It is strange to discover what has been hanging around in one’s own mind. Don’t you think so? Some thoughts as common as furniture turn out to be highly peculiar when examined or focused on, when peered at and interrogated.
I am embarrassed to tell you my fantasy. Of course I have a lot of fantasies. I am that sort of nonsensical and unprofitable person. A wisp of grandiosity for which no use has ever been found.
This is my number one fantasy. It does not even have any close competition. I have had this fantasy my entire life; it has been in its current shape for at least ten years. It is highly embarrassing that this is my fantasy. Any professional would tell you that my ego structure is the ramshackle type that cannot bear any weight at all. All paste and popsicle sticks, my personality. Anyway, please keep in mind that I did not actually set out to be pathetic, I simply lived my life, and this fantasy crystallized and became resident in my mind, like a piece of rock candy.
In my fantasy I am in my very favorite restaurant, the one I call the restaurant of my heart, with red checked tablecloths and wicker baskets and grandmotherly bric-a-brac, and I am having a long dinner, drinks, appetizers, entree, the works, with someone who has known me for a very long time and does not really like me.
He is telling me the truth about myself for my own good. He is telling me things that aren’t very nice but are quite inarguably true. Such as the fact that I am not so good-looking anymore. That I should not put on airs or waste my time when anyone can see -- and people DO see, he says, they just don’t tell me -- that I am actually not so talented or so clever. The statute of limitations for my being promising has long since run out. I am not good-looking enough and certainly not smart or capable enough and I should come to terms with that instead of acting in this way that only makes me look ridiculous to everyone and they only don’t say so because they are cowardly, and gainfully employed, and have better things to do.
I am listening carefully and I am thanking him because he what he telling me is undeniably true. Sure, it isn’t nice to hear but it is inarguably true and I am thanking him, thanking him over and over again for being the one to finally tell me the truth. It is absolutely and undeniably true that I ought to be more reasonable and less conceited, that I should not devote myself to what no one will ever want, whether it is my body or my art.
It is high time for me to recognize what is obvious to everyone. He is only telling me the truth about myself for my own good. I agree with him vigorously and I explain that really I always knew that what he is telling me was true, that I simply inflated myself with vanity and coffee and books by people far smarter than myself.
Then, I excuse myself, because we have been drinking beer, but mostly because I am about to cry and I do not want to cry in front of this man because that would be weak, because he is telling me the truth about myself and I want to show that I am strong enough to handle the truth about myself.
I take a leak and wash my hands and I am walking back through the long and dimly-lit restaurant to my own table when my friend, the owner of the restaurant, waves to me from where he is sitting and begins to talk to me.
He is a craggy old Vietnam vet. He lived through that as well as losing almost everyone to AIDS. Sure, he’s cranky but he’s a damn good man, the kind who doesn’t disappear when things get hard. My friend is looking at me so sternly I think he is angry with me. He says to me, very quietly and very seriously, “Please let me throw that motherfucker out of my restaurant.”
I explain to my friend that the man at the table is not bad and not wrong, that he is only very honest and telling me hard truths that I need very much to hear, the truth about myself for my own good. My friend listens to me very carefully and then says, “That man is total fucking asshole.”
I am standing there shaking and I realize how tired I am, how hard it has been to sit there all night, through drinks, appetizers and dinner, all the time hearing about nothing except how I am no good.
My friend and I talk for another minute and finally I agree that my friend can ask the man to leave. I am walking through the restaurant then, toward the table of the man who has been telling me the truth about myself for my own good. And then I see him.
It is too late. My friend, the owner, cannot tell him to leave. The waitstaff has become fed up, apparently, and taken matters into their own hands. (They are Burmese, after all, very loyal and very tough and I have been their friend since they were teenagers and, even if their English is a little broken, they understand everything they hear.) Three of them have hauled the man up and out of his chair and they are dragging him now to the door and shoving him into the street, letting him know that he had better never ever show his face at this restaurant again.
Looking at the man now, as he is hauled out the front door, he no longer looks like an absolute authority on reality and the worth or worthlessness of every living thing. He is just a little bitter drunk old queen who likes to put people down so can feel like a big man. It’s just what he does -- but not in this restaurant. Not anymore.
That’s one version of my fantasy. There’s another, shorter, version. The man is at the table, holding a bottle of imported beer because he says the beer from this country is all shit, and he is telling me the hard truth about myself, and I am agreeing with every word and thanking him profusely, and then I see my friends on either side of him, their faces all so serious, and I think that they are agreeing with him, glad that someone is finally telling me the truth about myself, which I need so badly to hear, the truth that is obvious to absolutely everyone and has been all along.
He goes on telling me in detail everything that is wrong with me, everything that I have done wrong, and I agree with him, and as we go on speaking he very slowly begins to rise into the air, all the while continuing to pontificate as if he has no idea what’s going on.
My friends are lifting the man into the air. They have had enough. When the Burmese waitstaff gets pissed off, watch out. They are hauling him away. The man goes on insisting that his reality is the only real reality as they cart him off and carry him through the restaurant like a pig on a spit before heaving him into the street. They don’t kill him or anything. OK, maybe a few kicks and punches. He just knows that he can never return to this restaurant. This restaurant where I now sit very quietly, my friends around but not too near, feeling tired but relieved, open and quiet. Safe.