Friday, February 06, 2004

Standing In

Ah, well, you see, it's true: I love the quick bright doomed ones, the loudmouthed girls who've had too much to drink and don't take shit offa nobody, the cutters, the speed-freaks, the falling girls. Girls who ask you for a drink and look you in the eye while they drink it.

It's where I belong, in that world where desire swamps prudence, where push comes to shove every day, where oppression doesn't consist of "authorized discourse" and "marginalization," but of guys with badges and bulky belts taking your old man to jail. I am so accidentally respectable. I walked into the wrong life. I try to do right by it, since I'm here, but the conviction that the whole thing is a charade never leaves me.

I'm the sort of person who knows exactly how many beers puts him at the top of his pool game (three) and how many ruins it (five). Who gets in incoherent political arguments, with "fuckin" or "goddam" in front of every noun. Whom the bartenders, inexplicably, have a soft spot for. Who launches into invectives from Shakespeare's histories, or goes maudlin and mumbles Eliot into his ouzo, or who suddenly finds it terribly important to explain why he never entered a monastery to a young woman who doesn't even know what monasteries are. Who staggers home in the night air arguing with phantoms in pandit hats.

People talk to me. They always have. They tell me secrets; they trust me. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I suddenly ask inappropriate questions. "So what would you do, if you could do anything at all?" or "Do you talk to God?" But probably it's just that I listen. I listen with all my heart. Maybe this is the person who knows. Maybe this is the Buddha.

So now --- it's been ages since I've gotten drunk, and I have, so help me God, a pension accumulating, and I'm on church committees, and I painstakingly talk to my son about peer-pressure and how everyone's pretending to know and to have done a lot more than they have -- I feel like I should wear a little sign, careful black letters on white, explaining that I'm just temporarily standing in for someone respectable. Just to keep things straight, and prevent confusion.

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