I was feeling quasi-vaguely out of sorts. A trumpet was playing out of tune and a crosscut saw was ripping. Heartbreaking symptoms included headache, neuritis, pseudo-neuralgia. Indigestion lurked liked flames licking on the fringe of Mars. None of it could be chalked up to humdrum ennui either, which is stereotypical of alienated youth, and not a nominally grown man with a part-time role to play in a grand scheme of legal entrapment. I tried to look at it objectively, as a third person squeezed by the underhanded claw of a duplicitous assailant might. I was the same as him, squeezed. He too lived on an irregular basis with the spawn of his loins, a pair of atypical teen twins, yin and yang, who overran his home roughly every other week according to the arbitrary dictates of a venal overseer appointed by the compromised Court of Santa Cruz County. His clock, such as it was without big or little hands, was ticking. Mine, too.
He said, “What’s the point?”
I said, “Watch your language, young man.”
“Yesterday you thought it was a joke.”
“That’s scraping barrels.”
“Filled with nails.”
He could go on and on like that as if it mattered to me. He swept evidence, harmed flies, fudged details. I pretended to listen, faking a modicum of empathy before I lammed out of there. Our nerves were equally shot but is that really pseudo-neuralgia? I was looking ahead to discreetly examining my new bruises. I wanted the be the one to pass judgment.
“C’mon, I don’t have all day. Spill the beans.”
Sadly, until the teen twins returned from middle school and caused a typical ruckus, which would require improvisational skills that stretched beyond the wrinkled pages of the melodramatic script he was directed to enact, he really had nothing better to do. He continued to stoically play along as his sidekick started to drone.
“I made a mess of things.”
“Not for the first time.”
“What’s the big deal?”
“Stay away from me.”
“It’s not like it rubs off, not like some kind of contagious disease.”
“I”m just saying.”
Neither of them was much of a listener. Diligent listening requires a sort of necessary and sufficient patience according to standards established by the distant priorities of unnamed others. It was a bond between them. Sort of.
He said, “You gotta go now.”
I said, “I have this pot to stir while boiling.”
“You can take it with you.”
“I still don’t get why the teen twins can’t stand having me hang around so much.”
“I’ll catch you on the flip side, then.”
The so-called benefits of listening are difficult to rank in order of size, heft, breath, weight, or impact, some of the biggies. If categories don’t fit, it would seem imperative to get new ones that do, post haste. What if a need that requires immediate fulfillment goes unmet while valuable time is wasted by listening with feigned empathy to saccharine droning due to some arcane social ritual? Then you’ve got another big fucking mess to dodge. How then will search engines uncover obvious clues? So much pandering will get undone. So what’s the fucking use?
In the fast paced hellholes of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, all blended into one tasteless smoothie of bland packaged convenience, there was no time for unproductive dalliance. Both grown men had grown up to learn that message once and for all from deposed and detached father figures with no additional need to question why. Not even scads of gross fat and salt can elevate the taste of those forlorn packages. The need to question why is exactly what leads to making additional messes, often made from the top down before alterations in fit are required from the bottom up. There were plenty of other causes of messes to make as well.
Neither grown man needed to have much of a distant father figure with his own issues at home to learn that. Look at all the wars, recriminations, failed ideologies, religious cartoon characters, and factory rejects that serve equally well as instruments of stagnant knowledge. There are plenty of other causes of alienation apart from departed fathers, too. Though that does not mean categorically that all fathers are factory rejects by default.
When the teen twins, arrived, he listened patiently to the first word out of the first mouth, though it was clearly directed elsewhere.
“What if the price is just not worth it to me anymore?”
I said, “Nearly number one on the hit parade among well known contradictions, the second most basic building block of the multiverse, is what’s good for you may be not all good, not even for you, along with not all bad as well, and not only for you, or for everyone not you. Which leads in turn to various well known opposites in simultaneity, too.”
The yang twin said, “Are we on this kick again?”
“And those who have wants of their own not yours may want more of everything that’s easy to grab just like you.”
“It’s so sad how you are still able to think you’re funny.”
“You can’t have it all.”
The yin twin said, “What about freedom?”
I said, “Especially that.”
She said, “I like it. The more the better.”
A straight forward ruckus is easy to understand. It requires a point, a counterpoint, some games or related horseplay, aggressive goings on, oppositional activity, mental subterfuge, cheating, denial.
Backtracking, I reiterated, “I’m just saying.”
I heard, “Same old, same old.”
I said, “I hear you.”
I had been hearing the same old, same old shit for many years. I’ve learned, sort of, that it did not and does not rub off all the way. Try wiping harder and see what happens. The sticky mess I had made, after all, was still sticking. The time tested recipe had been handed down from neanderthals. Heat well, and stir. Lick wounds, and suck. Serve at room temperature. Gobble and gripe while gorging. Keep wiping to no avail. Repeat. Try to deny it away.
Evolution of humans advanced, sort of, when opposable thumbs became such a great Godsend to neanderthals. Messes could be made two-fisted. The leftover carcasses could be deposited in deep pits that would never fill up. The evidence could be concealed once and for all. That neanderthal God sure was and is great to behold. Although not even that entertaining a clown act could satisfy a big appetite forever.
Surprisingly, it was not the yang twin who first asked, “What’s good for dinner?”
Surprisingly, he said, “I’ll stir the pot and you can wipe away all the spills that leave those indigestible stains.”