He asked, "What does it mean, then?"
She laughed.
"What? You - of all people - don't think there's some kind of reason?"
"I'm not self-absorbed enough to assume I - or we - are entitled to narrative -"
He cut her off. "Bullshit."
She wanted to look wry, but the result was far sadder, nearly deflated. "There's no narrative unless your life somehow gets ripped open and exposed, and even then, it's shredded and reconstructed. As it was, there was no plot arc. That's the goddamn problem today, everyone thinks they're entitled to be a fucking protagonist." She tried to will there to be a pause. For effect, you know.
"Got a smoke?" she asked, hand out.
He gestured to a package on a shelf across the room. She looked at him, annoyed, and crossed the room, sliding a cigarette out of the box and then leaning against the window. She stared at the horizon, wondering, is it possible to be deliberately deliberate, or does the self awareness made it superficial?
We're still young, but we're so dreary already, he thought. Beige curtains that hang like flags, symbols of how we've given up.
"I really can't believe you can say that. When was the last time you weren't all caught up in some fucking cause or ten, help the whoever, support the fucks offs - don't pretend you don't know what I mean." His voice was rough and he stood up and started pacing.
She held her gaze perpendicular to his, wearing an expression like she was watching her face from outside of it, every gesture slightly too calculated.
"Yeah well. You have to do something."
"No you don't. 90% of the planet - at least - are a bunch of hedonists busy gorging themselves not thinking about any of that shit. Pointless. The only people who do worry about that shit are people who think there's a point."
"I just don't want to be embarrassed if I ever have to explain what I did with it."
"Did with what what?"
"Oh, whatever cliche, the time I was given."
"So it's guilt."
"Fuck off."
"No, really."
"No, it's not guilt. It's bitterness that the world is such shit."
"Who has a narrator now, huh?" She had returned to staring out the window. He had stopped pacing and stood across the room, watching her reflection in the glass. "I just thought you might, that's all. Seemed like a nice idea, so I thought if you did..." he trailed off.
She didn't appear to hear him. "You have to be able to say you weren't a selfish SOB with it."
"So you just resign yourself to being miserable and anxiously watch the world go to pot? Seeing every fucked up bit? Focusing on it as intently as you possibly can?"
She leaned out the window, blowing smoke rings. Her tone remained flat.
"No. You just have to not get too involved." She reached behind her for the shelf and another cigarette, still not looking at him. "So don't go looking to me for answers.Christ."

cross posted www.fieldoflandmines.blogspot.com

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