I don’t understand people.
I do, I say, looking up from my phone. Do you know why people are so unhap–
He interrupts me. He knows how much I hate being interrupted, but he doesn’t care.
Have you seen Jim Carrey’s graduation speech?
I maunder off something or other about having seen some shit on Facebook about that.
We watch it. It’s profound and thoughtful, like we ourselves are, albeit in different ways.
I forget, which is strange.
I lean back, breathing out anything that isn’t intrinsically perfect.
He remembers, which is strange.
What were you saying?
Oh. You know, success. It measurable only by something that is attainable.
Oh yeah, objects, money…
Not even. I mean, yeah, that too, but–my words fail me. I’m trying really hard to look him in the eye as not to appear to have the social problems that I do actually have, even though he knows about them, but I can’t. He’s leaning back in this stupid man chair with this shit eating grin on his face, high on his own life. I start laughing, stop, as haphazard vocabulary spills from my mouth, but I can’t hold it together, because I’m laughing again. To the sad, disillusioned world, we are drunk, or on drugs, or both, but our reality is that existence is as funny as it is beautiful, and it’s always beautiful.
I can’t even talk to you right now.
He just smiles at me, because he is detached but not careless.
People have this grand illusion of success, like, okay, I won’t have really lived until I do this or I make this or this happens to me. You cannot stop until you attain this thing that will make your life complete and when I ask you why that thing has to be the thing, the response I get is, I don’t know. You don’t know? What the fuck do you mean you don’t know? You spend your entire life stressing out and dealing with what you call bullshit all for this…end result? Is that going to make you happy, since you are so clearly unhappy at the moment? Probably not. Probably not? Then why the fuck are you doing it. Seriously, why?
I don’t know? he says, this euphoria of peace drifting over his shoulders like that Greg Laswell song. You were telling me how you understand people and I don’t. He has that mocking look about him that is supposed to be veiled by his faux innocence and I know that he’s trying to make me feel stupid like he does, but if you know he’s doing it then you fail at stupidity and he knows that I know that, and it’s late morning and my hair smells like coffee and I just don’t care.
He calls me muchacho, and our Asian friend brings more coffee. We always point out that he’s Asian. He doesn’t care.
Allie Burke has been writing books as long as she has lived with Paranoid Schizophrenia, which may or may not be relevant.
She has been praised for her defiant style, raw prose, and brutal honesty by literary critics of all corners of the world.
Paper Souls is her fourth novel.