Where are you?
Yes, that is a pertinent way to start this letter since, haven't heard from you in months, I can only make assumptions as to your whereabouts.
Being remiss as you are, I admit having very little to look forward to in terms of getting quick responses from you. But I still like and miss you, and I am still willing to write you this letter, describing a most interesting conversation I had a few days ago with a friend of yours, John Steward.
I trust you will find the following fragments of a rather long chat as enthralling as I do, given your penchant for dramatic, larger-than-life statements (Wipe that wide-open sarcastic smile from your face right now!).
I will present it in a dialogue format, for such artifice will convey the emotional flair required to portray the ardent discussion. Before you ask, I want to assure you that the following sentences are as close to reality as memory could ever make them.
Let me start by describing the ambience and circumstances in which this heart-to-heart took place: We left the drudging, bleak sameness of the office one night and trotted away to a nearby café, intent on having a light conversation, some cigars and, of course, coffee.
Neither of us seemed keen on discussing anything deeper than the quality of the tobacco we were furiously smoking and, of this may you be sure, the surroundings were not conducive to high-brow tirades, consisting mainly of your average, run-of-the-mill, young urban New York café crowd.
Oddly enough, that was precisely what threw us in the following philosophical course. I started it:
"You know John, this is exactly what I fear the most."
"What?" he said.
"This", I replied, while vaguely pointing my finger around, cautiously pausing at each table for dramatic effect. "Nothing frightens me more than becoming part of that crowd, or of any crowd in fact, one faceless, Kafkan figure, nameless here for evermore."
John looked somewhat taken aback by such a dreary remark, seemingly out of context. Looking around to make sure he understood it, my companion tried to mutter a word or two, but I forcefully ranted on:
"All my life I sought to detach myself from all that identifies and constitutes an average person, the very kind of person that comprises the crowd around us now. They sicken me, with their mindless attitude, inexpressive giggling and perennial shallowness.
"They behave like a school of fish, always thinking one of the others know where they are going, waiting for a cue to start their uproarious laughter, hiding behind the apparent safety of their numbers. Yet, they walk relentlessly into oblivion, long forgotten leaves from past winters, which the winds of Fate did not bother to blow away."
Finally, John intervened: "Have you ever considered that there might be an identity lurking underneath that very school-like demeanor? Maybe, just maybe, the faceless one is just a weak nature, hidden behind a many-faced wall designed to keep the daggers of everyday spite at bay?
"I am not defending them, but you must admit your outburst of contempt could be interpreted as whining by some misfit who desperately tries to belong."
Needless to say, my dear old Scott, this last sentence made me livid. But I acted casually and retorted:
"True, that is one way of looking at it. But I don't think that is the case. From a very tender age I decided to turn my life into something meaningful, a work of art if nothing else, a task upon which I set long ago and have struggled to bring into existence.
"I'd much rather die like Mozart and live into posterity than live a long, uneventful life, destined to be remembered only by a handful of relatives and silently mourning mistresses. No, maybe my death comes soon enough, but my life should be the matter of many a discussion in future classrooms, future dining tables and, possibly, some legal courts."
John perked up and replied: "This is so very much like you. In fact, everybody who can play a note on the piano wants to die like Mozart. They would all like to have a glorious death, followed by many centuries of highly overrated praise by the very same society they despise.
"Now, I don't think you have to leave a body of pure genius work to make your vain existence remarkable. While I understand your concern, and to some extent share your fears, I feel you should use the qualities that you think set you apart from the rest to leave your imprint in little life events.
"At any rate," he proceeded, "your delusions of grandeur may or may not prevent your life from ever reaching the soaring heights you crave, but one thing is for sure: They will turn you into an even more interesting character for the members of what you call 'school of fish' to analyze. And believe me, from wherever grave you are, you'll enjoy every little part of it."
He relished this last sentence, savored a deep drag from his cigar, looked deep into my eyes and smirked. Yes, he just smirked. That was where our conversation ended.
John and I resumed our previous chatting about dismal affairs. But the coffee turned cold, and the cigars seemed to have a different, bitter taste.
The "school of fish" people I meet everyday still frighten me the most, my pure contempt for them notwithstanding. The cravings for the heights, the intellectual and artistic deeds I desperately try to reach, still remain. But the shadow of the faceless crowd hovers above it.
Why is that? Whenever I think about it, I realize that what I want has nothing to do with money, fame or any other misguided late-20th-century-marketing feat. It has to do with me, and, as difficult to describe as that might be, it is all I have left for now and the years to come.
Is this too much self-indulgence, or am I really losing it?
I should be in London soon but details are still sketchy.
I'll let you know in due time.