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Johnny Quick Pen Document that Thought
Johnny Quick Pen sat at the bar and collected the information he would need to capture the scene unraveling before him. It was truly unusual and needed defining, just as everything did. A glass of whiskey sat in front if him, gathering cool condensation. This was standard though, and did not require documentation, as did many things, not to be taken for granted necessarily, but assumed, such as the cigarette in his mouth and the next one in line. He glanced side long at the few people also at the bar on Tuesday and recorded an observation.
“I continually wonder what draws these people to this atmosphere. As for myself, I am an observer, and as such am entitled to be where ever I want without extensive explanation or overt concern. I do not desire to know it all, just enough to make the ride sensible to at least myself.
Whether or not I can accurately relay these observations to another party remains to be seen. But for tonight the following seems to apply: Very real sense of anxiety approaching the door. It remained intact until I was able to secure a seat at the bar and light a cigarette. After several minutes the fear began to dissipate, as no one attacked or made any threats. And now I have made myself happy.
It appears that state of mind is purely under one’s own control but is often trumped by uncertainty. The loss of belief in one’s own importance brings with it the ability to change one’s state of being all the way down to physical attributes, if it can be accepted that the world continues to do as it will, regardless of how one feels about it. Does this make feelings unimportant? Not necessarily, as long as it known that feelings are intimately attached to words, and words are merely symbolic of otherwise intangible events, and consequently can be changed as easily as one’s pants.”
Johnny scratched himself between the shoulder blades, stretching hard to reach the spot. It didn’t itch but it provided movement, keeping the others strangely off guard, although they were unaware anything was happening at all. Being a lifetime student of the game, these tactics were second nature to Johnny. On a napkin he wrote, “anxiety – real – feelings – explain full scale” I folded the wet napkin neatly, careful to line up the edges perfectly before creasing and looked around for real.
Johnny began to wonder why it was that he had to bear the weight of such a burden, why everything had to have hidden meaning, lying just beneath the surface, begging him to peek in and see what could not be told, only written. “Go ahead and call the cops,” he declared loudly to everyone, but in his head, “There’s nothing they can do but ask some questions that have too many possible answers.” He shook his head, had a drink, and paused to feel the eyes of the others piercing his back. “Call the cops. Freaks.” Why did these people want him to leave, want him dead?
“The real problem,” he noted, “is that everybody, no matter how often you remind them, rarely if ever, truly lives for one second. The preoccupation with future circumstance, the incessant worry about past occurrences, the search for the fusion of the two, the relationship, these notions destroy the possibility of seeing things as they really occur. It is impossible to conceive of existing without words on your mind. Tell me what you are thinking. Wait. Shhhh. I forgot to tell you. Once it is uttered, it is either a recollection of some past feeling or the anticipation of one, as of yet unknown. Either way the moment has slipped away and now floats in the realm of expectation, remembrance or regret. But I run as fast as I can, and some days when I have achieved a sufficient head start, I sit down and think of nothing. I smell the world. I listen to the wind. I feel myself press against the earth. I hear my heartbeat inside of my head, and strangely, if I have created the critical distance between myself and those I love, I live for a second or two. And if I am fortunate enough to have forgotten myself I realize that nothing ever changes, just the minds that perceive it.”
Johnny stared at the bartender as she filled a glass. He wondered who she really was, what she looked like without her game face, her apron, and her dirty sneakers. He wondered what she knew, what kept her up at night. He was prepared to ask her about the situation, to see if there was anything he could do. Being a writer, he was always prepared to offer some custom-tailored advise. But when she approached, he held up his glass and nodded, opting to quickly look away, as if something else was demanding his attention. On a napkin he wrote, “words – reality – mix – of some sort – the blend – da ta da ta da….” I turned it over.
He watched as an odd man entered the bar. He seemed too regular to be normal. Johnny paid particular attention to the manner in which the man surveyed the room and selected his spot. “What is this guy’s motivation,” thought Johnny, “Why there, as opposed to here?” He took a deep breath and looked away, unable to deal with the man any longer. He lit a cigarette and turned on his stool to the opposite direction. There was something about this man that overwhelmed him with a sense of impending evil, something bad yet to be untapped.
“The influence of one’s father, or lack thereof, sinks its roots much deeper into the fabric of a growing mind, than is ordinarily agreed upon. It would seem that the simple rule of action – reaction would apply, but it may be more complex, or conversely more simplistic than that. I would conjecture that the worst way to solidify a child’s belief in any given institution, activity, or otherwise rule restrictive environment, is to demand that they participate or practice against their will. The results can be disastrous. An alternative solution, or manipulation technique, derived exclusively from, well it’s hard to say where, but at any rate, from the brighter side of the road, would be as follows: simple exposure, appeal to the mysterious, and demonstrated love, of any kind, to the object of the persuasion.”
Johnny turned back to the bar and surrounded the man with his attention. He felt sorry for him, and secretly wished that life had treated him better. On the back of the napkin he wrote, “parenthood – show the kid – leave it to them – remember the guy.” I neatly folded the napkin and slid it gently under the pack of cigarettes sitting on the bar.
