“We ain’t yet humans, man!”
That wasn’t meant to invite discussion. It wasn’t meant for anything other than pushing that gulp of beer further down. He let his hand drop and hang from the hammock while the beer bottle swung freely between the knuckles of his fingers. His other hand was busy scratching his stomach. He fountained the last sip of beer and let it land with a splat on his chest. I didn’t complain. This was his territory, his castle. In a minute the bottle slid further down and settled on the floor with a glassy clink.
I wanted to let him sleep before I left but he turned sharply and asked me, “Have you ever felt that?”
“You know,” and he turned hastily in his hammock making it swing from under him and releasing his sorry mass onto the floor. I rushed to help him but he simply raised a hand. “I am fine. ” He lay there as an imploding lump of flesh, bones and everything human.
“Have you ever worked, slogged for months on end? So much that you can feel every muscle in your body rush to find the softest lump on your bed while your eyes pull themselves to the back of your head and try to bore through them and escape? Have you felt your nails hurt, man? Your damn nails. Throbbing, itching and when you scratch the bed or your thigh it might peel off, it damn pains, but so good. So good. Aah. Have you felt it man? The sun beating on you and you falling under the force of that strike? Your feet sticking to the ground and you simply crashing? Inertia? Just a wonderful fall and the pain of that fall is nothing compared to what your damn slogging gives you? Have you?”
“Well no. I am a writer, so I rarely slog the way you do. I either write or read. And when…”
“And you guys make the theory of being human. Its all bullshit, man. We ain’t no human. We are all still animals, hungry thirsty, lusty, scared, aggressive… animals man, like dogs or wolves or leopards. We ain’t different. We like to be, but we ain’t different.”
“I think it is a matter of one’s will and core strength.”
He laughed and slapped his hands on the floor. He was roaring and rolled on his back and slapped both his palms on the floor.
“God-freakin-damnit!! Core strength!” and he laughed and rolled all his contempt into a bout of spasmodic coughing where he let the spit freely and tenuously drip out of his mouth.
“You guys are invalids. Go pick a tonne of bricks for half a year. Go work in the mines, with a lumberjack, pick garbage, pick shit man and you will know. This world ain’t made of air-conditioners and peons, man.”
“So what is your point?” I was getting irritated. The last thing I wanted was this man telling me that all that I had achieved in the past so many years was nothing because I couldn’t haul coal.
“The point is this, sweetheart, you ain’t human. I ain’t human. When you are lying in your bed and your flesh leaves you hell-ward and your bones creak as they move together like willow branches in the winter wind, you ain’t human then. You are animal.”
“So being tired makes you an animal? I don’t…”
“You don’t get it, man. That is when you are so tired, so beaten up that you cannot pretend. You cannot be all fashionable and sophisticated. You can’t be all oh-my-dahling-cool. You’re butchered, man. You are stripped off all shiny armour, baby. That is when… what is that word… some cute French thing….”
“What? For what?”
“All tired and tongue flopping on the side and bored and … some French thing you keep saying…”
“Yeah, ennui, on-my-crazy-wee-wee! That is it. You are so cute. Yeah, that is when ennui comes to you or you become ennui or how do you say it…”
“Ennui sets in. … How does it matter?” Irritation trembled in my voice and made me push myself off my chair.
“Yeah, how does it matter? You right, honey, it doesn’t, because we become animal then. So blessed beaten up and done that all we want are animal needs. Food, drink, two long legs around your waist, you know,” he smiled, “and rest and sleep and all things animal. You want to prowl, grab, divorce. You don’t want no crazy innovation or muse bugging you. You don’t want to think straight. You don’t care about anything straight, because even the crazy Tower of Pizza is bent when you are with good ‘ol ennui.”
“The Leaning Tower of Pisa is…well, leaning.” I said and shook my head at wanting to clarify things to this muddled creature.
“See? You too with good ol’ ennui. Wee. Weeeh. Wee-wee-wee.”
He poured the beer on the floor and started lapping it up. I had to leave and got up hurriedly. I rushed to the door and caught sight of his hand waving me goodbye.
“Sweetheart, man is always an animal, ashamed of being that and calling himself human.”
“We ain’t yet humans, man!”