Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Time For Another Exerpt

As before, the following is a segment of a larger work. This particular piece is the latter half of what would otherwise be a chapter so if it seems choppy that is why. I would have included the section in its entirety but that would have been both laborious to read and full of material that still requires editing. As always, feedback is appreciated.


I hate pencils; except for the rare cases that I’m taking a multiple choice test I outright refuse to use them. On the other hand I will not pay money for a pen. Pens are miniscule everyday things that come and go without a second thought, like toothpicks. These two facts put together causes me to stop and pick up just about any spare pen that I might come across; as a result, here on my desk next to my laptop is usually an assortment of 4-5 different pens that have nothing to do with each other.

Right now there is the black Papermate missing its cap, the white Alexander’s Print Advantage ball point, the silver nondescript click pen and a black sharpee. My personal favorite however is a white pen whose clip-half twists to protract and extract the writing apparatus. On its side are the words Continental Hotels.

If my life was a movie, and I were to die right now of suspicious circumstances, an astute police officer would notice this pen, wonder at it’s peculiar location in my house, and rush off with a squad of armed officers to the Continentals. They would barge through the door and uncover an array of villains and after a dramatic gun battle the heroes would emerge with my killer in handcuffs walking in slow motion while emotional music plays in the background.

True life, however, is much less exciting. I’ve never been to the Continentals, I don’t even know if they even exist, I have no recollection of where that pen came from or how it ended up on my desk, suffice to say that two hours ago when I wrote yet another rent check to my weasel of a landlord, I did so with my favorite twisty pen.

Life is boring. It is precious, miraculous, and amazing but for the average person altogether uneventful. More than any other people on earth we Americans live in an entertainment world. We escape the mundane by vicariously living the lives of our favorite glamorous stars. Through years of such saturation, certain aspects of life begin to blur the lines of fantasy and reality until we become unsure if certain norms are on TV because they happen in life, or if they happen in life because they are on TV.

Such is the case with relationships. The male asks out the female—dinner and a movie, they walk home in the rain, and he kisses her at the doorstep. You can picture it in your mind, you’ve seen it thousands of times, you can hear the music but you don’t know the words. It’s a magical scene, a blend of coloring, facial expression, atmosphere, location, and cinematic magic create the chemistry that has us screaming at the screen “kiss her you fool.”

In application we have this formula to follow. You merely plug in your own variables and let the scene roll. Dating, like all aspects of life, is much easier in theory than in application. We want, and expect to have, that mystical emotion-filled experience. When disaster strikes we see ourselves standing outside her window holding a boom box above our heads wailing Peter Gabriel, or climbing up the fire-escape and having that passionate apology. We assume under a false sense of security that our fairy tale ending is always just around the corner, and when it never comes we realize all too harshly that life doesn’t always happen like the movies. In that instance we make a choice, to take our own initiative or to fall into a self-pitying state of hopelessness.

People always talk about fate bringing two people together. We’ve all been at that immaculate dinner party where someone asks the prize question, “How did you two meet.”

The woman giggles, atwitter with the excitement that comes before a performance. The man cocks his eyebrow and puffs his chest, uttering a memorized line of dialog; they’ve done this before.

“Well Jim, now there is a story, you see I was drowning…”

“Oh honey stop,” she says, lightly hitting his shoulder, “he’s lying Jim that’s not how it happened.”

The man offers a chortle for effect, shrugs his shoulders, and leans back into his chair with a smile.

“Oh just tell it then,” he says, throwing a cavalier wink at Jim, feigning to feign disinterest.

The woman then launches into a polished monologue of close calls, near misses, and inescapable destiny. She was running for the bus, tripped on a stray dog and landed in his arms. Love at first sight. Sunbeams and dandelions. Violin music from afar. Fate.

“It was meant to be,” she says, and leans in for a kiss to seal the deal. The guests raise their glasses, everybody smiles. Life wins.

It turns out that if she hadn’t tripped over the dog she would have just barely made the bus, and the only available seat would’ve been next to a young chiropractor who was reading the exact same book that she was. Love at first sight. Rainbows and daffodils. Harp music from afar. Destiny.

“It was meant to be,” she says, and leans in for a kiss to seal the deal. The guests hoot and holler, raise their frosted mugs and then go back to watching the Super Bowl. Life wins.

In both cases the couple lives happily ever after; comforted by the memory of their magical encounter propelled by fate itself.

Timing and coincidence. Take two respectable adults with a mutual attraction and put them in a room together. Their success or failure depends little on their individual actions. Ultimately it’s the subtle, uncontrollable quirks of life that determine the outcome. Once they’ve passed the point of awkward introductions and interest has been established it is the fickle foolishness of human beings that ends a good thing; but in those early stages the creature is fragile, balancing on the cliff’s edge. One good push and it’s all over. In all reality it is ever so easy to fail; it is seemingly effortless to bring the whole scene crashing down. Statistically speaking it will fail over and over again, until for no particular reason – it doesn’t.

So here I sit, in my pajamas; solitary. And so I shall, until finally the chips fall right and suddenly what has been so difficult until now becomes charmingly effortless. The trick is getting to that point without becoming pessimistic, because you walk for miles and miles and in the blink of an eye you’re home.


  1. Do you know how nice it is to come to work and think "oh man, I forgot my book. I wonder if anyone wrote anything interesting via blog." And find that, indeed, Ben has put together a nice piece for my reading pleasure. It was great, thanks man :)

  2. Twisty and clicky pens are the absolute best. I don't know anyone who can critique and analyze the ins-and-outs of the dating world quite like you can.