This is from a short story I’ve been writing recently. Exercising my fiction-writing limbs once again, and rather enjoying it. I’m not sure where this story is going just yet, but I see potential. I hope you take the time to read and enjoy, also let me know what you think.
“Stranger things have happened. Although far less strange things happen with more frequency.” Jeromiah wasn’t sure that anyone had heard what he’d said, but then he wasn’t addressing anyone in particular except for the wind, hoping that it would carry his words to some place useful and worthy of their intent. This despite being ensconced in his favourite coffee shop where the air was still and full of the smog of public exhalations, which for him was full of vivid imagery and abstract patterns that assaulted his senses, although it served as a distraction to his own lack of participation.
His face had grown stubble, a grey sandpaper-like affair that furnished his angular jaw-line with a countenance of age that he was becoming accustomed to with painful disdain. His bathroom mirror complained daily at the lack of exposure afforded by the razor he used to use in order to keep the skin on his face looking bare, and well groomed. The complaint was one of affectation and cynicism, by a suddenly aged face that would stare back at him with blank expression, and dark rings around each eye that enhanced the evening shadow that now eclipsed its lower half.
The beauty of the mind, he thought, was that it wasn’t detectable within the brain. Electrical impulses could be read and thus attributed the qualities of the ‘mind’, but who in fact knew what the ‘mind’ was, and to what extent it was contained in any part of the body? The word itself was an abstract concept that was created so that it could explain an unknowable, immeasurable resource of human capacity. The stuff of metaphysical science, philosophy, indeed the cornerstone of intelligence and genius.
He discovered that he was fervently chewing his bottom lip as if that last thought had been substantial enough to warrant actual consumption and digestion. Aware that people around him had stopped to look at him, poised in mid-sentences, coffee cups half cocked, eyes squinted in confusion, the thought occurred that perhaps his mouth had been operating without his knowledge and that his internal dialogue had been quite audible. The left corner of his mouth twitched nervously, a half smile that flickered like a faulty light in lieu of his embarrassment. But he knew it was merely a subconscious twitch that the other half of his mouth was more truthfully indifferent to, unresponsive like the victim of a psychological stroke that had made it lose motor control when it came to expressing emotion. He didn’t care.
The kind of self-consciousness that he attributed to himself was different to that normally associated to individuals who were concerned with being unfairly judged by others. He did not feel judged by those surrounding him at this moment, but he was acutely aware that what had piqued his interest had also piqued theirs, with his inner revelation sending out a mini-shockwave of comprehension within his immediate environs, despite the clouds of consternation that brewed amongst them, and that he knew was merely a superficial rouse. The mask of the ego filtering out valuable understanding of the true nature of reality, dumbing it down for the ordinary brain or Brian he thought. There was little difference betwixt either according to him, a man who saw language as something that was designed to be as pliable as putty, but who was as staunch a grammarian as the Victorians who predicated over the English verb as if it were the word of God, rather than the social aberration that it was. Pompous and hypocritical he was, but only within reason, and only if it suited his momentary temperament, which he understood was merely fleeting at the best of times. Dust between time’s grains of sand, invisible to the naked eye, and to the dull thump of the brain or Brian inside the cranial cavity of the average human specimen. What he thought, and how he expressed himself were aberrations, just like the words that tumbled from his mouth in a clutter of well-clipped sounds, that if discerned by the appropriately trained ear were meaningful and possibly useful, but that in actuality were just clumsy noises being issued by an overgrown wind-box that was too inept to realise that it was more than the sum of its parts, and more than capable of keeping its mouth shut.
Thus, he did not care, because he knew that this momentary expression of interest from his willing audience was an illusion. A trick of the light that seemed to spark murmurings of life and excitement as if by magic, a deviation from the normal rebuttal of daily events and social convention. But like all illusions, that spark of interest was just a convenient deception, a subversion of the true underlying intent, that being the desire to be approved of, and he did not need the approval of others to know what he knew, and to know that they knew it too without having to utter a sound. They sought his approval. They were the ones who wanted confirmation that they were not the gibbering idiots that he possibly saw them as. With a dismissive but unremarkable sigh of resignation, he returned to his tepid coffee and the paperback that he’d bookmarked with his finger.
