In honor of this not-quite-exciting milestone, I've decided to break from the typical format for the week and give you something entirely different. Prepare for the infinite glory of...my homework.
The Dead and the Absent
It was nearly midnight in late winter, and Jack Keene’s old pub was the warmest place to be found, short of a real home.
Two men sat at the bar. Both wore dark suits and sable ties, though that was all they had in common. The young man on the left was blond, clean-shaven, and had already drained five or six glasses of the strongest stuff he could buy—though he avoided, somehow, spilling on his Armani suit. The other man, older and dark-eyed and bearded, wore a raggedy, secondhand ensemble. He had sipped his bottle of Heineken once, plaintively, before idly contemplating the grain of the wood.
“Where’ve you come from, mate?” asked the first, in a bleary, tired voice. “Why the penguin suit?” He tapped his glass with a significant glance at the bartender.
“A funeral,” replied the other. “My wife’s.”
The young one lifted his near-empty glass. “To the dead and the absent.” He drank; then, in a musing tone, answered his own question. “I was at a wedding. My best friend and…and….” He couldn’t finish. The bartender slid him a new, full glass.
“‘The heart wants what the heart wants,’” sneered the young man, in a voice like sour milk. “They say that. They, whoever they are. They forgot something."
"What might that be?" asked the elder, running a finger lightly over the rim of his bottle. He didn't sound interested, but the other was too drunk to care. His thoughts had taken on the quality of an overfull dam; with the barrier broken once, nothing could stop the tide.
"We assume. We’re so damn smart, and we assume that the heart wants love. Love and peace and, and, goodwill toward men. All that crap.” He gulped another swallow, almost desperately. “The heart doesn’t want love. Never did."
His voice was rising now, inexorably, as his eyes grew wide and a vein throbbed in his neck. "I’ll tell you what it wants. The heart wants to feel. Potency, piquancy. Our hearts wanna ache. And how should we go about getting that? Only one way! Only the narrow path! Misery. Misery, misery, misery, to make our hearts feel. It’s all we want and God help us, it’s all we’ll ever get.”
And then, in a final, desperate, helpless voice: “Why else would I fall in love with her? Tell me that, eh?” He crushed the glass in his hand, drenching his fist with blood. “I wish them a short and miserable life together.”