Monday, January 27, 2014

Salt Kopman (A Fragment)

I am a salt merchant, a seller of exactly one commodity, salt. Not pepper, not saffron, or sage, just salt.  It was not what I was classically educated to do, but sometimes life takes you in directions that you are, at the very least, reluctant to follow.  No, salt was not in my future as a bright young lad in the Empire's second most important city.  Back then, I was not destined to sully myself (or my hands) with something so dead common as a trade. I was the family's golden boy with locks of curly hair, and a mind sharpened on the whetstones of the best tutors my family money could buy. Granted we were not the richest family in the city, but a middling amount of money would go much further back in those days than it does now. I was also the lucky beneficiary of an odd quirk that (almost all) tutors possess (when they are paid). It is wonderful for them, or so they would say, when they find a mind as quick as my was purported to be it becomes a contest. A contest to see which one of them could fill my mind with the most knowledge in their respective fields. My Maths teacher saw me solve all sorts of complex problems that his mind could only loosely grasp, and wanted me to me the next Archimides, bringing world fame upon us both. My science tutor, pondered, and failed to understand the results of my more complex experiments, and became determined to be known as the discoverer of the next Newton. My history teacher was baffled at the conclusions I drew, but knew enough to know that he wanted to make me the next Herodotus.

It wasn't overly important to me which of these fools won the day, I knew that I was not going to be any sort of the things they wanted me to be. I was going to be my own man, make my own way in the world, and do all sorts of wonderful things.  I didn't really want to be limited to being just one of the above 'new' men, I wanted to be all of them rolled into one.  Thus, my desire to learn as much as I could, about as much as there was to learn. Each tutor, in their own way, and without their knowledge was creating in me exactly what they wanted. They just didn't realize that all the other tutors were doing the same thing.  I never claimed to be a nice guy. People have their uses, and not putting them to the use they have is just plain wasteful

However, all those tutors imparted all that knowledge at a price. Both in monetary, and other terms. The money eventually ran out, and I was not prepared to meet their other terms. Seems they wanted to create the newest, brightest thing in their field, but only if they could control it as well. I have some major control issues, and I left my tutors, and decided to take my knowledge out into the wild world. The problem was with how I left my tutors, and it was for that reason that the wild world became a little bit wilder. Some fellows with nightsticks and the funny hats merely 'suggested' that 'the wide, wild, world could use a lad like you, just not this particular corner'. This corner of the world had all the clever fellows it could stand, and it was in my 'best interest' to find a new location from which to pursue my dreams of world domination.

Hints are rather easier to catch onto when they are delivered at the end of a sharp, pointy thing, and suggestions about traveling are easier to understand when they are had at the city gates. The second city of the Empire had no more use for me, regardless of my feelings on the matter. It wasn't that I had put down particularly deep roots in the city of my birth, but being pushed out the door was quite a blow to my psyche. Not that I had any sort of 'normal' home life to bid adieu to, but still one would prefer to walk out of, rather than be shown, the door.

Once out that 'proverbial' door, I had very little choice. The 'free' market isn't really free, and charity is not something that can be reliably depended upon. Sure, there are some kind souls out in the world, who will give you a hot meal, and maybe even a place to stay, but they begin to look less fondly upon you as more time goes past.  Therefore, the kindness of my fellow humans was not going to see me through was what clearly more than just a 'rough patch' in my life. No, I very quickly realized that there was exactly one person upon whom I could rely, myself.  It was not necessarily a surprise, but this realization was still not a pleasant one at which to arrive.

The problem with that realization was that I was an unknown quality when it came to be relied upon, no one had ever had the bad sense to rely upon me before. But, here I was out of other options, and only my wits, and a precious few coins to sustain me. Those coins, some carefully hoarded, some actually earned, and a few that were, shall we say 'borrowed' from my fellow citizens, were not going to last nearly as long as I needed them to, and the horror that soon became apparent to me was that I was going to have to acquire that most dreaded of things, a job. Suddenly, the idea of being the next Herodotus didn't look such a bad idea. Unfortunately that ship had sailed, sailed without me, sailed with me standing on the dock gleefully waving it good bye and wishing it a bad journey. That decision, as I plotted where my next meal was coming from, seemed just a bit on the foolish side. The joys of hindsight, if you ponder long enough about 'where it all went horribly wrong' most of the time (stress on most) you can, if you're bright enough and honest enough with yourself (always a tricky thing to try to be), figure out that moment in time where you went left instead of right. 