Indeed, Jeromiah accepted that his body was just the incumbent technician of a highly active consciousness that his ego struggled to reconcile itself with, and that it had always been that way. He was socially awkward, given to retreat and solitude, more in order to keep the others out, than from a sense of not fitting in. Yes he’d had his successes, and those successes had eventually turned to failure, returning him to the mental wilderness of his former incarnation as pauper and philosophical dreamer. His cheeks itched. The fine sharp needles of silver piercing his skin were becoming an irritant, a sensation that was beginning to characterise his internal feelings of unrest.
A tall dark skinned man wearing a white baseball cap and opaque black sunglasses had returned to the table where a young woman with long dark hair and a sad looking face had just been sitting. He had a cell-phone in one hand which was thrown up in the air along with the other hand when he realised that his companion had left without him.
“Fuck!”, the man exclaimed, his black goatee framing the word with as much elegance and cool as the word was perhaps course and inappropriate in confines such as these. The young woman had broken her frown and smiled at him, a gesture that Jeromiah considered worthy of a nod in the right direction to the rejected gentleman.
Still seated he leaned toward the man with the hat and glasses and said almost in a whisper, “She would have your babies if you let her.”
“What?!” the tall man responded, clearly both perplexed and irritated at Jeromiah’s intervention.
“Your girl, she went that way” Jeromiah conceded, tilting his head and pointing his left index finger in the direction of the exit just behind him.
Apologetically, the man with the baseball cap and sunglasses pulled his lips into a pursed smile of resignation and said, “Thanks” before running after her presumably. He was an American. Jeromiah pondered the man’s intonation of the ‘a’ in thanks that had revealed this particular thread of his identity, that the ‘u’ in his previous utterance of the word ‘fuck’ had obscured. The only thing that made an American and American he concluded was the use of long vowel sounds that sang with a gliding pride in comparison to the Southern-English abrupt stab of the shortened vowel sounds in the same words. He felt suddenly anxious for these two star-crossed lovers, funny that they should make him think of Romeo and Juliet just then, as his finger wedged a place in his copy of Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Irony he wondered? Yes, possibly. Coincidence? Certainly not. For Jeromiah coincidence was a dirty word, an affectation of mistrust of the bleeding obvious exercised by the unbelieving and irrational majority. Granted his own affairs weren’t exactly painting a picture of perfection, but to suggest that he was a victim of chance circumstance was a denial of responsibility that he just could not accept. He, like the American and his girl were a tragedy waiting to happen due to errant communication. Due to inhospitable thoughts of failure and self-destruction, not irreversible or irreparable, but it was a slippery slope he knew that he would have to alight from, as would they if any resolution was to be found and indeed created.
He was aware that in some way they were versions of him, projections almost of his own inner machinations right now, as if he were watching a stage-play, his ‘Brian’ his own personal Shakespearian Globe; both people like both halves of his brain slightly out of synch. Victims of miscommunication, each with their own agendas, yet sailing toward the same destination.
That was the problem with shared consciousness, it gave leverage to the old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was true, and there was little one could do about it except ride the currents, and trust that sooner or later the tributary would lead out to the open seas and provide resolution, if not release. Those two would find their way he thought, which gave him a small measure of comfort that he too would rediscover the inner quietude that he had misplaced during the past three weeks, indeed his life.
He knew that his presence in this coffee shop at this moment in time was colouring the lives of those around him, and that in some way they too were colouring his.
His left ear burned. A sensation that made him think of having an old transistor radio pressed up against it, eavesdropping on a conversation as it crackled over the air-waves, just like he and his cousin Jonas used to do with the police band-widths when they were kids. He wondered who was talking about him, perhaps the American had recognised him. He certainly recognised the American, but the girl was new, and a breath of fresh air to his greying brain-cells.