Making Their Exit
He could sense it. No, make that stronger. He could feel it, and in some cases watch, as it happened right before his eyes.
When things would go sour; friends, family, even casual acquaintances would peel off and away from him, like a quick cutting maneuver by a car about to miss its exit, shooting across three lanes from the far left lane to the off-ramp, just in time to escape the interstate.
It wasn’t rats deserting a sinking ship, exactly. His ship had never actually sunk. It had listed wearily on occasion. And he’d been fascinated, and of course hurt, by the number of over-the-side leapers who’d previously been in the “backer” category.
He’d been so stunned at the sudden, calloused jumps overboard, that instead of reacting with indignation, he’d sometimes throw them a preserver, help them stay afloat till they got to land, or another, better man. His confusion over their desertion did not make him mean.
Did he give off an odor that spurred people to want to abandon ship? Was there some desperate flavor, some whiff of inevitable failure that prompted self-induced man-overboards?
How much of this phenomenon was his fault?
He sat one night, martini in hand, ensconced in his favorite chair, with his favorite drink, and his favorite companion; Boris, his 2 year old German shepherd.
He felt he was being pushed over to the dark side. The side with less people. That part of the world, literal and figurative, where you have to say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. That little enclave where denial is kicked to the curb. Where honesty, and the pursuit of truth are the only two LAWS. A life that consists of smart people, and only smart people.
He’d spent most of his life straddling the two worlds. Poorly, by some assessments. With mixed results by his own.
To attempt a copacetic cohabitation in the world of the clueless, and the world of the clued in, is both idealistic and insane. Virtually impossible. He has fought off the almost regular temptation, while in the clueless world, to simply say “fuck off”. It would be his crude and crass and very truncated version of the following famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own."
Old Ralph could have run for any office in the land with that kind of diplomacy. To him, it still said, basically, “fuck off”.
He is not above questioning himself, his own motives, his behavior and the behavior behind that behavior. He has often thought about the true answer to the following question: Was it his limitations, or the limitations of others, that kept him on the outside looking in?
What were his limitations, and how did they contribute to the distance he felt from his fellow man? Elitism has doomed more than its fair share of relationships, and he was not invulnerable to that. Though rarely if ever displayed as a haughty elitism, it did color many of his views, ideas and opinions about things and people.
His desire, born of need, to control as much of his life as was possible, had to be somewhere in the mix. He was smart enough to realize that keeping the urge for control completely on his side of the fence was impossible, and that much of the spillover required almost immediate triage. Control was a lightning rod issue for most people. He found he got along best with like-minded people who controlled their own environment as much as they could, and then embraced a pragmatic acceptance of what fell outside of their domain. That approach seemed to simplify life a great deal.
He felt he possessed a rare ability for empathy, and that this would take much of the sting out of his bluntness and controlling impulses. He thought it a karmic convergence that, at least in his mind, meshed well.
That’s how he viewed himself.
Fault free? Hardly. Thick skinned enough to both hear out naysayers, and then contemplate each of their points on their own merit? Absolutely.
He’d chosen long ago to see what was actually in the mirror, no fogged lenses, no oblique view, no squinting of the eyes, an ironic action at the source of the crows’ feet he didn’t want to see.
He’d discovered at a young age that people did not want their warped views of themselves pointed out. He still occasionally gave into the impulse, and it never went well. Reality was, quite simply, a place many people avoided.
The people currently carving themselves off of what they considered him to now be, a turkey carcass, were what? Which world were their feet planted in?
Once he realized the answer to that, there was little solace. It just meant he’d not surrounded himself with like-minded people at all, but rather the enemy.
He sipped his drink, wondering if he should write all these thoughts down.
Nah, fuck it.
And fuck them.
For what it was worth, it was an answer.
© Copyright 2016 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.