Brothers, I am quite dead. If i should suffer another indignity i would die of shame – that is to say – if my life hasn’t bled out from my kidneys already. It was a slick brawl i took -five smoking poolplayers i was convinced by myself to insult after an hour of entire fear.
I will admit, it was a horrible hour – i spent every second shambling along that innocuous red wall, half draped in shadow, inspecting the peeling frescoes to any clue of my tentative destiny. By these shapes i was aware of the notion, and more slowly became compelled towards, that if i did not insult these men, i would never again dare to insult anyone else, not in all my life. Their shadows – a clustered forest across the low table, chinks for the refracted light that ate through their beer – were thrown onto the wall, and there they took up their demonic shape. It was they who convinced me of my cowardice, they who whispered – That should i refuse to step out of cowardice and insult these men, i should be imprisoned all my life, ruled unfit to walk the streets, pure doggish fear, flesh. And following i stoked myself into the show, hating it terribly every minute, that i swear, even as i prepared my best insults (bless their mothers and aunts, for they were innocent, and i am feeling a terrible worming shame now, for besmirching their shining guts), i turned about every second and stared at their blinking yellow faces that seemed both to beckon and repel, and prayed for redemption.
The first attempt was a fiasco. My gloves i had stretched neatly at the fingertips, my hat i donned upon my bare crown, and finally i straightened the old valour badge – pinched from a comrade years ago – on my chest. As i approached the men i felt a sensation arise in my gut, like a terrible fish, and gnaw upon my kidneys. The man who i had been making a beeline towards and aimed to finish off with a well-aimed kick to the balls, hadn’t even deemed to notice me. As i looked upon his enlarging frame, strong chin turned slightly against my line of sight, chin hairs aflame by the light of the lanterns, i felt suddenly terribly disarmed. A resistance rose across my path like nausea and i swerved aside from him, sharply, spectacularly, and blundered for the umbrella-stand, making as though i was inspecting the wooden varnish. Beneath my coat my heart had began to flutter most throatily, like a rusted flute. My breath was quite fast, and on the wall before me i could see the shadow of the first man, shoulders shaking in laughter to a rude pass one of his meaty friends must have made. My ears had been blinded by a sudden thumping, and the blood drained from my legs as i raised a had to wipe the sweat off my upper lip, hopefully invisible in the low light. Again the terribly fish arose, and croaked mightily – Pick yourself up, crow. Pick up your feet, head right back to that man, spit into his proud, silly face, and you can call it a night. I felt my sweat trickle into a shallow puddle in my stomach, in which the carp thrashed and rippled with jouissance. I suddenly knew that i had eaten a demon, and was now being eaten from the inside by this horrror, bedded deep probably in my fillet of sole, uncooked and embedded in my cage of ribs i did not know how to open. But, to exorcise – yes, i had an idea. I would do exactly as the demon said, i would walk back to man one, and spit in his face, and he will leave me. I will tremble for a moment, and a black form will come rushing out of my throat, and i shall collapse, shakily, upon the pool table, and beg in a shaky voice (obviously the side effects of my bravery, as i try to keep my terrible intestinal pains hidden) – Forgive me, old chum, for the demon rises again, no matter where i try to keep it hidden. And he shall throw his face into the ceiling and laugh throatily, his body shaking harder than his shadow, and grab my arm, and scream into my ear, and we shall have a second dinner together, and live close to each other as good friends forever, and when i am upon my deathbed he shall draw his gleaming sword (being, of course, a knight of the queen), and skewer himself, being so distraught at the death of his best friend.
Strongly inspired by Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground – and the new year.