Told Between Puffs, Orientation 2014
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
In which our hero tries something new.
Verily Veritas returned to campus with a new attitude. And as he lead his valet from the cab to his rather too monkish room in Furnald Hall his heart hummed like a plucked string, full of rude generosity and strong Nietzschean feelings. As his man papered the drab walls with V’s preferred William Morris print, our bachelor reclined and loosened his necktie. “Oh fate,” he mused aloud, “Oh funny fate.” This sunny transformation in his affect was the upshot of a hoary Blake-like vision that had assailed him in his bedchamber at his family’s summer home in Narragansett.
While V reclined in bed one night with a translation of Pushkin, as he mixed another spoon of laudanum into his brandy, the ceiling above him split open with a terrible green light and the whole room shook. Out of the light descended a long-robed angel who floated above Verily’s bed with red hair that hung in a cloud about her narrow head, a rakish, sultry mane. Verily strained to remember his decorum. “Spirit, welcome. Might I say you look perfectly divine this evening and offer you a brandy-laudanum?”
“Open your eyes, child! Verily,” she said, “I ask you: who will take care of you when your suits have gone to rot? Who will entertain you when your books flake away? Who will dress you when your valet dies?
“A companion, Verily! A right and loyal friend. You need at least one. At least one. At least one. At least…” And the apparition ascended back to into the green ether–leaving our hero, by turns, clammy, indignant, suicidal, repentant, and, finally, enraptured: if the Gods willed it, a companion he would have.
But where does one meet a friend? Butler Library, V.V. decided.
After his first day of class he sought out a room where he might carry on a luxuriously long, loud, and impertinent conversation. The only appropriate venue seemed to be the “cafe” on the ground floor, which V presumed had been named ironically. He sat at a thin, dreadfully plastic table and set out a hand of tarot for himself and his friend, whoever it might be. He unbuttoned his shirt revealingly and so it began.
The hours passed more slowly and combatively than he would have thought. Half the men who entered were dressed in rags so dark and unseemly they surely thought themselves members of some puerile avant garde; the other half carried themselves like human cows; whenever V lit a cigarette some hag ran over to scold him.
He was beginning to despair and fantasize about his collection of skulls, when a bachelor of rare form and rarer raiment walked through the door, a lean and aristocratic figure with respectably brown hair.
“Shall we?” Verily offered as the man walked by, motioning to the hand of tarot.
“Sorry?” the man asked, in light Australian accent that practically stopped our hero’s heart.
V.V. did not want to seem to stiff, so he brought the brandy decanter out of his bag. Standing it on the table with a smirk, he asked devilishly, “Shall we?”
The man did not respond–merely glancing from decanter to Verily in quick succession. To prove his liberality, V.V fished through his bag and added a bottle of laudanum to the offerings. Now in the dangerous voice of a Spaniard, he asked: “Shall we?”
“What the fuck is this?”