Nico Picciuto, BFR Staff
I’m seated in a pub on a quiet and unwelcoming Tuesday. I carefully orient myself so I can see only the tattered papers in front of me, the beer I ordered only moments ago. The bartender serving me periodically enters and exits through a vaulted passage to expedite plates to where I suspect three or four groups are seated, each time rinsing his hands behind the bar before accommodating me and three other men seated in barstools; our unhurried feet dangle like kids’ at a picnic table.
To me this is far less interesting than my first or second pint—the pull of the tap, the scrape of the foam, the invitingly lonesome pint of Guinness half-rested on a saturated coaster. The proximity of which, in relation to the far right corner of the paper I’m writing on is disagreeably close for what I know to be my own taste and sensibility, though I didn’t even bother to consider any of this until I noticed condensation dripping from the pint, which I’d been using to moisten my index finger before flipping a page in the book that lay on my lap. Raymond Williams enduring work, Key Words—my particular word of interest: ‘behavior.’ Why do I behave the way I do?—steeped in my own vanity like the soggy coaster my Guinness stands on. Profound regret writhes inside me, nameless and confounding. Regret for the way I respond to things; regret for the solipsism I can never hope to escape. I’m twisted in my own way, like someone in need of rescue.
It occurred to me after some time that most of what I’d written on the paper in front of me was worthless; I’d stopped reading Raymond William’s who was now off describing the etymology of behavior in the 17th century, which he refers to merely as “c17,” and against my considerable effort to remain neutral, having been coached to continually take note of my mood and outward demeanor, I noticed now that this bothered me vaguely. Not just William’s denomination of the term century, that was of minor consequence, but everything I was doing—the impossible feeling of escaping my own lot in life—of somehow rearranging the dilapidated furniture in my head—was tormenting me. But now I could feel the storm clouds coming in, and that was it. I had told myself to be careful before, that I was prone to these abrupt fluctuations in temperament. This is exactly what I hoped to avoid by coming here tonight, but the besotted respite of a dark pint of Guinness on a glum little Tuesday was not the answer. Not tonight. Did I have an answer? What’s the question again?
Please, someone remove me from this sardonic slumber, I think this in real time, one last gesture to be saved from myself, but—