In which we portray our hero, DB in a picaresque light
DB and his loud guffaw. DB and his thing for philosophy, and all the important ‘isms’ thereof. DB and his anger, the swashbuckling tirades against all the ‘Shakespeare worshiping pseudo-intellectual morons’ in literature class (read: all the sixty or so students in Lit class except DB). The entire world, and their conspiracy against DB.
When I met DB, I was all wound; a psychosomatic wreck, really afraid of myself. And DB was disdained with the world, and everything inside and around it. So the pair of us, we became drinking buddies.
I remember this one evening, after downing his first pint in two big gulps, DB launched his usual tirade against his classmates. We were sitting at our usual corner at the local watering hole, a dark, dinghy pub with tattered blue sofas, lazy waiters and cheap booze. The place suited us; we were college students then, perpetually broke. Besides, DB really liked getting angry there, inside that closed dark sea of anonymity, so different from the bright lecture halls, always filled with said morons and their opinions.
‘Dammit! I can’t see the handle of the pitcher properly. Pour me some more beer huh?’ And so went the evening’s discussion – so-and-so stole his idea for the term project, which led DB to work on something that directly challenged every hypothesis in the erstwhile stolen project. (‘That son of a bitch!’) But then after the initial setback, DB soon found out that he rather liked this strange process of refuting his own original idea. It somehow felt so devious; his brain was on fire, and the project was in flames, literally. He had destroyed his nemesis in true DB style, with his serrated wit and natural flow of eloquence. Projects were submitted, evaluated, graded, given back, and how did things turn out? Thief got an A while Prof only deigned to give DB a B-!!!! He was devastated. He went and complained to the professor (another Shakespeare worshiping moron), but she wouldn’t listen, told him his project was myopic and that it had undertones of malice, warned him about future projects etc etc.
DB was livid and spoke of nothing else for the next few evenings at the pub. While I listened sympathetically to his harangue, or pretended to at times, I thought to myself that his writing often had a tone of feeble desperation, so high pitched and rushed at times, salivating for an encore. But I chose not to voice out my thoughts. On the 4th or 5th night, I cannot recall exactly now, I couldn’t hold it in any longer, so I turned to DB and remarked that while the grade thing was unfair and while I had not read his project myself, Prof maybe did have a point about the malicious undercurrent that permeated his writing. I told him too that his writings were sometimes exhausting and whiny, which did not endear him to his readers. This set DB off in a flying rage and we did nothing but argue about it for the next few evenings.
That was how we used to pass our time in the evenings, the pair of us, talking and drinking and sometimes arguing. Those were days when our evenings were still long, and our tomorrows didn’t involve reassembling our faces for yet another round of charade with adult human beings, adulting in their manufactured adult environment. In fact, we had no sympathy for adults or even a fleeting understanding of their world. We were the only feeling humans in our universe – all hurt and festering wound and cocky and confused and wounded and creative and famished animals and opinionated bottomless jugs of beer.
I also remember one of our last evenings together; an evening that changed everything between the pair of us. We were at the pub, and DB was talking about existentialism, Nausea, decadence, etc etc; his pet topics for the evening. When the one-sided discussion of the evening inevitably reached that place called ‘eternal recurrence,’ I turned to DB and said, ‘You know, I picked up Ecce Homo last week, and God! I find Nietzsche so damn funny. All that talk about nutrition, indigestion, scheming women and block-headed cattle. Who would’ve thought, huh?’
DB looked at me with narrowed eyes and said slowly, ‘What exactly do you mean by that?’
I went on, ‘Oh you know what I mean, you’ve read it yourself. It’s somehow a very mischievous book. He’s got such a sharp tongue. I almost fell over when he called Henrik Ibsen a typical old maid. That was hilarious!’
That got DB really worked up, and he started shouting, ‘You dare call Friedrich Nietzsche funny?? God! you have some nerve. As if you even have the capacity to understand his philosophy. I’ll have you know that Nietzsche is blah blah blah…’ I wasn’t surprised at his reaction. DB liked getting pissed. In fact, he spent most of his time scheming and hatching up new plots to get himself pissed. But that wasn’t the point, really.
The point was this, that DB, the disdained young man who called everyone else cabbage-brained; DB, the guy who prided himself on his superior knowledge of philosophy kept on calling the man Neeetzzsseee, Neeetzzsseee; somehow the name had become a soft, moist, watery, dragged out word in his mouth. Spineless. And hissing wickedly, like foam. After that, I could not hear anything other than that soft, watery word anymore; it kept spinning and whirling inside my head – Neeetzzssee. Neeetzzssee said this, Neeetzzssee wrote that, Neeetzzssee exhorted, Neeetzzssee, Neeetzzssee…..Neeetzzssee, hissing wickedly, like foam. Neeetzzsseee, making my wine soaked insides all warm and fuzzy, Neeetzzsseee, spinning and flying pleasantly inside my happy head.
And then I did the one thing that I knew DB absolutely hated – I laughed at him. No, I more than laughed at him. I laughed in his face, correcting him and yelling loud enough for the entire place to hear us ‘That’s not how you pronounce his name. It’s not Neeetzzsseee, stupid. It’s Neet-chuh. Got it? Now say it with me.’ I shifted across the sofa to his side, bringing my face closer and closer to his face, invading his sacred personal space and talking to him as if I were stern kidergarten teacher disciplining a wayward foolish little boy. In short, I was doing everything that I knew DB absolutely hated and loathed. ‘Lets try it again – Neet-chuh- with a snap in the end, chuh like that. Not zzsseeeee’ At the back of my mind, I knew that I was crossing the sacred line that harmonized our friendship, a line that somehow precariously tethered the strange pair of us. But I couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t turn back. If anything, I progressively turned more mocking and mean by the minute, laughing loudly, imitating his watery hissing Neeetzzsseee, Neeetzzsseee, spewing droplets of beer on his face.
Here’s the thing, I usually don’t give a fuck about pronunciation, but that evening, it somehow plucked on my last nerve. Maybe it was because the ‘error’ came from DB, a guy whose mission in life was to simply be more ‘correct’ than everyone else. But if I’m really going to be honest, I have to admit that it was so much more than that, because that evening as I was listening to DB patronize me, I slowly realized that this guy, he was the kind of person who could not see anything beyond a shallow field of reflected shards in all the words that other people said to him. And I realized too that we could not continue being buddies for much longer. I felt, at the time that I had outgrown him. Maybe it was just my way of trying to assert my own sense of self worth on myself, to assure myself that I was smarter and more intellectual than DB. But now in retrospect, I have to admit that we had both outgrown each other and that I was, in no way smarter than DB as I used to like telling myself at the time.
Anyway DB, if you’re reading this, I just want you to know that I always knew then too, what a strange pair the two of us made.
About the Neeetzzsseee stuff, you really can’t blame me DB. You know I like my thrills real cheap. Or even better, free.
Oh and DB, you were a really good drinking buddy.
Photo and story by Ruati Chhangte. This is a work of fiction. All rights reserved.
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