A bit later, towards dawn, the knowledge now grown more certain that such a person, who could have fantasized about the man I saw in my dreams, really existed and had a placeable origin, combined with my sudden realization of the fact that I had grown accustomed to continuously piercing my surroundings rather too violently and sarcastically, made existing day to day in the increasingly ethereal, subjective world that I inhabited practically unbearable.
By the next day, I couldn't write a word and avoided people. I started missing lectures for the same reason, and when I did show up, I tried to sit, bundled in my coat, in the most isolated corner of the hall. If reality depended so much on space, if my identity was a function of my surroundings, then it sickened me horribly to know that I was permeated with everything that had been poured into me from grade school. And that was the same thing that I now noticed so vividly in people: an obsessive self-consciousness bordering on paranoia that made interaction with other people either a cumbersome formality sometimes materializing in the form of Saturday comics balloons of earnest, unintentional sarcasm, or a sarcasm in itself intended desperately for the speaker's ears, convincing him of his own invincibility, if he was successful. Then there was "Hey, how's it goin'? Yeah, great, what about you? Yep, on the run, I'm sorry." The last syllables were always added in a guilty, obviously awkward whisper that I often felt but didn't express in such situations. The attempt at honesty out of duty and personal despair, all of the sudden came across as the final decision when a girl sitting next to me in the commuter train I was taking to Long Island to see some friends, picked up her cell phone, and dialed. "Hi, it's me. Listen, did you make plans for dinner yet? I was just wondering if you wanted to go out for sushi. Yeah, I'm on the train right now, but I can pick you up right from the station. Yeah, around six. Um, but you wouldn't mind if it was just the two of us? 'Cause I just wanted to kind of dish out."
Even I, peering out from my egoism to see some friends on Long Island, went through exactly the same conversational steps, and that what was so vivid to me. I had a conversation just like this one only half an hour ago. We had to be honest with each other, but it was awkward and cumbersome; most often we resorted to sarcasm just to try to appear immovable and smart. The last thing a man can admit is that he is stupid- that is impossible. Likewise anything unpleasant in a healthy, anti-Orwellian society was considered possible to eliminate by a pragmatism that boasted solving the unsolvable: discovering the differences between a man and a woman, the key to mutual understanding, life and death, coming to terms with any childhood trauma, and putting the blame on someone else. Like the scary doctor who, 20 years ago, was the causes of someone's impotence and now, razoblachen, loses his job. The propagation of being on guard against teachers who get a little too close to students, for chances are: they're perverts. Then there was talking like a children's television show in restaurants to people you will never see again, just to sound cheerful and more than polite, although the thought of what you are saying might turn you white with terror; and then an unhealthy preoccupation with sex that probably resulted every time a traditionally puritan and paranoid society adopted the doctrine, masked by Freudian pragmatism, of being open and honest about everything.
Selfish obliviousness was said to have resulted in Indian massacres and slavery, all of which later lead to such a strong collective guilt complex that a whole new ideology almost as dogmatic as the communist faith was adopted: political correctness.
Because a healthy, normal, moderately intelligent human being is inherently incapable of understanding what does not immediately concern him, because he is healthy. He lived in a finite world where what mattered was how to best balance an internship, income, and the most reasonable classes, and most importantly how this affected his future; what underwear was most comfortable; and how not to get ripped off by a government so effective that on a subconscious level he trusted it better than his parents. At the same time there was always the duty of considering other people's feelings, never running away from problems, and approaching all issues with a mature, responsible attitude, because that attitude reflected who you were.
I had all of that: the whole package of a sound mentality thriving next to an overly neurotic and sensitive mind: worked two jobs, planned for the future, recycled occasionally, and refrained, when I could, from passing judgements. On the other hand I was inherently afraid of finishing my term paper, because the concept I wrote about terrified me. And yet I couldn't help thinking that behind all that, that which was half ether and half americana pragmatism and steel logic was something else whose turn it was to suffocate and sicken with each curse I laughingly called out at my peers in a peculiar friendliness: "Bitch!" "Slut!" "Hag!" "Whore!" "I'll kick your ass!"
To translate those words and keep their semantics would mean to render an unprintable text whose implications could never be regarded as playful, friendly sarcasm.