He suddenly felt the air around him become heavy with presence and heard the legs of a wooden stool scrape across the sticky floor. Arranging herself on the stool next to him was a new woman of slightly older age. She smelled of nice inexpensive department store perfume, not too much, just enough to speckle the air. Her hair was tired of being crafted forcefully over the years into shapes and styles. A pack of Virginia Slims sat on the bar and as if some connection were made by the action, she coughed lightly as Johnny looked at them and wondered about brand selection. He moved his own pack to or three inches and made the box symmetrically correct in relation to the boundaries of the bar. The napkin graffittied with his wisdom sat exposed. Reaching to conceal it, he could sense that the woman was looking at it. A feeling of warm foolishness surfaced about his head and neck making him stop. He felt trapped as though he had been caught with his fly down by someone in an elevator and left unable to remedy the situation without drawing undo attention from others in the process. He looked her in the eyes and smiled. She returned a smile then looked into the empty space in front of her while lighting a cigarette. Temporarily unable to think for himself he did the same. The napkin remained where it was.
He drank quickly as though it was getting to be about that time, that time of sad realization that all good men have when they know they have to go but really don’t want to, like it’s a damn shame that other things need attention as well. “Everyone hurts,” he thought, fancying himself that man but really going nowhere, owing nothing to anyone else at the time. A bright orange come topped his cigarette from being sucked repeatedly and too forcefully. He studied his wristwatch and shook his head. He looked down the bar for the bartender and caught the eyes of the woman he had nearly forgotten in the process of trying to keep behaviorally oriented. She smiled again then looked down into her lap. A small giggle escaped her. She looked back at him, his focus remaining the same and she smiled shyly. “What is this lady’s problem,” he thought, “coming in here, sitting next to me and smiling like everybody’s nice and friendship is something that can found any time you want it. What if I don’t want a friend? What then? So I’m the bad guy now. And I didn’t ask for any of this shit. Fuckin’ place.” He tried to think of something else and time was all there was. He felt stupid for not really noticing the time when he looked at his watch just moments before. He turned away from her, sat back and scratched his chin having stumbled on to another observation that required investigation. His mind drifted.
“I could shed a tear for all the people in the world. It is sad at best and destructive at it’s worst, yet it is largely something that remains unknown or ignored out of ignorance, maybe fear. I could cry all day and cry all night. I could explain my tears to those around me each time it occurred. Or I could do nothing and things would remain the same. I could draw charts and create logic. I could hold a hand and gently walk someone through the process, show them the beginning and tell them things of the end. I could stick someone with a needle and say, ‘See, that hurts. It is sharp and not to be played with and certainly not meant to pierce people’s skin. But strangely enough when you point it at someone and push that is exactly what happens and now you are upset. Let’s take this model, of things that are not supposed to make pain, of things that give us the same results consistently, and of the emotions that naturally occur in their presence and extrapolate, extrapolate to any degree you would like.’ But then again who am I to say anything or stick someone with a needle. Who really has the pain, who does the suffering? Is it the guy who runs himself into the ground trying desperately to stay in stride with the world, the guy who prides himself on his associations and their implications, the guy who fears God and acts accordingly, the guy who fights with his wife about things can’t and won’t be changed by either of them, the guy who doesn’t realize anything can be done with the proper resolve and savvy? Or is it me, the guy who thinks about it too much and in the end winds up having forgotten to do anything really, having been caught in the metaphysical implications of it all, the relentless swirl with no discernable beginning or end, just a bunch of things that can mean anything at all in relation to each other depending exclusively upon the application, and desperately in search of someone who thinks the same.”
He sat upright and ran his hand through his hair, then checked his palm for sweat. Feeling as though he had been lost momentarily in time he grabbed the napkin and looked for some space to write. He quickly looked about the room, at the man across the bar watching the television, at the bartender taking inventory, and the woman by his side fumbling through her purse. He captured what little he could surmise from the passage, “clearly confused about something – motives likely – preempted by random slut.”
I looked into the glass, at the watered whiskey sitting on the bottom, and the sad melted ice. Johnny Quick Pen stared back at me through a wet reflection. He smiled at me and I smiled at him, one and the same. I winked at him. He obliged. I picked up the glass and tilted my head back, draining the last of the whiskey and placed it in a puddle in the bar. Johnny grabbed the pen and looked at it, wondering what else it might someday convey, whose hands it might fall into, and what that might mean for others along the way. The bartender slid a bill onto the bar and walked away. I twirled the pen and signed. I grabbed the napkins and slid them into my pocket, along with them went Johnny Quick Pen, at least for now. I walked out side, shielded my eyes from the blinding sun, and lit a cigarette for us. I turned on the radio and drove away smiling. Johnny had his own interpretation of the song on the radio and sang a custom set of lyrics as he always did. I listened intently and felt sad for not having a free hand to write.
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