This is the most recent in a long line of excerpts I’ve posted on HD. The working title has heretofore been “Didact”, but I’m now just calling it Jesus, this is getting long.
The piece itself is approaching twelve thousand words. And this disturbs me, because I had no intention of writing anything longer than 7500 words. It’s nowhere near halfway done. Uh oh.
– – – – –
The night they first kissed, after their second date, at a small Ethiopian restaurant in Evanston some number of blocks south of Northwestern, Victor had been nervous. He stumbled over his words and was only able to speak fluently if he affected a sad lilting accent which made him sound something like a depressed Canadian novelist giving a reading to some monstrously intelligent horde.
Conversation drifted away from standard second date fodder reasonably quickly. And, as Ruth later remembered, she was pleasantly taken aback by Victor’s candor and offbeat conversational style. How he twisted and challenged her.
“Not to say your aversion to online social networking is unfounded, but I find your explanation to be a little bullshitty.”
“Bullshitty?” Ruth cocked an eyebrow. “Is that a technical term?”
“In whose hermeneutics?”
“Mode of analysis?” Victor blushed slightly at having to explain the joke. If it was a joke. Ruth thought at this moment that she was way out of her league. Though from her vantage point, the lamp immediately above their table made Victor look vaguely like a character out of an old western. Ergo, appealing. This insofar as his stubble caught the light and his face’s nascent hard-won furrows contrasted with the better-lit portions of his brow and cheekbones, which, after two glasses of wine he’d obtained with false identification and the exceedingly, exotically spiced admixture of beef and beans and amaranth, all in conjunction with his jittery behavior, had developed that certain perspirant shimmer so rarely seen amongst the showered masses. He glowed dangerously. Like from a scene involving poker.
Thus concluded the awkward pause.
Ruth said, “I”m curious now. Go ahead, Victor. Tear my argument apart. It’s yours for the taking.” Ruth blushed slightly too, after realizing that what she’d said was a little obscene.
Their waiter walked by, toward the bussing station. He tittered to a beautiful waitress about now regretting letting Victor’s fake pass. She smiled and looked at Ruth, who caught her staring. And the waitress, in some round-vowelled tongue Ruth could not recognize, must have suggested that no harm should come of it. For either party.
“Alright,” Victor led in, “I can see your point about Facebook and its ilk being depersonalizing. I guess. Yeah, I suppose its modular multiple-choice approach to interests and activities and relationship statuses forces conformity, and that ‘liking’ has supplanted and cheapened other more significant –– Uh! Wait up. Now, I know I’m not being the good far-removed postmodern relativist here when I say this, but ‘liking’ has totally replaced… I don’t know. Appreciating?”
“Not that you’re making any moralistic value judgments here,” Ruth chimed in.
“Not that there exists such a thing as morals or values or someshit like that.” Victor plowed on.
But in the meantime, the waitstaff of two continued their discussion, which Ruth could tell involved her and Victor, in that same round way as before. They must’ve said what’s crossed her own mind several times, when she did volunteer work back in high school in countries whose populations were unshod and some shade of dark brown. No conversation is stranger or more rarified from the tangibly real than the one between white undergraduates.
“My being a bad postmodernist notwithstanding,” Victor initiated, as though he were gathering up his strength for some massive outlay of mental energy, “the fact of the matter is that social networking sites are not depersonalizing. The anxiety you feel about Facebook stems from the fact that it’s so insidiously personal.”
Curiosity now piqued, and realization just beginning to dawn, Ruth leaned in.
The waitress must have said, “See?” Or so Ruth would’ve liked to think.