“You know you’re the smartest person here, don’t you?”, his friend grumbled with his mouth glistening with milk, Frosted Flakes and a glint of a sinewy, brown baguette. “I hope you know what you’re doing, sitting around. Getting work is hard, man”, his friend continued emphatically and with conveyed finality, his mouth now agape clicking his tongue to accommodate the tough brushed wheat. He gave an imperceptible nod that stammered “Okay”. His friend walked to kitchen with a defeated air to restock on Frosted Flakes. It was just another Saturday morning.
Christian had never been a conversationalist.
Professors and peers never praised him for his “inimitable prose style” or “rich use of language”. They held postmodernism in high regard rather than logic and linearity- to him, postmodernism was just an umbrella term where “smart” writers nod soberly and uncompromisingly without understanding its definition. It was not like it mattered any way; how many people become truly great writers- or anything great really?
From the gaps of the black drapes, spidered light crept onto the glass table and reflected onto Christian’s coronal plane. He shifted the clutter of cardboard take out boxes and the blue double-stuffed Oreo box from the surface to make space for his laptop and he gave the black suede sofa covers a swift, perfunctory shake to remove its crumbs. Using his lithe frame, he fished for the TV remote under the folds of the unyielding sofa, finding crumpled homework assignments before weaving his arm through an array of watermelon Jolly Rancher wrappers to reach his prize. “My precious!”, he hissed to himself with a toothy smile. It was just a couple of minutes past one thirty; playoff basketball wasn’t on for another thirty minutes. He lived, breathed, the intensity of the game and its intricacies. He scurried through channels like a street pianist changing from Fur Elise to the Moonlight Sonata for coins, barely blinking or thinking. He settled on ESPN Classic as a consolation prize- Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Bottom of the 12th Inning. “Couldn’t be bad, right?”, he thought to himself. After all, it was THAT scene in Good Will Hunting coming up, with the famous Pudge walkoff off Pesky Pole. In his mind, he remembers:
“Will- I can’t fuckin’ believe you had tickets to that fuckin’ game!
Will- Did you rush the field?
Sean-No..I didn’t rush the fuckin’ field, I wasn’t there.
Sean-No..I was in a bar havin’ a drink with my future wife.
Will- …To have a fuckin’ drink with some lady you never met?… I don’t care if Helen of Troy walks in the room, that’s game six!
This isn’t one of those stories where our protagonist resolves his metaphysical, or very real, physical problems for that matter, with the sudden gusto of two pages of prose. He was just waiting for the game. Christian’s resume, to him, was nothing but a crumpled piece of homework; an impetus for the motions that he didn’t need to yield to yet. He wasn’t a paunchy, middle-aged man; he was still wearing his slim, faded blue and gold Andover Tennis track jacket. Sure, his tousled hair was receding to the trenches and his pallor did him no favors but… but he was still in the prime of his youth! Sure, who wouldn’t want to be on a Wheaties Box one day, but he wasn’t a superstar athlete- and he wasn’t Madeline Albright- so he’d have to bide his time by grabbing a bowl of Frosted Flakes for now.
The “job thing”, as he termed it, was a source of banal conversation amongst his friends. He typically responded, his eyebrows circumflex, with a slovenly ease that prompted digression, “I uhh…am amazing, remember guys?” His peers saw him as confused and misguided; his soft, dull azure eyes rarely showed any discernible intensity or direction while he whispered and he shuffled away from “important” conversation seamlessly.
Don’t get me wrong, Christian didn’t mind banal. In fact, he liked banal. He could sit hours and hours, chewing red Twizzlers, going through Gogurt packages and Fruit Punch Capri Sun pouches with a Kobayashi-like power while watching low-scoring baseball games- an embodiment of the American Dream. His favorite movies were often Lynchian – a surreal and uniquely inseparable pastiche of the macabre and mundane.
It was so rare to see his dreamy eyes sharp. We were always told in college that the degree was about “teaching us how to think”. In my frighteningly few serious conversations with him, Christian interpreted the graduate cliche takeaway uniquely. To him, it was about learning about what to focus on during these lazy Saturday mornings.
This is an ode to our last eight years together, Christian. I’ve always been observing your self-effacing demeanor with my unremarkable, black pupils. I’m quite confident we goofed off more than any other two college freshmen ever; we languidly dealt with serious responsibility through Steely Dan and Pink Floyd, through weeks filled with ping pong (not of the mental variety) and Seinfeld and through unimaginable sleeping schedules. I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon. And yes, the Clippers did win that playoff game.