Told Between Puffs, October 2018
In which our hero takes a break
Verily sat down to begin writing. Microsoft Word™ labored to start up, giving Verily a moment to consider his argument. His mind darted from premises to conclusions; he measured example against counter-example; he designed a baroque conceptual superstructure. But Word had been open tabula rasa for minutes now, and the words would not come. There stood impregnable walls between spirit and hand, with no faux-horse in sight.
Verily sighed, reaching for his phone. Two texts: one from Mom (“call me tonite. need to talk w u about [unintelligible]. love u!”), and one from Pera Perfida. Verily and Pera had been on and off for about a year now. Even the frustrations of analytical stalemate could barely drive Verily to respond to her message. He’d had it with her. The last time they hung out, Verily remembered, she’d pointed out a white dog enjoying the adoration of several inappropriately ecstatic students.
“Oh my God. I love that dog. What kind of dog is that?” Pera had asked.
“Samoyed,” Verily answered.
“You can tell by looking?”
“Is there another way?”
Verily knew it was time to end things with Pera. But he needed a break from the confounding revelations of Derrida and Heidegger, from the labor involved in turning an argument—the suffering that is accomplice to all Great Writing. So he began typing out a response to Pera:
“sorry I’ve been so M.I.A. lately. classes have been crazy and i just have a lot on my plate.” Lies can clear air swifter than truth, he thought. “wanna get some Oren’s rn and chill?”
Pera’s reply came quickly and with manifest desperation: “hi! no worries! [monkey emoji] I’d love to, it’s been all day since I’ve been in a pubic space haha. let’s meet at broadway gates in five!”
Everything about Pera’s text awakened a profound exasperation in Verily. The excessive, overly sincere employment of the exclamation point, the probably purposeful typo suggestive of sexual aspirations, the manic timing of the thing. And who uses monkey emojis?
A couple seconds later: “oops lmao !!!”
Now, on Low Steps, their conversation had taken a turn toward the serious. They sat side by side—Dirty Chai and Americano in hand. The autumn wind swept over the plaza, carrying their tense exchange toward bysitters.
“I just don’t get why you’re being so shady,” Pera was saying. Her face had turned a reddish shade that Verily found unpleasant. “That’s what I’ve been trying to say. I barely hear from you for weeks, and now you’re saying you’ve only got fifteen minutes to hang out.”
“It hasn’t been weeks. Don’t be dramatic.”
“Three weeks is weeks, Verily!”
“I’ve had work to do. I told you. I have a paper to write now, I just needed a break. You’re upset that I thought of you?”
Pera looked into the distance, toward the lurid sunset. It was clear to Verily now that she was upset. “I’m not some folder you can file away for as long as you want. That’s not how a relationship works. It can take effort and sacrifice and…”
Verily stopped listening and allowed his mind to wander momentarily. Heidegger would say her mode of discourse is permanently limited to Idle Talk, he thought. There is never mineness in her voice. That’s the perfect example for my third paragraph—
“Verily?” Pera had finished talking seconds ago, noticing Verily’s absence. “Are you even listening to me? God, you’re actually such an asshole, you know that?” Pushing himself onto his feet, Verily gathered his things and began to walk down the steps. “Where are you going?” asked Pera.
Verily responded flatly, “I need to get back to writing.”