I have returned to the unemployment office and am sitting in front of the same odd young man I had before. He is smiling.
“So how are you doing?” he says exuding sincerity. His eyeglasses glint and his hair gleams. His suit seems to fit him better than the last time.
“I am still looking for a job.” I state.
“You still troubled by that. I thought we got this settled last time you were in. There are no decent jobs for dudes your age. I said you should stay busy, wait for the work situation to improve.”
“And until then, how do I pay my bills”
“The state has a tit, suck baby, suck.” He says in a tired voice. He is no longer smiling.
“Suck baby, suck.” I repeat. It is hard to get a handle on the surreal audio coming from this man in an oversized suit. Strangely, I feel some empathy for him.
“Sorry bad day, need coffee. You know this ain’t no dream job. I gotta go with the gut, and things are bad all-round. Job’s made for burn out.” He says this earnestly. Then he takes off his glasses and polishes them with a handkerchief and replaces them on his nose. “All right then, why don’t we start over, from the top; so you been keeping busy as I suggested last time.”
“What’s the matter, not thinking positively?” I say trying to lighten things in a sarcastic way. If nothing else he’s honest. “Did play around with your writting idea – mostly out of boredom.”
“See the important thing is to stay busy, chill out. Things have a way of working out.” He says, back in the upbeat councilor groove again. “I’m assuming you took my advice and are writing about yourself. Good for you, lot of weird stuff in your resume. All I got to say is, show don’t tell.”
“Want to read it?”
“No I don’t like to read.”
“What.” The man is a walking contradiction. Maybe it’s my age but it is impossible to get a logical read on him.
“Trust me, show don’t tell.”
“What” I say, feeling we are no longer on the same journey.
“Try something pastoral.” He looks into the distance as if envisioning some country idyll — some baroque tableau of naked nymphs frolicking with horse hung satyrs. Again Henry Miller is brought to mind. “Pastorals are nice.”
“Yes they are.” I say.
We are on separate pages. Maybe it was a mistake to come back, man’s got nothing for me. Nothing for anyone my age – my age, I feel my time has passed. It is a shock to the system; I am no longer relevant to the new social order. At the most I am on the fringe. When did all this come to pass? My memory mumbles here. I have no idea how I tumbled from then to now. All I have are stories of the in betweens. We all have stories. It is how we get through the day. Whether we do it well or poorly depends on the stories. Right now my stories seem impotent. A little magical thinking is needed. My thoughts are interrupted by the strange young man.
“Only a small number of dudes read anymore.” He says, earnestly segueing into strangeness. “But reading literature is not really the same as reading…it’s more radical”
Wow. Radical. Reading can still be a dangerous thing.