Human Nature

IMG_6168“She was born in The Year of the Tiger.” That’s what the smiling out-patient said before sipping her cold coffee, smoking her stale cigarette, and laughing at a joke only she could hear. She was sitting next to us in the Dunkin’ Donuts on Wellington Street that used to be open 24-hours-a-day, and we were doing our best to ignore her. That was the semester David Fiore and I pushed our nocturnal proclivities to the limit, the winter we went weeks and weeks without seeing the sun. We’d sleep all day, read and write all night, and meet for a game of Scrabble at three in the morning.

I remember dying for a good game of Scrabble as I sat there in the fertility clinic, last January, waiting for some stranger to stick a giant needle into my nuts. Of course she told me to wait, and the doctor told me to take it easy. But I didn’t listen because I was a 29-year-old dumb-ass, and, like most guys in their 20s, I still secretly suspected that I was a superhero, a superhero who could fly. So I carried the kid, popped the stitches, and broke my shit.

That’s why the vasectomy couldn’t be reversed. That’s why I’m sitting here in this stupid waiting room, under these stupid fluorescent lights, reading these stupid magazines filled with stupid questionnaires. The one on Page 18 says it comes down to this: “Are you a dog person or a cat person?” Well I’m definitely not a dog person. But don’t get me wrong: don’t have anything against dogs; it’s just that I refuse, on principle, to pick up someone else’s shit, with my hands, each and every day, till death do us part. That’s a commitment I’m simply unwilling to make.

“Dude,” said my new friend Jimmy, “could swear I just saw a big lizard walking across your living room floor.” The sun was coming up, we were coming down, and Samantha, snobby aristocratic Samantha, the four-and-a-half-foot-long iguana who lived with us, was making her way to the sunny sill to bathe in the morning light. “The Devil’s in the details, friends. God too.”

Then Jimmy said: “There should be a return policy on dreams. If your alarm clock goes off at 5:30 and you find yourself in the middle of a stupid dream—where you’re shopping for place mats at Ikea and listening to Foreigner’s ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’—you should be allowed to hit the snooze button, go back to sleep, and return that dud-of-a-dream for a better one.” To which someone responded, rather randomly: “It’s all fun and games until someone puts plastic on the couch.”

But we knew we were in the enchanted land of Non Sequitur when Jenny giggled to herself and said: “Bees are so furry and cute up close: they’re like little kitty cats—flying brainwashed kitty cats—living in totalitarian societies.” Jimmy nodded in agreement: “And moths are butterflies on crack who flunked flight school.” Then Anna-Liisa looked at me and smiled: “Do you know why I love walking in the woods with you, dear? It’s not for the butterflies and the flowers, the four-leaf clovers and the frogs. It’s because it’s the only time the world seems to have your full attention.”

Scrabble, ecstasy, and fertility clinics: so much human, all-too-human striving. And yet I can’t help but wonder: Were we pushing the limits of human nature or trying to figure out where they might be? Regardless, the grumpy grownup in me wants to march right back in time and protest in front of each one of these magical moments with an angry placard that reads: IT WON’T WORK! HERE’S WHY. But then Joy wells up within me, laughs, and says it already has.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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