A parable and a story

I guess it was about a year and a half ago, I was in an English class where we read The Blithedale Romance.  As much as I hate to admit than an existentialist novel changed my life, it did, but it’s excuseable if you know about Hawthorne other than making fun of his vast descriptive passages.  Anyway, in one class discussion everyone was laying into the main character for being kind of a passive-aggressive douche and I was kind of disagreeing because I think he’s portrayed in a sympathizable light, but I couldn’t quite describe it besides just saying something along the lines of “I think it’s true that he does all these bad things but he’s also presented in a way that you want to sympathize with him” which is easy to argue with because the novel is written in the first person.  But I think the issue was that I identified with him because he feels left out.  And then Tyler Kingdon said,

“I think he’s a good guy, I think he’s just nervous.”

When I get nervous I get this really giddy feeling in my stomach.  It’s more of a physical feeling than a mental anxiety of any kind, but the physical discomfort distracts me and I can’t do anything until I’ve dealt with this nervousness.  I feel kind of lightheaded and I start physically shaking just the slightest bit, not enough that anyone would see except to maybe notice I was uncomfortable.  And I become even more passive and even more awkward.


It’s Christmas Eve.  My family upholds the annual tradition of going to Kell’s.  I get there first and hold a table.  My family arrives: Mom, Dad, Max, Kara, Amelia.  We feast on pasties and soup.  This year we all worked so we didn’t meet until 4:00.  They were supposed to close at 4 but they stayed open until 6 or so because there were a lot of patrons counting on dinner.  We think the owners do a family gathering in the restaurant later in the evening.

We decide to go to Kara’s house and open gifts.  Mom and Dad go together.  Kara and Amelia go together.  I want to go pick up my gift for Mom from my house.  Max decides to take me.  We joke about stopping for an Irish car bomb.  On the way out, we see a new-looking bar nextdoor to Kell’s called “[Post]” (It’s in post-alley, very post-modern?  Yes, especially the brackets).

“Want to go in?” Max asks.  We always make fun of Max for being late to family gatherings.  Well, “make fun of” is a positive way to explain our feelings about it.  He’s not just fashionably late.  He’s often annoyingly late.


We go in and order a Guinness.  The bartender talks to Max and it turns out they have a mutual friend.  He’s new to town and Max asks him what he thinks of Seattle.  He says, “It’s a town full of liberals who like to talk about how liberal they are but don’t like to do anything about it.”

I drink my beer.  I have to intentionally drink it faster than I’d like because I don’t like Guinness that much.  Normally a beer put in front of me would disappear in short order but because it’s Guinness I have to make an effort to stay ahead of Max.

We discuss business.  Max lectures me about the market.  I hold my ground relatively well.  After a while the bartender comes back by and says “Want to try some Fernet?  I used to drink it a lot when I was traveling in Buenos Aires.  It’s an Italian liqueur.”  We say okay and I reach for my wallet but the bartender says this one’s on him.

We drink it.  I think it tastes like a very earthy Ricola.  Max thinks it tastes like wood.  Neither of us say this in front of the bartender, who says “it’s an acquired taste.”

We go get my present and I spend a few minutes wrapping it while Max makes fun of my green fireplace.  On the way to Kara’s, Max’s phone rings and he ignores it.  Then my phone rings.

“It’s Kara,” I say.

“Ignore it,” He says.

We show up minutes later and we snack, open gifts, and drink wine.  At first I don’t tell them where we and Max went because I don’t think he’ll want them to know.  I just say “we had to stop and wrap the gift.”  But eventually he mentions something about a drink that tastes like wood and we tell them the story.  They laugh it off.  Later I leave with my parents.  They ask about it again.

“Did you guys really stop for a drink?” My mom says in an incredulous, good-humored tone.  The kind of tone that can turn into gregarious laughter or slight condescension.

“Yeah.”  I say.  And then I pause for a while, and then I say.

“I think he gets nervous.”


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