"Do you know why I do this?" He asked.
"Because you want to help them?" I replied.
"Oh my no. That would be too easy."
"Well, life goes on."
He just smiled. We were silent for a moment. It was as if he was patiently waiting for what would inevitably follow. Finally, I broke the silence with the question he had been waiting for.
"What is your reason?"
"What is anyone's reason?" He responded as if it was a chess move.
" Power? Glory? Boredom?"
"Yes, boredom. My life has been very boring.
"Oh yeah! You are the most boring person I have ever met!"
"Yes", he replied. "I am also very unhealthy. I'm sure you can tell, just by looking at me, that I'm not exactly Mr. Universe."
He flexed his little finger.
"Is that important?"
"Only if you are a woman." He said with a laugh.
"What do you mean?"
"Perhaps you should ask Joyce." He replied.
"I like skinny girls." She said.
"Perhaps you shouldn't ask Joyce." He replied.
"Do you really like skinny girls?" I asked.
"Who gives a fuck!" She said. "Girls, guys, dogs, donkeys. Really, sex is boring, isn't it? I like machines."
"Why is that Joyce?" He asked.
"They don't talk." She replied with a giggle.
"You don't like to talk, Joyce?"
"Yeah I like to talk. I just don't like to listen."
"Where are we going with this?" He asked.
"I feel like we are going in the wrong direction." I replied.
Joyce looked confused and a little angry, as if we were talking over her head.
"Oh yeah Mr. Man. What is the RIGHT direction."
I was asking about anyone's reason." I replied.
"So what am I?"
He spread his hands before him, reached out and touched her cheek with his fingertips.
"You are someone, Joyce." He replied.
That seemed to satisfy her so she shut up.
"Well, I have something to say about reason." He replied, looking at me. "Actually I don't think reason is important. Look at the audience for my little events. Do you really think they are here for a reason?'"
"So, what are they here for?" I asked.
"They're here because there is no reason."
"That's comforting." Joyce said.
For them or in general?"
" Oh really James, does it matter?" He said with a bitter laugh.
"All right. I'll play. Take me- someone who really doesn't have a lot going for myself under "normal" circumstances. So, as a solution to my...oh..." There he paused with a thoughtful twist of his lips before continuing. "...Let's call it lonliness. I set up this venue, a venue that nobody worth anything is a part of. Suddenly I have more than I had before. Nobody needs to know anything about me and what my life is like, except that, without me, they would have less than what they have. For the kind of people I'm dealing with that's enough. For myself, it's a matter of doing the best I can. Everyone wins." He said with a wry smile. "Does that answer your question?"
"Is there an answer?" I replied.
"Probably not." He admitted.
Joyce chose that moment to snore loudly.
We both looked at her.
"Well?" She asked. "What are you looking at?"
"What's the matter Joyce?" He asked.
"I'm bored. What do you think. Guys. Always spouting philosophy. And for what? I'm not stupid. A bunch of smutty little children playing in the sewer. That's all."
"Ah...the poet." He said, thoughtfully. "And who am I in this melodrama, Joyce?"
"You know who you are. You're the big rat. Or maybe you're the guy with the flute and they're the rats."
"They're just children, Joyce."
"Well, whatever they are, I'm bored."
You already said that Joyce." I said.
"Fuck you Mr. Man!" She said.
I didn't understand the cause of her sudden anger but it didn't matter any more than any of the rest. People like Joyce did what they did and then made up reasons or let other people think what they would about her reasons. In reality I realized that, like so many others like her, there weren't any reasons in Joyce's world. That was her poetry. It sprung from her like an absurd jack from a box and meant as much.
I was tired. Throughout my nefarious career I had been involved in too many nehilistic exercises in narcissism to want to experience any more. there was nothing more worth learning . Oh sure, for a while it was an ego boost to feel sharp, witty, and cynical and to have pointed insights into the darkest recesses of human depravity but really, what was the point?
I was disappointed with myself. I had only been fooling myself. I hadn't changed at all.
I felt depressed. Why couldn't I have decided to devote myself to a search for love someplace elce other than in a corrupt world. It was that wrong headed definition of the context for my search that did me in. It's like I had said that I would confine my search to one small cage at the zoo.
What would my life have been like if I would have been repulsed by the dark side instead of being hypnotized by it?
What would have happened if I would have fell in with a good crowd when I got off the truck on the mean streets of San Francisco, or if I would have hated rock and roll and instead of going to the Fillmore I would have gone to a jazz club, or to the opera.
Too many questions, but I already knew the answers. I'd known all along.
So I stood up and said goodbye. He smiled and nodded his head as if he had seen the transformation I had undergone without my doing anything but going through it in my head.
Joyce just looked confused. She had brought me there, to the center of her depraved world because she thought I was like her. She wanted me to be her new playmate.
Didn't they all. Somehow I've always had the knack of being a chameleon. The truth was I was never there at all. For anyone.Until it was too late and it didn't matter.
Outside the music seemed louder and the crowd more desperate as they bumped and pushed each other.
Violence was the new sex.
It gave me a headache.