2. Lydia Davis WannabeChapter: Not Posts
By Jason Dubow
I don’t know what this is, a fiction in its infancy, perhaps, one I will share here and now only because it was the very impulse to share that got me writing it in the first place and I want to honor that impulse. I certainly do not plan to make a habit of sharing works in progress.
I will call it: "The Question in Question."
Why do you ask me again what you asked me before? The same question asked on an oddly numerous number of occasions, such a strange way of representing yourself in the world. Why do you do this?
I always answer you in a manner and tone consistent with truth telling, and yet, each time after I have spoken my piece, you say: "Really?"
It doesn’t even matter what the question is, there’s no need for me to share that information. What’s important is that the question has been asked and answered, asked and answered, asked and answered ad nauseam.
You want, I think, to raise yourself up by diminishing me. You hope for an answer that will somehow confirm that I am lesser than you but no such validation is forthcoming (or ever could be). You dare me, you say, to share specifics, man up and name names, but I will not. You are not worth the aggravation. Nobody needs to know who you are.
If you once or twice forgot what I said, I might give you the benefit of the doubt (careless listening is not a crime, after all), but your persistent blankness, as if the slate was wiped clean after each and every conversation we have ever had, can only be by design, conscious or unconscious (the distinction matters little to me). You only wish you were oblivious.
My answer never changes and never will. Even if some day, in order to startle you from your revelry of self, I greet your familiar question with silence and a knowing smile or a bit of the verbal absurdity to which I am prone, do not doubt for a moment that the essence of my response remains the same. Subtext is a beautiful and inevitable thing. You cannot escape the truth.
No more allowances from me. The scenario has been repeated too many times for any relatively sane person, such as myself, to diagnose anything but faux forgetting, a behavior suggestive of a greater disorder, one with sadness or fear or desperation at its causal core.
You cling to anything that supports what you want to believe no matter its murky or erroneous provenance but conveniently (at least it’s convenient in the short term) "forget" whatever challenges your wishful assumptions. This game you play allows you to silence, or almost silence, the voice of dread and doubt in your head. I can see from the strained, unnatural look on your face–a too-considered confidence, a grimace vibrating under the surface of your skin–that you hear it still, if only as distant static.
That voice has kept you from your true self; in fact, it’s prevented you from even having a true self to be kept from. You are a truly abject individual.
And now even I am feeling sorry for you. You are not, in the larger scheme of things, a bad man, but you are not a good man either.
Something else to keep in mind: all this has nothing (or maybe it’s everything) to do withthat other thing. That’s all I’ll say: you either get what I’m talking about or you don’t.
I ask, "Do you behave this way because you are a passive-aggressive, self-absorbed, and insecure shithead?" (Is it possible to be passive-aggressive, self-absorbed, and insecure and be anything but a shithead?) Do I sound like your mother?
Answer the question, please, do not make me ask it again. There’s no way to avoid the situation Any ongoing refusal to respond will be considered a de facto answer and you, my friend, will be known in perpetuity not only by the absence of a coherent reply to a perfectly reasonable inquiry, but also by your unwillingness even to attempt coherence, as if . . . as if . . . I don’t know what.
I cannot fathom you. I don’t like you. I won’t help you. You will suffer and I will stand idly by.