Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Storyteller

The Storyteller

They say “the devil is in the details.” He found out too late in life what those details entailed. Seemingly a natural-born storyteller, he always knew which details to emphasize; the proper use of hyperbole was innate, as was his knack for inventive metaphors. He could always captivate a crowd with his free-flowing narratives; tales of comically botched and cosmically doomed romances in locations near and far, with just the right mix of pathos and humor.

Everyone seemed to love his stories, and he was all too eager to have an audience to please, to make him feel useful for a few short moments of, if not fame, then something like fame, but smaller. These were no tall tales, however -- these stories were all true. The hapless anti-hero/protagonist/everyman was no Paul Bunyan or Pecos was himself. His friends were always rapt in attention, gobbling it up like a heroin pig gobbles, um, heroin. What was the harm? He loved talking about himself, and they encouraged him.

This worked out well for a while, until things stopped feeling so funny. He tried to thread these new tales with silver linings, but there was this heavy desperocity that clung to the words, making them sink like three-day-old helium-filled balloons, reaching the ground and shriveling up slowly. The subjects and the verbs were not far enough removed anymore. The pain was too fresh, the people too close. The principals recognized themselves and got uncomfortable. The uneasiness spread...who wants to have their private lives on display for all their friends to see? He went home alone, again. There would be no new story to tell this time. It wasn’t his intention to hurt anyone with the tragicomic tales of his romantic ineptitude. He just wanted someone to listen while he rambled incessantly out of necessity.

He tried to shroud telltale details in enough vagaries to protect the parties involved, but somehow word got around. He had told the beginning of a wonderful story too soon, and by doing so, changed the outcome. Instead of a happy ending, it would become just one more chapter of disappointment and heartbreak. Nobody wants to have their private moments broadcast for all the world like that..well, except for those reality-TV show freaks. He wasn’t yet ready to TiVo his own life, the suicide of self-respect. He felt like a parody of his former self. A self that once was confident and cocksure enough to brave these adventures. He was a shell of that guy, hollowed out by these experiences he replayed over and over to amuse his friends. What was left when you took away the stories?

He couldn’t answer that. in fact, he wasn’t even sure if he could still feel real-life emotions derived from human interaction anymore. Everything he felt seemed to formulate first in his head, and he was merely trying to write the future to play out these scenarios; already anticipating having another story to tell. He briefly thought it possible that he still had a heart, but he also had a mouth and a brain he was unable to disengage. They seemed to conspire against said heart, be it imaginary or not. And then he remembered being a little boy desperately wanting attention and saying horrible things he didn’t mean in order to get it, only to wonder if he had any emotions at all. He felt soulless and cruel and age seven.

At least if he felt pain, he would know he was human. The stories only worked because the pain was real. He could mock his tragedy, so they could laugh at it. He didn’t want to tell stories anymore. He’d had enough of his own pain, reiterating it and streamlining it until he could recite it all in his sleep. He just wanted to listen, to her, to anyone...

It’s funny how you can know someone, but not know all about them. Conversely, you can know too much about someone, but not know them at all. He wished he could erase history, start fresh, eat the words that reminded him of the mistakes he had made. He wanted her to really know him without already knowing too much about him. He wanted her to know as little about him as he knew about her. Everything she needed to know was in his eyes. For once, he did not want to speak.

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