At a certain point, while waiting for the Rueben that would end up being sanitized of flavor and eaten alone, I opened my portfolio and started scribbling the following:
Sitting alone, I rage at this world for no reason in particular. This world, that does nothing to shake me off, but yet embraces me not either.
I often wonder, is it me who is “wrong”, or is it this mortal coil who is in error?
And why do I feel such a deep and gaping disconnect? Why can’t I just drink the Kool-Aid everyone else here has seemed to indulge so greedily in? Why can’t I put on the mask of contentment and believe it to be true?
Why in the fuck am I sitting alone in an over-the-top Vegas cafe on the verge of tears?
Now I must tell you, while I would very much like to edit a great deal of the above, I’m leaving it intact for the purpose of this post. A purpose I’m still unclear of, actually. I’m leaving it like it is, because while it may not be a very good read, the words came with immediacy and with intent. The words needed to come out before the tears did. Those damned tears.
What’s with them any way? For years, I bemoaned the fact that I found it literally impossible to shed even one, but as of late, it’s all I can do to keep them in. And this time it wasn’t because of C, or dad, or my suckass job (OK fine, not “suckass” per say, but not at all where I really want to be). No, this time, it was because of the people that surrounded me. The good and gentle folk, patiently waiting for their flavor-sanitized food. Affecting smiles through their clown makeup. Attracting attention through their jangling jewelry and their cackle calls. Thoroughly enjoying themselves in a world that is only real if you ignore the fact that it is not. I felt bad for these people. I know, it’s stupid. Here they are, having a grand old time in their plastic kingdom, and here’s little sackcloth t, pitying them in their joy. But I suppose that’s just it – there was no “joy” present, just en-joy-ment. The air was full of whatever it is they normally pump into the Vegas resorts, that magical stuff that never allows you a sleepy nod. But joy? Joy was not in the air. Joy wasn’t even in the room.
“Wow t, thanks for coming back, only to totally harsh my mellow, dude!” No, wait – let me explain first. C.S. Lewis is my “go-to” guy when discussing joy, so we’ll be seeking his opinion momentarily. For me, joy is much more than the orgasm. For me, joy is knowing that the orgasm will come. OK, I suppose that Mr. Lewis would most likely never endorse an analogy like that, but he might have said something like this instead:
“In a sense, the central story of my life is about nothing else ….. it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic; and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally be called unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then, joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”
Or a bit more succinctly:
“The very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting.”
He might have said that. Had he ever written about it. In books possibly titled something like “Surprised By Joy” or “Letters To Malcolm.” And if he had, what I believe he would have meant is this – Joy comes in the anticipation. The wanting. The Longing. Much like the giddy hand-clapping that goes on while trying not to, but trying to, fall asleep on Christmas Eve, joy isn’t the present you’ll receive the next day, it’s the – well – the Joy you feel in the waiting for it. It’s almost better – scratch that, it is better – than the actual gift altogether. What I saw in Vegas were people who were not feeling joy. What I saw in Vegas were people who only kept telling themselves they were. The smiles never really lasted long enough. The nervous twitches never totally settled. The voices still rose, and tempers still flared while waiting in line. Or for a cab. Or waiting for food. Or for a drink. Or waiting for, well, you get it. There’s a shit-ton of waiting to be done in Vegas. And while they were waiting, the thin veneer of “joy” could be seen running down sweaty necks and off of twitching palms. They had drank the Kool-Aid, but it had no affect, so they simply pretended to be stoned instead.
And I felt bad for them.
It was at that unforeseen moment that the tears began to well, and I had all I could do to keep myself together. Not only did I feel bad that they were tricking themselves into their joy, I began feeling deep throbbing pangs of my own, wishing that I could be back with my Joy at that very moment. Back where I’m accepted, even without the clown makeup or the jangling jewelry. I longed so badly to be there. To be safe. And in that longing, my Joy increased. And my strength along with it. And I used these to muster the wherewithal to tighten the belt of my big boy pants, before soldiering on with the rest of my little trip. One that will go down in the history of the human race as an absolute and utter yawn.
Unless the videos surface, I suppose.
I’m back home now, away from the lights, the noise, the airborne stuff that never allows you to sleep. And I’m happy. Just before I sat down here, I was ironing my Korporate Amerika trousers, once again forming a new crease mere millimeters away from the intended one, all while dancing about pretending to be Peter Murphy. And as I did, I thought again about those poor people. And I wondered if they too were “back to life” by now. I wondered if they too were ironing and singing and screwing up their trousers in the process. And I wondered if they too were happy. More importantly, I wondered if they had finally found their Joy.
I hope that they are. And I hope that they did. For again, as C.S. Lewis might have said at some point in time that “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” If so, we’d best get cracking.