I’m at some random frat house. There’s more smoke than oxygen in the air as I stumble, I’ll admit, a little drunkenly through the halls, rubbing elbows with the future leaders of our country. That’s a depressing thought. These people are so in touch with what’s cool, and so oblivious to what matters. God knows why I’m even there. Oh yea, the keg. I’m obviously not welcome judging from the stares the dudes are giving me. Even the girls, once they notice there’s no collar to be seen or Greek letters on my person, look at me like a leper. Good.
Even with my distaste for the fraternity scene, I find myself enthralled. This house at this moment would be an amazing opportunity for a sociological study. Why do my peers feel so compelled to be walking clones of each other? What drives these people, who all have their own dreams and aspirations, to share a single dream? What does acceptance bring but a feeling of security in a crowd? Fuck, I don’t care and I’m getting the hell out of here.
Two steps away from freedom. My mortal enemy steps in front and denies me.
“Hey dude, you don’t go to this frat,” my enemy says with a faint shift of his eyes to make sure all the females in the area are witnessing my pending humiliation.
I take all this in and very quickly realize there’s nothing I can say that’s going to end this conversation cordially. What’s the point of admitting I’m not? He’ll just make a spectacle of sending me packing and everyone will have a good laugh. Or I could claim interest in the frat, maybe try to sweet talk my way into leaving peacefully. I was never a good liar though. So I do the only thing I really could. I raise my middle finger, and very politely ask him to sit and spin.
He broke my finger and then he broke my nose. In my mind, I still made the right decision.
Let’s flash forward two days. I’m sitting in my sanctuary, the library. The bandage on my nose itches. I’m having some doubts. Maybe my disdain for the “cool” kids is just a deep-seated twinge of jealously. Who am I to judge these people? It’s probable they’ll be infinitely more successful members of society then me anyway. They possess that one quality that I and many of my fellow writer friends lack, the quality that really gets you ahead in life. Not intelligence, charm, or even physical beauty. I’m speaking, of course, about confidence. My finger hurts, but not quite as much as my nose.
Another flash forward, this one not quite as long. The English building is fading away behind me along with the remnants of a thunder storm for the ages. I always do my best thinking after thunderstorms. I think it’s all the supercharged electrons zooming around the air that gives my brain that extra spark it needs. I’m still thinking about the confidence that just exudes from the pores of all those well-proportioned people on campus. I’m realizing that it’s easy to be confident when your life’s work will have nothing to do with you as a person. This gives me hope. Then I realize that I assure myself everyday my writing sucks. This does not give me hope. Back to square one I guess. Oh well, I enjoy square one immensely. There’s no danger, you see. It’s only on square two and beyond that the real risks start to take shape.
I met a girl today. A beautiful one. She has the most amazing red hair and brown eyes to boot. She’s my dream girl. Smart, funny, insightful. Basically everything I wish I could be, probably could be, if I wasn’t so busy hating everything all the time. Maybe she can help me.
That night, at dinner, I had my first good conversation in months.
“Why are you so upset with our generation,” she asked me with worry in her eyes. You see, when we met, I was in a good mood. You could almost say happy-go-lucky. Then she made the mistake of asking me what I think of campus life. I’m already ruining it.
“Because it’s easier than being proud,” I answered, trying to buy myself some time.
“That’s a lame answer.”
“Ok fine. Maybe I hate our generation so much because they all seem like walking clones of one another. They follow a societal formula, if you catch my drift.”
She smiled faintly before answering. “You know, you’re a walking, talking cliché yourself. The tormented artistic type who’s convinced the world is going to hell. How original.”
My first thought was that I should throw it back in her face. I almost did. Then I realized she was right. Shit.
“So are you saying if you can’t beat them, join them?”
She sighed before answering. She knew that I knew that wasn’t what she meant. “Of course I’m not saying that. Be you. Always be you. Just let other people be themselves.”
I was about to respond when she added, “Well, be you. Just drop the self-loathing part.
I remind her I was in the middle of a good self-loathing session when she met me.
She laughed and said we’ll work on that.
It’s been two days of frustration and writer’s block. The self-loathing really lends itself to my writing. I’ve tried a couple things to aid in breaking through this wall that’s keeping me from my upchucking random words onto paper. I mean writing. Weed helped a bit, but everything I wrote seemed like a comedy. Except I’m not funny. I thought Aderol would help, but I’d be three pages into a story before I realized I wasn’t making any sense. I even tried whiskey and woke up on top of my laptop. How Hemingway pulled that shit off I’ll never know.
Red-head went home for the weekend and so I’m alone with my drinking buddies. I guess I’ll drink. Just a few shots.
I’m drunk. Really drunk. My friend and I are walking down a familiar road. He’s drunk. Really drunk. I know I’ve been here before but I can’t quite remember when. My buddy, the observant fellow that he is, points out a large man walking directly towards us. Christ, its nose-breaker. I’ve always told people I’m a runner not a fighter. My friend likes to claim he has mastered the fetal position school of karate. We may be boned.
My buddy assumes a defensive stands, puffs out his chest, and looks ready to take on the world. This emboldens me. I turn to face my tormenter as he nears, and take a glance over my shoulder at my comrade, hoping to make eye contact, more to steel my nerves then for anything else. He’s halfway down the street. I don’t blame him.
I’m about to follow suit when nose-breaker shouts, “Hey, just hold up a second.”
“The oldest trick in the book,” I think to myself, getting ready to run and thanking God I don’t have gum in my mouth. I couldn’t do both at once.
“No really man,” he continues to yell, “I just wanna apologize.”
Interesting. Fighting against thousands of years of human evolution, I squash my flight or flight response and turn back.
“Yea, I’m truly sorry dude. I saw you on campus today with that bandage on your nose and I realized maybe I was out of line.” Even though the corner of his mouth twitched a bit when he mentioned the bandage, it was a sincere enough apology.
“Well thanks.” I said, truly appreciative. “And I’m sorry about the sit and spin thing. That would’ve been uncomfortable for both of us.” He laughed at that and the tension melted away. A bit.
“I mean it though, man. I was drunk, and when I’m around my brothers I get out of line. I’m really not a violent person.”
I don’t know what came over me, but instead of just assuring him again it was okay, I asked, “What kind of person are you?”
He tensed at that, clearly caught off guard and very uncomfortable. I could tell he wanted to clear his conscious and move on. I normally would have let him go, happy to be away from the whole situation, but I think this was a sub-conscious attempt at just a little bit of revenge.
He looked around, making sure no one was within ear shot. It was four in the morning.
“I’m only telling you this because I feel like I owe you one. I’m studying business.” He seemed ready to stop there, but the look I was giving him said that wasn’t enough to suit my purposes. “Okay, Okay.” He seemed really uncomfortable now. “I know it’s stupid, but I’ve always wanted to be a poet.”
He looked ready to punch me again when I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help it. All I could picture was a bad stage actor, one hand raised in the air, crying out in a suitably lame thespian voice, “The irony, the irony.”
When I had calmed myself enough, I assured him I wasn’t laughing at his dream. I asked his name. He said it was Brian.
“Well Brian, me and you, we’re going to be good friends, I think.”
He looked confused. I wasn’t about to explain. Not that night anyway.
“Well Brian, from one cliché to another, good-night.”
As I headed home, I couldn’t help whistling a happy little tune. Red-head was right.
If you can’t beat them, meet them.