Although my more immediate left or right decision was a bit more prosaic being as it was being decided in a pissing down, cold rain at the crossroads that I had been 'gently' escorted to by the burly gentlemen wearing the Queen's livery. The left or right choice that was currently facing me was much more simple. Left led to the swamps and wastes of a province that had no appeal to me. Left was the way of the desperate, the way of the men who had absolutely nothing left to lose, those that life had little use for, and those who had little use for life. Right led to the far-flung reaches of the empire, the frontier as it were. A place, where if a man was clever enough (and I liked to think back then at least that I was clever), he could find some sort of fortune, if not exactly fame. The province I was being 'advised' to leave was home to the Empire's second city. The province that I turned right to trudge towards contained (and I am being generous) the Empire's seventeenth city, and and whole bunch of nothing else.

However, since I was not quite in the grips of a mind numbing despair, I chose to go right at the crossroads. I like to think it was a good idea, but hindsight is always 20/20. Back then I just wanted to find a place to sleep that was dry, and a place where I could eat on the cheap. It is amazing how quickly your priorities can change, and how simple your goals become once you are 'homeless'.  

Mes Amis

January is, so 'they' say the saddest month. It's cold, it's windy, and it is way too long. We  all start out with more resolutions than the United Nations, and a week later we are back in the same rut(s) that plagued us in December. Maybe time doesn't pass, but we do. Maybe time is standing still, and we are the ones moving forward (in theory), and the name of the month on the calendar, and the year makes fuck all difference in the grand scheme of things.  One friend of mine says that he suffers from SAD, i.e. seasonal affective disorder, which I always thought was his way of making a joke. As it turns out, SAD is a real disorder, which explains of lot of his behaviour. Theories abound that the weather has a much larger affect on our mood that one would think, I've never cared for those theories. After all, rain clouds are just that rain clouds, they should not affect how angry, happy, or sad I am on any given day. 

I made exactly one resolution this year, but that is a tale for another time, today's tale is about my friends. Two of them to be exact, the two friends that I have 'lost' this year (and we aren't even out of January). To be precise neither of them is 'lost'. I know exactly where both of them are, where they both live, where they both work, and I still have their digits programmed into my phone. They aren't lost in the Jimmy Hoffa sense, they are lost in the we no longer can be considered friends sense. Those who know me, know that I am not a man overburdened with friends. I know 'of' a lot people (many of them through my job), I know 'about' very few people. That is a big difference, and I allow very few people to know about me. I tend to make friends badly, but the one's I make, I generally keep around.

These two 'friends' had both been around for a while themselves, and until this month there was no real clouds on our friendship horizon. Then, they both changed that, and the dark clouds rolled in quickly. Luckily for me one of them is too stupid to understand why or how they lost my friendship, and the other probably doesn't give a shit. Neither one is to be considered a great loss, after all, their actions are the reason for the ending of our friendship(s). I doubt that either one will care overmuch when, or if they realize they are no longer involved in my life. I am quite sure (in fact, I know) that they have lives of their own, lives that are full of other friends. More power to them, I hope (mostly) that those other friends can look past what I consider to be their perfidy, and continue to be friends with them. I can not and will not.

Being a man of such few friends, the loss of two people from that list is a bit harder to bear, but it is a simple fact that me and these two people can not be friends anymore. Theirs was no act of great betrayal, and I did not have to pull any metaphorical knives out of my back. It was more a drifting apart rather than a shearing that sundered our friendship(s). I've yet to decide whether to delete them entirely out of my life, their numbers are still in my phone, but I will not extend the first olive branch of any attempted reconciliation. It is not that being my friend is any great shakes. I imagine (if I were to attempt to imagine it) that in many ways these people could be better off without me in their respective lives.

