Meeting an Old Friend

“You are poised for greatness,” my friend says matter-of-factly.

We immediately engage in a conversation about the subjectivity of abstract nouns and the relativity of emotive adjectives, using all the Arabic equivalents of latinizations, nominalizations, and pedantic psycho-babble.

Now and then, we cuss and swear. Our undeclared understanding is that swearing, although unnecessary, is a sign of street-cred and worldly wisdom when uttered by the pseudo-intellectual in sporadic, intermittent throes.

“Even vulgarity becomes relative at times of polarization.”
He corrects me instantly, “it always is”.

We review the decrepitude of morals on today’s television channels and stand on either side of a rift. “Swearing is fun,” I argue. “It embosses boring bagatelles of our daily small-talk. It should be done quite more often, in public, and with feeling.”
He sternly contradicts. “But modern billingsgate on the tube betrays a puerile imbecility of pundits.” I realize it’s a quote he heard somewhere, but I am keen to acknowledge it as his own, as I am sure he will return the favour soon.

The encounter ebbs and flows as we flex the feeble muscles of superficial intellect, and exchange the timid profanities of middle class yuppies. We speak well enough to be unintelligible, and the convexity of our parlance is designed to compound the simplest of notions, and to dull the most lucid of ideas. As old friends we need prove nothing to one another, but it is good practice for when we need to prove something to someone else later.

Like two awful golf players, we dig out divots of bungled sentences in the smooth landscape of language. We are not to blame though, for we live in the era of flaunt and haughtiness. Simplicity is no longer a virtue. Straightforwardness is an unforgivable blunder of social character. Not only was our conversation a sign of the times, the way we talked was an inevitable occupational hazard. After all, it was my job to “represent”, as it was his job to “advertise”. And in the course of our daily routines lying, or harmless equivocations uttered with positive intentions, becomes a habit.

And so we turn to our favourite subject; marketing. How to make things sell. How to make ourselves sell. In the course of our discussions we always tended to turn inanimate nouns into agents, and humans into objects. Religion does, politics explores, the media cheats. Whereas men were boxed into categories, shelved in social classes, and price-tagged with certain quantities of charisma or appeal. We did it all the time, until we eventually forgot how normal people spoke. Not that we were normal by any means. We were way and beyond. Normal was far beneath us. Normal was everyone else. And yet we perfectly fitted our own spruced-up version of normalcy.

In the remembrance-of-things-past portion of our meeting, we come across other old friends. One who was particularly bashful came to mind this time. There was a certain oddness about his self-effacing nature, his coy demure, and the way he never fully stood by his own opinion despite his vast array of knowledge. Modern day sainthood, if you ask anyone. But in our discussion it somehow becomes “a pernicious attribute of character that renders the individual unsellable.”

There was a time when we tired the moon with chant and levity. But today we are older, and all we seemed to tire was the underpaid waiter in the overpriced café. It is time once more to descend to the streets and make our way home through the muddle. I think of an aggrandized epilogue to our banal discussions. “Only someone who is truly educated realizes the limits of his knowledge,” I say as we depart. But I mince my words, for tonight I proved to myself again how ignorant I truly am.

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