Told Between Puffs, February 2018

In which our hero solicits meaning

Recently Verily had felt drawn to Brooklyn, perhaps due to the stultifying stagnance of Morningside Heights, or to the recent emergence in him of an acute apathy towards the social mores and academic trivialities of college. One crisp evening, as he strolled in Riverside Park with a devoted friend, they came across a well-known philosophy professor walking his dog, a small, ridiculous looking mongrel of ambiguous heritage. The dog seemed less than ecstatic to be dragged along on this auspicious outing, and would struggle intermittently before submitting to its owner’s resigned coaxing. “That dog,” Verily astutely remarked to his friend, “represents the sum total of all human ideation and s a t i s f a c t ion—we expect everything come to us and submit itself before our majesty, but it actually wants to do anything but.” His friend gave him a blank look that Verily interpreted as awestruck assent.

That weekend, Verily, who as we remember, was going to work at Morgan Stanley, found himself in Greenpoint, seeking out the illumination or inspiration that he was so confident of encountering here. Directed unwittingly by the aroma of pierogies, he drifted from one Polish restaurant to another, finding his route littered with huge, modern apartment complexes that appeared replete with all the amenities of modern luxury. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, he could see the members of the petit bourgeois that he so admired going about their daily routines, and it seemed to him like he was watching zoo animals in their enclosures, though he was really, really high and this might have played a part in this impression. Everyone he met was of a certain type: well dressed, composed, and above all, purposeful—everything these people did, from walking to purchasing coffee at a bodega, seemed colored by a certain unmistakable intent.

Suddenly, Verily was struck by the breadth of his illusions—were these people really so different from the prophets of corporate conformism that he was dead set on avoiding? Maybe they were just living out a fantasy as well, just one that they were more comfortable with. Was anyone even real, or was it just that some puppets have the privilege of choosing their puppeteer? What was he even looking for? Was there such a thing, in an era of such intrusive capitalism, as a bohemian lifestyle? Ultimately, our intrepid hero resolved to smoke less and meditate more.

At the next social function he had the privilege of attending, Verily was asked about Brooklyn, about his findings on his great adventure. “What I have come to realize,” he mused after an uncomfortably long pause, “is that we are all leashed, and the only feasible strategy is to wait for freedom while thriving in captivity. I am redirecting my attention towards the Lower East Side.” The people around him were unfortunately far too well acquainted with him for this dramatic pivot to register even a minimal level of incredulity. What can’t be cured must be endured.

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