Vincent (part 1):

I’m not going to lie, Vincent had a crappy day. It was a two-scotch, ten-mile bike ride to undo-the-crappiness-of-it kind of day. But, given the fact that he worried about his liver, he cut the scotch in half, and since he was too lazy to ride ten miles, he cut that in half as well. And, if we’re being really honest, he didn’t even ride the five miles I just implied that he’d ridden, but only rode around the block, which was a half-mile at best. After a drink and a bike ride he felt a little bit better but it was hard to get the day out of his mind. A longer ride certainly would have helped to clear his head, but he felt weary and instead just flopped down on the couch and grabbed for the remote. He flipped through the channels, barely paying attention to what he was seeing, and landed on a game show: “What is the capitol of Zimbabwe?” he heard the contestant exclaim. “Harare,” Vincent muttered. But the question was the answer. It was that show.

Vincent smiled as he thought about this game, and how nice it is to be given the answers, when all you have to do is come up with the questions. That’s the way life should work, he thought, like this: Answer: Harare. Question: Where can I ship off all my cruddy clients?… Answer: Tomorrow. Question: When can I can retire?…Answer: Paul McCartney. Question: Who is the person I’d most like to write the soundtrack to my life?…Answer: Ten million dollars. Question: How much is the check made out for that is coming for me in the mail tomorrow?…Answer: Love. Question: What is the meaning of life?…Answer: Who knows! Question: What is the meaning of love?…He turned off the TV and sat quietly for a few moments, contemplating this last question about love, his dogs having jumped onto his lap when he sat down, and now curled up there fast asleep. Remembering a line from his childhood, “happiness is a warm puppy,” he decided that may be the answer for love as well: “love is a warm puppy, or two warm puppies.”

He decided that answer was as satisfactory as any other. His wife would be home soon, she certainly knew the correct answer. He might ask her. His usual question to her was, “How was your day?” This one about love might be more provocative. He pictured it in his mind: she walks through the door and puts her purse on the counter, she gets a glass of water and wipes the sweat from her brow, as he comes downstairs and asks: “Hi sweetie, welcome home, hey, what’s the meaning of love?” She’d be surprised and would smile. Not bad. Besides, he didn’t really care how her day was, it was just a habit to ask. It was always the same anyway—or nearly. Dear reader, don’t get mad, Vincent isn’t a (complete) jerk. She doesn’t care how his day is either, but she asks him all the same. So it goes both ways, and it’s fine, they’ve worked it out. It isn’t that they don’t care about each other, they just don’t care about how each other’s day was. Should they care? It’s the same as every other day, so how excited can we get to hear the same story day after day? Another proof that love probably is a warm puppy or two, because those two little guys go through the same routine day after day, each time when Vincent and his wife get home, and they go nuts to see them—every, single, time.

Vincent was old enough to have seen it all, but young enough to still care. He hadn’t quite gotten to the point where everything bugged him, but he was getting close. He still had a fondness for ice cream, and occasionally his friends didn’t bore him. Each day, life was just like it always had been—or perhaps a little worse than the day before—while everyone around him lied a little more each day. It seemed to Vincent that pretending had become the order of the day, and acting was the national obsession. Nobody was really honest anymore by his estimation, and everyone just said or did whatever they had to in order to get by, or to get ahead, or to make a killing. In disgust, sometimes he imagined himself just walking off into the woods and never turning back; or swimming out to sea and just continuing on, maybe finding a secret island someplace, or maybe a hidden grotto, where he could eat leaves and make friends with the elk and the dolphins. They, at least, seemed sane, which was a lot more than he could say for most of the homo-sapiens that were roaming the earth with him.  

However, Vincent didn’t see his role in life as being a reclusive hermit, at least not yet. He still had some fight in him, and he wanted to use it up—firing away at the depravity, the deceit, and the stupidity the world around him belched up on a daily basis. It is true that he often felt worn out and beaten down by the absurdity of everything; the mindlessness and haughty arrogance of people often made him want to scream out incredulously and cower with a degree of horror. But then, after a good night’s sleep, and a moment or two in prayer, he typically got his second wind, and was ready to play the contrarian once again, which really was the role he felt born to. Ever since he was a child, if everyone wanted to turn right, he’d turn left. If they thought something was a good idea, he was sure they were most likely wrong, and could tell them the myriad reasons why. But it wasn’t because he had to be contrary, because he didn’t have to be—but only when the situation or circumstances called for it. And always in the cause of the downtrodden, or the minority, or the outcast; and always in defense of what is true and right and good, as he saw these things, which now had become the greatest outcasts of all. What is more downtrodden in our world than truth, what is more outcast than righteousness, and what is more maligned than goodness?  Unless truth can be made to serve money, unless righteousness can be made to bow to power, unless goodness can be twisted to serve depravity the world has little use for them.

Before going to bed, Vincent thought about the idiots he had met earlier in the day. They were all idiots, no doubt about it, but they were loveable idiots. Somehow, now that he was comfortable in his own environment, their stupidity didn’t bother him so much and he began to think fondly of them. He really couldn’t help liking people, even the most obnoxious of them. He couldn’t hold a grudge against any of them either; or, he probably could, but he just usually didn’t. Waste of time, what’s the point? At least that’s the way he saw it. No, he really did like them, especially from a safe distance, from a vantage point that protected him from the effects of their humanness. In fact, he probably could love them all quite perfectly, if he didn’t actually have to interact with any of them. If he didn’t have to listen to them, he could imagine them as gracious and noble. If he didn’t have to witness them doing anything, he could pretend they acted selflessly and righteously. If he just didn’t have to be around them all, he could love everyone unconditionally. Oh, if only! He sighed wishfully at the thought of perfectly lovable people; but instead, we have all of these idiots. After acknowledging this woeful state of affairs, Vincent went to bed to recharge for another day tomorrow in the trenches. With a good night’s rest he was sure he could refrain from killing the first moron he met in the morning, perhaps he’d try to ‘kill them with kindness’ instead, as the saying goes. Or, if not that, at least maim them with magnanimity.

~FS

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