Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jake had a sincere desire to avoid desperation. Avoid it at all costs. And he didn't want to look desperate, or feel desperate, or even seem desperate, in that desperation, in and of itself, involved thoughtless/careless actions that usually led to disappointment. And yet he knew so many people who were desperate, and almost all of them, inevitably, did something noteworthy. Noteworthy in its stupidity. In that, the acts of desperate men ended up defining them, with complete disregard with whoever they were before they got so desperate that they acted stupid. Emerson said, most men live lives of quiet desperation, and that was just it. Jake did not want to be "most men". But he felt desperate all the same. And he fought it.

He fought it by working hard, and being quiet. By not saying the first thing that came to mind, and by avoiding people altogether when he knew that the desperation was bubbling to the surface. When that happened, the threat was near, and he was bound to do or say something so extraordinarily stupid, that there was no back-pedaling out of it. And when the desperation showed, it came out as anger, and he knew that having anger define him was a dangerous, character-destroying thing.

So he ran. He worked hard. He tired himself out. He held his dignity to the grindstone until the machine went dull. He wanted to be too tired to be desperate. Too tired to be angry. And if he had any energy left, he drank beer, which made him momentarily happy. And only one thing came of it, and they called it depression. 

So he feigned enthusiasm about things others felt passion for, but it came off looking merely crazy. And it's what your grandparents called "moody", but your college friends called "bi-polar". And that's when people really started to worry, so he shut up, and worked harder. Because there was at least some dignity in it -providing for your family. But he also drank more beer, and things remained out of balance, His life, he pondered one night at a brewery, was like this four-legged table, and one leg was taller than the others, so the whole thing wobbled. And what he was doing, he surmised, was putting a napkin under the apparent short leg to stop the wobbling, only to find that it still wobbled. So he would prop up the other leg, to no beneficial effect. And he would continue, working on all the legs, until he found that he had propped up all the legs with napkins, and beer coasters, and whathaveyou. And the table still wobbled. He wanted to grab the whole damn table and start cutting the legs, but he knew, somewhere deep inside, that if he started doing that, he would end up with a very short table.

A very short, wobbling table. So he wasn't sure what he needed, and came to the conclusion that he should talk to someone.

So the families got together one night at Jim's, down the street. And a few bottles of wine were opened and the barbecue was eaten and the parents got to talking and the kids ran in the yard, in the darkness, and Jim lit the firepit, and they sat around it and talked.

And the men outlasted the women, who retired inside, eventually, due to the cold, or the needs of the little ones. And the men of Outlander Court were left in primal huddle around the fire, in the dark. It got quiet, as long as the cups were full, and Jake suddenly felt the urge to reveal some small part of his desperation. Here was the moment. These guys would understand. And he was going to say something, wasn't sure what, opened his mouth, when...

"This has been a really tough year for me," said Jim.

Oh? thought Jake. And he replied in the manly way. "Hhhrrmm..."

And then Jim let loose. How he just couldn't take it anymore. How he was just barely hanging on. How he loved his family but had to quit his job, before he went completely insane. How this was gonna hurt, and how he was afraid no one would understand.

And Jake just sat there, altogether stunned and pissed. And he wanted to commiserate, but knew that if he said "I know how you feel, man" it would come off so careless and condescending, that he would lose Jim, like he'd lost the others. So he shut up and looked away. Which he knew also came off as careless, but which, also, men often understand as thoughtfulness.

Jim went on for a while, and he was earnest and heartfelt about it. And when he was done talking, Jake gave him a hand on the shoulder, and told him he'd help in any way he could, That all Jim needed to do was to ask. And Jim got up and hugged him.

And in that hug, Jake felt the last life sap out of him. He'd given away the last little bit of what he had.

And he was scared that he was done for.