The object of our love

December 20, 2011

Sometimes when the night gets cold. You get a glimpse. When a loved one passes on. But mostly we live in a dream. A sleep. Watching the shadows flickering across the walls of Plato’s cave. We are social animals. The thought of being ostracized from the company of his fellow man, led Socrates to accept suicide. But being on the outside is what all of us fear. And the greater fear. That everyone will suddenly know who we really are. And shun us. Shame. Even the good man. Lives with the fear. That others will think him a fool. And because he is good, he will accept the possibility of their judgement.

This is a story of delusion. Self-delusion. Which we all indulge in. We fall in love. Knowing that the object of our love will die.




Paul McGregor stepped out. One foot thrown high in the air. Like Fred Astaire. Followed by the other. His foot. Not Ginger Rogers. Of the drug store. The front of the drug store. Not to be mistaken for the rear. Paul felt terrific. In almost everyway. A cigarette in his thoughts. His lips drowning. In that mortal bliss of anticipation.

Fu sat. His legs twisted like a pretzel. On the cement. Leaning back against the drug store window. Like it was a couch. Reading a book. Literate architecture. Fu was also blissed out. Without the use of tobacco. Although he was unemployed. And begging.

Paul dug into this shirt pocket. The uniform shirt. That the drug store gave him to wear. Not the drug store per se. But an agent of the drug store. Paul took out a package of cigarettes. Rothman’s. He wished they were Camels. Gotta love the name Camels.  A real inspiration. He lit one. Up. It tasted so… hmmm. Before Paul could put the pack away, Fu cleared his throat. A cough. Asked if he could bum one. Paul nodded. He felt generous. Everything was going his way. It was one of those days. Nothing could go wrong. What could go wrong? Dare anything go wrong? Paul handed the package to Fu. Fu took out two cigarettes. Stuffed one behind his ear and lit up the other.

“What are you reading?” Paul asked. He noticed the book in Fu’s lap. It was one of those moments. He felt like taking an interest in others. That feeling of wellness made Paul feel… generous. Man was good. Human kind was good.

“Camus,” Fu replied. “The Outsider.”

“Any good?” Paul thought about Singh’s daughter. Her lips. Mostly. They had met the day before. After work. They messed around. Paul had gotten his tongue. Into her mouth. She almost screamed. But gagged instead. He would see her again. Today. They would meet again. Paul had brushed his teeth. Flossed. Bogarted some Listerine. Just the thought. Of her tonsils. Sent a quiver through Paul’s tightening trousers.

“It’s so good. I read it twice,” Fu responded.

Fu juggled the package. Of cigarettes in his fingers. Handed them back. Paul stuffed them back. In the drug store’s shirt. Stepped toward the curb. Wanted to sing.

“How would you react if your mother died?” Fu asked.

Paul looked at the homeless fool. Sitting on the cement. Like Buddha. Paul wondered. What the hell Fu was getting at. He also remembered what his mother had said about sitting on cement. Kidneys get cold. Pneumonia. Or something worse. Resulting in considerable damage to your abilities to populate. Or copulate. He couldn’t quite remember what his mother had been getting at. But he didn’t want problems in that department.

“She’s already dead,” Paul said. “I was six years old.”

“How’d you feel?” Fu looked very professional. Or mystic. When he asked this question. Perhaps CEO was just another name for GURU in capitalism.

“It was a long time ago. My dad remarried. My step-mother was a bitch.”

Fu nodded. He took a small pad out of his pocket. Wrote something. Didn’t say what.

“What’s that?” The smoke escaped. From Paul’s teeth. Like Sunday morning Mass. The stampede at the end.

Paul was a writer himself. Had his own small pad. Filled with notes. Lately about Mr. Singh’s daughter.

Fu looked up. “Thoughts.”

He handed the book to Paul. Paul looked at the book. Page after page. Words scribbled. Not unlike his own. He read a few pages. They sounded pretty mundane to Paul but he wasn’t into belittling Fu’s efforts. Not today. When the world was so… hopeful.

“Why do you write in such short pieces?”

“Einstein wrote his theory of the General Law of Relativity on one page.” Fu smirked. Like all folks do. When they think they’ve let you in. A wider world.

Paul thought. The smell of Mr. Singh’s daughter’s perfume. Disrupted his thoughts.