Those lives will continue to rumble along, and I doubt that the speed bump of my former friendship will slow them down one whit.  That is actually my hope, I do not wish these two people ill, but I am no longer to be considered amongst their well wishers. I doubt they will be replaced on the friend list, but I realize that at the rate of losing two friends a month, I will be totally friendless by spring.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Le droit de l'homme

'I am not the right man' I said as she attempted to make coffee that wouldn't taste like rat poison. She wasn't much in the kitchen, but had other skills that made up for kitchen deficiencies. She looked up at my words, with what I assumed was a tart reply. But, before she could let loose with her verbal riposte, I said 'and neither is he.' That caused the untimely demise of some crockery in the kitchen sink, and I new that 'the battle' was now well and truly joined.

That battle was not the first of the uncivil war that we had waged against one another for slightly over a year, but it was to be the last, and as it turned out the most deadly.  'Me and him are same sides of different coins, neither of which are the currency of the realm.'  Those were not the words she wanted to hear, but I felt the need to say them while I could. I knew, and she knew that this was the last stand of a relationship that vultures had been circling for a while.  Part of the reason that the relationship was on the road to perdition was the fact that 'he' existed. Not that she had gone actively looking for my 'replacement', but it appeared (at least to me) that she had found him. Obviously, this was a bit disconcerting to me, and I am afraid that I did not react quite as well as I should have to this news.

"He's going to leave you one day, just as sure as the sun rises in the east, and you know this as well." She liked that comment even less, and the flash of anger in her eyes lit them up like a Christmas tree. It was a warning sign that I should have had the sense enough to heed, but since I figured this was our last rodeo, I blew through the sign like the proverbial bull in the china shop.  At this rate I figured the expression in for a penny in for a pound would be my guiding principle. "You arrogant prick, do you really believe that just because you lack the humanity that every other human seems to possess, that you have the right to predict my future?" she asked that with some real heat, and truth be told I guess she rather had a point. It took a very long moment for me to reply 'yes, I do.'

"I don't know the man sweetie, I know the type.' I said very carefully. If only I had exhibited such care in our relationship, perhaps this moment in time would have been avoided, but I didn't and so here I was listening the death knell of yet another failed relationship ring ever so loudly in my ears.  The sound, though metaphorical, was still quite deafening.  It wasn't that I was trying to sink my own ship, or cut off my own nose to spite my face, it was just that I could not seem to stop myself. The self-destructive streak that she always accused me of having was asserting itself, and it seemed beyond my power to stop. Very slowly she said "The type? You know the type? Let me tell you something you arrogant ass, you are the type." "The flaws you claim he has you possess in spades, and what's more you know it, and you don't seem to give enough of a shit to change."

I suspect she rather had a point, but I was not in the mood to take a hammer to my soul and help her dismantle me anymore.  My flaws, so very numerous if you were to believe her, were not something that I felt the need to bring out into the light. "But, I know you aren't going to listen to me, which I suspect is your privilege and your right. Just remember that when the end comes that I predicted, I won't be around to say that I told you so.'  I continued before she could disagree 'You seem to think that just because he's there, or rather here that he is the answer to your questions. I can assure you that is not true, the questions you have aren't to be answered by a man, any man, and especially not this one.'

The next words she directed (hurled would be a more correct way of putting it) are not quite fit to print. They were harsh words (in my opinion), they were true words (in her opinion), and they were the last words that we ever spoke to one another as a 'couple'.  The decoupling that took place that night was, in the grand scheme of things, necessary, and I would wager she would tell you (she certainly wouldn't deign to speak to me) that it was probably the best thing to happen to her in years. Perhaps I was wrong about the other fellow not being the right guy, time I suppose will tell. The odds are at present against me being correct in my assessment, but time both heals and deals all wounds. The wounds that we inflicted upon each other that tempestuous night probably aren't ever going to fully heal.  Though I suppose I should at least thank her for directing those harsh, true (if you add both our opinions together) at the right man, me.