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by Solomon Philbrick
[Lacking time, inspiration and running water at the moment, I’m going to use two old Myspace posts for this week’s column. I was always fond of M., but the series never reached its logical conclusion where M. is mauled by a bear on Mulholland Drive. Being semi-autobiographical, though, it lends some explanation to the phrase “Secular Monk.”]
The Solitude of Young M.
January 15, 2006
Greetings and warmest salutations, dear friend. Although it saddens me to be apart from my loved ones, I do so value solitude and the repose that my current situation affords. The comfort of my small office and computer with the blinds drawn leaves me without an unpleasant view of the garden and nature outside of the window. I read in peace and listen to music, and all seems well with the world for the present. Auntie fritters about to and fro, playing her abominable bingo games on the Internet, but we have a quite pleasant relationship, as we see very little of each other. The situation is altogether agreeable.
I wish I could adequately describe the comfort and simple beauty of my office. Everything is plastic and Formica, save for the books stacked on a shelf which I peruse at my leisure. There is no other living thing in the office to disturb my peace, save for a large silver tabby cat which occasionally pokes into the room, meows, and leaves. Otherwise, there are no plants to water and therefore there is no need to let in any natural light. Auntie has difficulty mounting the stairs, so she is not a bother to my tranquility.
As you so well know, I find the bustle and buzz of the outside world dreadfully intolerable. This is what makes my present situation, and especially this quiet Thursday, so delightful. I have no duties to perform, no masks to wear and no necessary studying. Therefore, I can pace my day as I see fit. It is already almost one o’clock and I am still in my pajamas. If only every day could be this peaceful and utterly useless, I do so believe that I should never be bored or anxious, although I would certainly miss those few people whose company I enjoy.
In fact, aside from the lack of good company, the only thing that I regret is that two days from now I will once again have the necessity of joining the normal world once again, with its cares and commotions. In this great land of ours, a temperament that is both introverted and phlegmatic seems to be a cause for some sort of general suspicion, if not outright hostility. This is a world for those who are loud, who sell themselves well. Moreover, it is a world of unreserved emotion, the lack of which is also looked upon with some hostility. I am not one who “wears his heart on his sleeve,” as the cliché goes. My heart is behind my ribcage, where it belongs. After all, a heart on a sleeve is bound to be smashed, even if inadvertently.
This thought makes me a bit gloomy. Even when my heart is heavy, I can find a uniform to hide it. This is simply a matter of decorum, which is sadly lacking in this rather uncouth society of ours. I know that to live in this world one must follow its fashions, and hearts are worn all too openly. I suppose that I must content myself with being unfashionable.
Your friend and confidante,
The Interrupted Happiness of M.
January 16, 2006
Greetings again, dear friend. Although I wrote yesterday that I would not be leaving my living quarters until Tuesday, my voluntary exile was most pleasantly interrupted by a phone call from an old chum from the Oh So Secret Society, of which we were senior members back at the U. We settled in a dimly lit café and reminisced for hours about our times sailing, rowing and beating new recruits mercilessly with paddles. It was an enjoyable exchange, and I left feeling that old youthful spark that I had thought was long gone. In short, it was a most pleasing afternoon, in spite of the dreadful weather and the even more dreadful service that the café offered.
Unfortunately, my night concluded in a most distressing sequence of events. As I intimated in my last letter, Auntie has some trouble regarding movement, owing to arthritis or some such malady. Therefore, her doctor has prescribed her some form of painkiller or muscle relaxer, I am not entirely sure which. I had repeatedly warned Auntie not to mix these pills with her nightly martini, and though she told me she would take my advice, I think that either the martini or the pills at some point numbed her ordinarily good judgment, and she took the one with the other.
You can imagine my horror, then, upon waking at two in the morning to a dreadful din carrying on right above my head. After the fog of sleep quickly wore from my mind, I could make out someone screaming, “Play me like a lyre, Pericles you magnificent bastard!” I climbed out the bedroom window, and sure enough, it was Auntie on the roof holding her martini in one hand and the silver tabby by the tail in the other hand. (Incidentally, Auntie has never disclosed her real age, but this incident makes me think she may be much older than I had initially estimated.)
How Auntie got up on the roof I perhaps will never know. I got her down by tying a rope around her waist and lowering her down the chimney. She is rather thin. Much to my chagrin, her outburst had awaken the neighbors, who were prepared to call the authorities until I convinced them that Auntie had simply had a bad reaction to some spoilt bratwurst, and that no intervention was necessary. At this moment, Auntie is still passed out on the living room couch. The cat has yet to be found.
So, what I thought would be a pleasant and quiet weekend has turned out rather badly, I am sorry to report. From now on, I must monitor Auntie more closely, and the dreadful specter of work looms in front of me. Please send my regards to your family, who I hope are faring better than mine.