"A man said to the universe, 'Sir, I exist.'"

Yesterday a man came into my place of work. He was old, possibly senile, absolutely lonely. He wanted to talk philosophy under the guise of science.

Of course i work in retail and when a customer speaks of things irrelevant, they are not humored for long. Unfortunately (in the opinion of my manager) i'm a student of philosophy and can't always help myself from encouraging the direction of such conversation. He spoke of things familiar to me: the concept of beauty as opposed to art, the inexistence of so much, living for entertainment but pretending otherwise. Yet my agreement and encouragement of the things he said only seemed to perturb the man. It was as if i wasn't supposed to be there at all, and every time i spoke i startled him with the tenacity of my disobedience. (In other words, he seemed surprised to find me once again.)

The thing is, he wasn't fully aware of his surroundings. He spoke his truths as if he must and it didn't really matter who heard in the end. He had begun by talking to another employee and when that one excused himself the man kept talking. I walked by and he directed his flow of monologue to me. Considering both the interest i had in his words as well as my need to keep people from humility (which isn't always good), i stopped and listened. It was when i responded that i realized my own entertainment was not met with his: he was serious to the point of agitation.

By the time my manager finally got her way and steered the man out the door, i was almost no good. The whole display, the rationality of what he was saying steeped in the wrong time and place, therefore treated accordingly by those of us called "sane", had me feeling too vague to continue long in whatever the hell i had been doing. My manager saw this and had me take a break. I walked outside and sat in my car. The man had already vanished.

It was his desperation that had me. Most of what he said i agreed with (not all but almost) except that makes no difference. It was the fact that he had to say it, to anyone, and was compelled to wander around in search of another person. That was bad enough, especially with how easily i could become like him, but i found something to be worse: he had to be ignored. His words held truth; they were closer to reality than anything we were doing working at a stupid "art" store (and most of the conversation revolved around this, thereby invalidating the way i spent most of my time, which was of course a conclusion i had previously formed so it was (loosely) okay), profiting off the sad grope that is the populace seeking beauty large enough to fill their gaping void while we assure they never do and so keep their business in the future tense.

His desperation to show us. And me, already knowing...how is that alright? It was there in my car, curled up on the seat, the buckle bruising my hip and me intentionally not shifting, that i realized the tangibility of the distinct difficulty in our existence. The not knowing anything at all, except so clearly the denial of this.

Faretheewell folk,
-Talthea (6/6/04)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you are fantastic.