Friday, June 02, 2006

How not to have an argument

(fiction posting -- I'm a writer; it's allowed)
This snippet comes from the middle of my senior project and its posted was prompted by recent interactions with individuals who argue/converse in exactly the same manner as Cat even though the orginal writing of this piece was prompted by an unrelated discussion.

The poetry reading that Tuesday was not memorable. The bitching and moaning we did while waiting for the bus that would take us back to our side of campus was much more memorable.
“Did you hear the conversation I was having with the guys in the row behind me?” Cat asked me.
I couldn’t say I had actually been listening to any of it. I had recognized a couple of them from classes but they weren’t the kind of people I was prone to strike up a conversation with.
She sighed. “I can’t stand hanging out with those people anymore. All they do is talk about religion.”
And that’s why I didn’t talk to them. I nodded and stared at the gum covered sidewalk in front of the bus pavilion. None of the gum was new. Still, I couldn’t claim any of it as my own. These were little pieces of other people. Not of myself.
“But they’re such hypocrites. All they do is talk and they seem nice, they really do. But they don’t accept anyone who thinks any differently. It’s easy for you.” She flicked her hand dismissing me. “You can just say ‘fuck you’ and they’ll leave you alone. But they’re after me. I used to go to their meetings and since I stopped they think they have to save me. They keep pushing me. They really think I’ve been lured away.”
“Lured away by demons?” I laughed. “Has Satan been tempting you again? I told him not to do that anymore.”
“They don’t think it’s Satan, they think that …”
I sighed and let her rattle on. I couldn’t believe she had taken me seriously.
I started staring at her earphones for lack of anything better to do. She never took those damn little white buds out of her ears. She went to class and left them in, she got ready for bed and she left them in, she had a twenty minute conversation with me and she left them in. I seriously wondered if she left them in when she showered or not. I assumed they were hooked up to an ipod. Somewhere. But the question was where was it today? She jabbered on and I began the visual hunt. Pants pocket? No square bulge visible. Backpack? Any guess is as good as mine in that bulky thing. Inner pocket of her fleece jacket? That’s what I’d put my money on. Of course there was part of me that was willing to assume that she was dumb enough not even to have remembered to put the damn thing on her today. The earphones would go on by habit, but whether or not she was smart enough to remember the music was yet to be seen.
I wondered if one day she would get mugged for her ipod and the muggers would stand around saying “what the hell?” They would look at each other stupefied because they had tried to get her ipod but all they could find were the earphones.
Although it was a particularly grim daydream of mine considering that kid who got killed for his ipod out East. What the hell was up with that anyway? Can’t we just stick to killing each other over crack?
Part of me hopes the attackers listened to the music on it. And that it was all country. Bad country. And Steve Winwood.
They say that the guy who runs Apple called the kids parents and apologized. Gave his condolences and apologized. And therefore averted a PR nightmare. Maybe that’s too garish. Maybe he really was distraught that some kid had died because he decided to invent a portable juke box. But I’ll bet you there sure as hell is some PR guy at Apple was finally able to get a night’s sleep just because Steve Jobs really did have the balls to call that kid’s family. When it happened Mike looked at me with his normal gray-eyed stare and told me his father sure as hell better not find out about this. If he did neither of us would put it past him to put a hit out on his own kid just to get a chance to talk to Steve Jobs or whoever the hell is running Apple now. Mike’s dad is that much of a geek. That much of an ass hole. I’m guessing he didn’t hear about it since Mike is still around bringing me that much more sarcastic joy each day. And trying to do stupid things like learn bird names.
Cat paused in her tirade.
“Those people scare me,” I told her not caring if it made sense with what she had been saying. “Those kids back at the poetry reading, they scare me because they don’t question anything. They believe the things they do because someone told them that was the way things were. They didn’t take the time to arrive at that end through their own reasoning. They just took up someone else’s idea. You can tell from the way they talk about things. Hell, they didn’t even know why they were at that reading; they were there because someone told them to be there.”
“Exactly!” she chirped in her excitement. “If they just thought about it they might arrive at a different conclusion and not be so hypocritical.”
I squinted at her. Was that really what I had said? “It’s not even that. It’s just that if you’re going to have a point of view you should know why you have it, you should have figured it out for yourself, not blindly accepted someone else’s conclusion.”
“I know. They’re so wrong about everything. All of their conclusions are off base.”
The bus pulled up. This was going to be a very long bus ride of me defending myself and her misinterpreting it. I could feel it. This was not a conversation she was going to let me end until we had to physically separate ourselves. So I decided to say what I was really thinking instead of having this round about fight: “I’m glad you don’t hang out with them anymore. They push their one view too hard. And make you feel really bad if you don’t think like they do. It’s a form of brainwashing. That’s what they act like. They don’t question anything. They don’t even realize they could think for themselves and reason it out. It’s like they’ve been brainwashed.”
I could tell that she didn’t like my choice of words. I could see her eyes dismissing me as some crazy anarchical atheist. Never mind that neither was true. “It’s like you said earlier,” she started. Only her entire thought only vaguely resembled what I had said earlier.
Why did it always have to be everything or nothing? Why couldn’t those kids question parts of the whole? Just the little things that if you asked them they couldn’t reason out for you or even rationally discuss. Why was it all or none? It was either my fault or it wasn’t. But it was my fault. I was feeling horrible because I had done it. I had wanted to do it, that’s why it happened, and I was just having problems dealing with that afterwards. Because people pushed too hard. Because they judged you. It was their fault. The whole thing was. But the details were still my fault.
I needed to get away from Cat. From all of them.
* * *
“Sorry to crash here, Mike. My roommates are pissing me off. It’s the damn trip to Kentucky all over again.”
“What did Diana do this time?”
“Diana? What do you think she’s doing? She’s found another boy that she’s slowly converting into a doormat.”
“Via that white dress that doesn’t legally count as a dress in every Bible belt state?”
“As always.”
He shook his head
“This guy was supposed to be different for her,” I continued. “She wanted to go out with him because he told her ‘no.’ And now she’s convincing him to say ‘yes’ to all the stupid things she wants to do and all her little demands for stuff.”
“So he’s fallen into the jewelry trap?”
“Not yet. And that’s why she thinks this one is different. That’s why she thinks this one isn’t completely whipped: because he refuses to even buy her a fucking necklace. But that doesn’t change the concert tickets and the trips to the store that he funds and the stuffed animals that are now living in my house.”
“What’s wrong with stuffed animals?”
“I resent their presence.”
“And you’re hiding at my apartment because yours houses stuffed animals?”
“It’s not just that.” Deep breath. “Cat made me have a discussion about religion tonight.”
“Oh no.”
“I think it would have been okay if she had just stuck with the format. You argue, I argue, we both politely disagree and change the topic. The Format. How we’ve managed to live together all this time. But noooo. She started doing the obnoxious thing. She’d say I agree after every statement I made and then repeated it in her own words so that it’s not the same thing that I meant.”
“You just shouldn’t talk religion with anyone, Carolyn.”
“That’s not the point! The point is that Cat is obnoxious!”

... this scene continues but that's enough for now.

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