s not good to care what you look like. It’s good to look like you don’t care what you look like. Try for that. Basically, you have two socially permissible options. One: care what you look like if what you care to look like is not caring what you look like. Two: don’t care. It’s unclear whether option two is an actual option.

You’re not sure if what you’re looking at is admirable or deplorable. Can it be both at once? No, of course not – decisions must be made. You can only see one thing at a time. You can only hear one thing at a time. You can only think one thought at any one moment and your mind cannot be pure vacancy. Again, the options are binary: 1 —active thought, 0 — passive thought (a.k.a. feeling). So, choose.

You’re four drinks in. Look pensive. The average person here is on number six or seven. You desperately want to be talked to — you’ve got so much to say. There’s just so much to say about… things. There are just so many things. Here she comes. Think of something to say.

Her approach is affected — she glances over her shoulder once or twice to look back at the crowd. You try to decide whether or not she hoped you’d notice that. Probably not — it’s easy to overestimate how often people are thinking about you.

She is too cute — like, over-the-top cute. Holding eye contact with her is like gripping an exposed electrical wire. Her scent is everywhere. You consider voicing your internal monologue, imagining the response honesty would elicit. Maybe she’s tired of knowing how to respond. Maybe she’d get that sometimes it’s better not to get it. Maybe if you told her that you are experiencing a desire to grab her wrist and feel her pulse she’d be totally into that. Maybe that’s how she wants to feel — bewildered.

But all of these things are just outrageously unlikely, and fly in the face of all of the reasonable presumptions you make in an encounter such as this: presumptions that are not just a product of causal touch-and-go encounters, but are necessary for these encounters to take place. How are you to aim your verbal spewings at the bulls-eye of relevance if you have no conception of your target? You must find a bearing, and unfortunately you end up superimposing our idea of the stereotypical party interaction onto this party interaction, all the while hoping your presumptions are false. Stumbling through this social desert you take aim at a target you hope is a mirage.

Maybe this time it’s different. The idea takes hold and suddenly all of the signs are unmistakable. Honesty. Honesty. Honesty, while it may rightly be called a “characteristic” of conversation, is not comparable to characteristics such as correctness or agreeability. Correctness and agreeability are selfish, contrived conversational infusions. Honesty transcends what we see and hear, but we can feel it — that is, if we want to. Would she recognize this as true honesty, not just a façade constructed by strategic emulations?  Would she see you within that tentative stutter that she suspects you cultivated for effect? Isn’t it necessary that she be suspicious of the authenticity of your tactics in order to see you within them? You did, after all, cultivate that stutter for effect.

You are overcome by the desire to tell her nothing at all — the desire forming intently as an actual positive inclination, not just the privation of a desire to tell her something. You are not paralyzed. You watch a drop of beer trickle off of a nearby table — falling harshly into a tiny pool on the floor, spattering out in all directions. The same drop would cause a smooth, responsive ripple if the pool had been bigger.

But now she’s gone, reclaimed by the shifting and flowing dream-beast, dissolved into the collective heartbeat. You imagine what her pulse would have felt like. You feel the room’s echoing rhythm beneath your feet, against your chest, inside of your head. Womp. Womp. Womp. It would feel good to dance. Womp. Womp. Womp. Inside of your skull, activity ≠ nobility. Womp. Womp. Womp. Womp. Womp. Womp. Concentrate.

Original Author: Nathan Tailleur