“Not so short,” Fu said.

“You think that way too?” Paul asked. “Like bursts.”

“I live that way,” Fu answered.

“You mean,” Paul said, “that life is made up of all these small crumbs?”

Fu smiled. “Ya. Small crumbs. The kind you’re fed. At the Master’s table.”

“But that doesn’t answer my initial question,” Paul said, pointing his cigarette at Fu. Like a branding iron. “Why write, think, live in morsels? When you go to the library, the books there are always huge. Like the importance of a book is dependent on its weight. If you want the world to take notice, you’ve got to think. Big. Why write in such small bursts?”

Fu was silent. He needed a moment. To consider Paul’s question. And to suck on his cigarette. He loved that swirl in his chest. That swirl in his brain. Was it thinking or nicotine?

“Because,” he began, “something might happen while I was biting off something bigger.”

“Something interesting?” Paul asked.

“Something dangerous,” Fu replied.

Paul thought about that. For some time. He thought about Mr. Singh. He wondered how he would react if he found out about his daughter. Fooling around with Paul. She had told Paul about her father’s fiery temper.

“Why do you pretend to be something you are not?” Fu asked.

Paul dropped his cigarette on the cement and ground it out.

“What are you talking about, man?”

“Isn’t your name Maynard?”

Paul laughed.

“Fuck no!” He said too loudly. Then looked around to see if anyone had heard him. They might report him. Mr. Edwards did not approve of profanity.

“You sure?”

“I guess I know my own name.” Paul was angry. He didn’t like people putting words in his mouth. Or making him out to be someone he was not. Or screwing up a day that looked so filled with promise.

“Where’d you get a crazy idea like that?”

Fu looked in his book then up at Paul.

“You did. About three weeks ago.”

“I told you I was someone named Maynard G. Krebbs?”

“I never said anything about your last name. Or your middle initial.”

Fu returned to his book. Paul stared down at the young Buddha for a minute.

“How did you know your last name?” Fu said before Paul could speak.

“A guess.” Paul took out another cigarette and lit it up. “I must have heard of it somewhere.”

“Do you know who your parents are?”

“Ya,” Paul lit up another cigarette. “I guess I know who my parents are. And I guess I know that my mother died in child birth. Giving me life. Died because my fucking head was too big. And the doctor’s couldn’t stop the bleeding. But not right away. About six years later. Still. The law still applies. Cause and effect. And I guess there are things that happen to you that you never forget. Even if you don’t exactly remember them.”

Paul sucked on his cigarette. A for some time.

Fu did not look up from his book. Nursing his own cigarette between his fingers as if he were giving birth to smoke.

“Did I really say my name was Maynard?” Paul asked.

Fu looked up.

“I wouldn’t fuck with you, man. And that’s not all.”

Paul slid down the wall and sat beside Fu.

“You said,” Fu began, “that you didn’t believe that the people you were living with were your parents. You said that you were a fictional character.”

“A fictional character?” Paul’s mouth hung open. That sounds crazy, he was about to say but was interrupted by Fu.

Fu nodded. “You said that you were a character from a comedy series in the 1960s called The Loves of Dobie Gillis. You were a character named Maynard G. Krebbs. He was the only thing that was real to you.”

“Jesus!” Paul sighed. “The only real thing. What does that say about… this?”

Fu shrugged. “This is this.”

The smoke slipped out of Paul’s.

“Sort of blows Descartes right out of the water, don’t you think?” Fu smiled sheepishly.

“How come I don’t remember any of this?” Paul asked. At the same time he had forgotten all about Mr. Singh’s daughter. And the day. The promise of the day.

“There was something else,” Fu said.

Paul turned to Fu.

“You have a tumor.” Fu said. “In your brain. Between your hemispheres. Like a hot dog. And you don’t remember any of this because you’re in denial. It’s the first stage.”

“No, shit.” Paul spoke like a man in shock. Unable to deal with the quality and quantity of information being fed into his cerebrum. Either hemisphere. Or maybe he was in the second stage.

Fu continued to slowly draw on his cigarette. Paul’s cigarette was stuck between his fingers. Burning down. Smoke going up.

“Am I fucked?” Paul asked.

Fu turned and looked at Paul. “Apparently.”

Everyone was silent. Smoke rushed into the sky. The sun hid behind its cloud.


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