Told Between Puffs, May 2015
Updated: Jul 18, 2021
In which our hero embraces mediocrity.
Carefully grinding the last of his cigarette stub into the pavement outside of the 116th St. 1 stop with his tanned leather riding boot, V.V. took a deep breath and prepared to descend the foul-smelling staircase and enter the station, doubtless a grimy den of philanderers and the unwashed masses of New York’s common folk. He might have to share oxygen—or even brush knees!— with an upper middle class professional in frayed polyester, rats, or worse, someone from New Jersey.
And yet last night, after washing the vile remains of a Bud Light Raz-Ber-Rita rudely thrown in his face off of his favorite ascot, V.V. had pondered the egregious insult hurled along with the malt beverage: “Get a fucking clue, you pretentious prick.” A clue? To what? V.V. was, as he often is when confronted with the mysteries of eros, entirely perplexed.
The drink had been thrown after he casually suggested to a young woman that they egress from the EC townhouse (the host was a bit of a dullard, as were most East Campus-dwellers of his acquaintance) in order to bypass the requisite intellectual foreplay of exchanging favorite Catullus quotes and skip right to mutually unsatisfying coitus. A reasonable proposition, or so V.V. thought. But confronted so viscerally with the sticky, alarmingly purple response to his innocent inquiry, V.V. decided to re-evaluate. He saw nothing wrong with his elitism—his favorite bench on campus even bore the slogan “AN ELITE IS INEVITABLE”—nor did he particularly mind being called a prick, but the combination was, he realized, a touch unsettling.
Henceforth he resolved to “get a fucking clue.” But how? Pacing about his apartment, V.V. decided to phone an old Lit Hum chum who’d ruminated passionately for the Columbia Spectator about the realities of life on financial aid to ask where to procure such an item (his butler, alas, had the week off to “spend time with his family”).
“I dunno,” the former classmate replied. “You could try Target.”
Target! Of course! The quintessential magasin pour tout le monde! Not as terrifyingly riddled with horror as a Wal-Mart or K-Mart (anywhere called “Mart,” really) but still perfectly, blissfully average. V.V. set off at once to venture uptown. Inspired by his magnificent quest, he even declined to summon the driver, preferring to make his own way via the electrified rail.
Taking a deep breath to avoid inhaling the rancid stench of urine, vomit, and God knows what else, V.V. marched resolutely into the station and, after some negotiation with the draconian attendant, entered the uptown local train toward the Bronx. Nestled fearfully in his seat, V.V. watched the roaring darkness outside the smudged glass of the window, awaiting the dreadful sight of hoards of rat kings swarming along the walls until, with a sudden burst, the dismal box flooded with a most glorious light. The train, Lazarus-like, had risen above ground—oh, what joy! Buoyed by this rapturous light all the way to 225th, V.V. was greeted with the mellifluous rancor of late-stage capitalism as he stepped through the threshold to Target.
As Targets are wont to do, the spatial arrangement of the store immediately entered a state of flux as V.V. walked in, because to visit one Target is to visit every Target. Visions of suburban mediocrity from Kokomo, Indiana to College Station, Texas flashed before V.V.’s eyes as his body was stretched across a vast American landscape of reasonably priced household goods. The clue, V.V. thought before falling unconscious. I’ve finally got it.