WHERE ARE YOUR FRIENDS TONIGHT?
There are four of them crammed into a side booth. Four nearly empty pints of beer. The bar is full and loud. The one-man cover band is midway through Bon Jovi’s “Wanted,” Journey will be next. Servers are rushing around to the tables looking to settle last minute tabs. Generally, the atmosphere of the basement pub is drunk and disorderly but there is a sweetness to the familiar plotlines: new lovers kissing in the corner, old friends dancing and screaming at each other the same old lyrics, the cigarettes up at the street, the spilled beers and tipped chairs and the slow waltzing trip out the door.
“You can’t say one thing is only an object and that something else has inherent value,” the man with the beard says with a quick pace and eyes locked straight ahead like a drag racer.
“No. You absolutely can say that.” The man across from him replies by placing the sides of his hands down on the table to emphasize his point.
“Why can you appoint meaning to one thing but not another thing, that’s subjective.”
“Shouldn’t you? I mean, shouldn’t you! That’s the defining difference of being human: subjectivity.”
“That’s a defining difference of bias.” The response is so quick that everyone at the table is skeptical he is even thinking through his answers or just being contrary and reactionary.
“So you are saying,” the man beside him says, while grabbing his jacket and urging the man with the beard out of the booth, “that love is simply a subjective practice of instilling subjective meaning onto something that doesn’t actually have it?”
“Well that’s a depressingly reductive way to look at love.”
All four of them slowly start to stand up.
“Look,” The man with the beard starts. “Why are all three of you against me on this? Your the ones that said love is the capacity to feel a heightened sense of feeling for everything on this earth. Tell me why you can love one person but not give a shit about the people that make your clothes in sweatshops in Calcutta.”
“We’re not against, you.” They all say in different deflecting ways.
The smart one sitting across from him tries to address him with reason. While the last two coming out of the booth chat to the side.
“Ahhh he’s just really high,” He says.
“What do you mean?” She asks.
“He smoked a ton of hash oil before we came. I am not even sure he knows what he’s talking about.”
“Everything sounds pretty lucid.”
“Well you know what it’s like to be high, right?”
She stares blankly at him.
“It’s like there is this jellyfish hanging over every conversation and each tendril that hangs down is another sparklingly cogent line of thinking that you grab on to, and inspect with vigor and clarity. Do you know what I mean?”
“I guess,” she says.
“I just mean,” he starts panto-miming climbing a jellyfish tendril like a rope, “each tendril is another tangent, another channel to follow, and each one you grab makes perfect sense in its singularity, but they change with each new response. It’s like perfect clarity for each point.”
“Maybe the jellyfish metaphor doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”
“Did you smoke some hash oil before you came?”
They both laugh and climb the stairs back to the street along with the other geniuses and drunks. Up at the street the cast votes for where to grab street meat.
“Poutine.” She says.
“Pizza.” The man with the beard says.
“I could do poutine.” The other one says.
“I think I am going to head home,” he says. “I live the other way anyway. Alright see ya guys.”
And he hugs each one of them before he leaves. At the bearded one, he says:
“You’re not just an object to me.”
And the bearded one tries to hump him.
“You are to me.”
They all laugh and split directions.
It’s windy on the walk home. He tucks his chin into his blue scarf and pulls the collar of his coat up close to his ears. With his flat-billed ballcap he looks younger but he also looks tougher, too. Nobody else on the street gives him a second look even though there aren’t many people out on the street at 3:00am other than those last chaotic ones trying to nail down a cab. Pretty girls in short dresses and no coats. Older men in blazers and paisley shirts and eyes that look underwater. He walks quickly because he’s cold.
Underneath the bridge there are three men drinking tallboys of Molson Ice and sharing a joint. They crow at him something obscene and laugh toothless grins. There’s a fourth man up the bridge stairwell taking a piss, so he decides to walk to the end of the tunnel and cross the street. The lights at the art gallery and Indian restaurant are quite. The entire street looks abandoned save for small circular pods of orange at infrequent lamp posts. At the end of the street the white noise of downtown hushes and it gets suffocatingly quiet.
His building is just blocks from the bridge and he is upstairs and in bed in minutes. He takes out his phone in the pitch black night.
Twitter: no new tweets.
Facebook: no new updates.
Snapchat: no new snaps.
Instagram: no new images.
Text messaging: no new messages.
He hibernates his phone and puts it face down on the end table.
He relaxes into his bed and his pillow, and he closes his eyes as tight as possible.
In a flash his eyes open to the solitary darkness.
The streetlight flashes on the bedroom wall.
This is no way to live.