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We’ve recently taken to sitting on our stoop late in the night to talk things over with cups of coffee or whiskey or cigarettes, depending on the evening’s content and our own general dispositions.


People stare at us when we’re sitting out there, Ryan thumbing through a book called Vibrations: A Quantitative Analysis, Will with his pipe and smoking jacket, and me with my uke and first three measures of Stairway.  We do it all by streetlight, as though that adds some authenticity to whatever it is that you’d say it is that we do these nights.


Aficionados,” Will says, looking at the silhouette of a lumpy tree, “that’s what Hemingway was all about.”  Will is an English major, writing his senior thesis about the works of Ernest Hemingway.  Despite what Ryan and I say, he always insists that he’s never had that one thing that keeps him going.  The characters in The Sun Also Rises, as it’s been explained to me, are all expatriots after the First World War.  Driven to Spain for lack of better things to do, they cope with themselves through hard work, drinking, and an appreciation for bullfights. They might not know anything else, but they find beauty in the relationship between the bull and the matador, living, if for nothing else, for the way they feel watching other people do their best. Will, has several bottles of fine scotch in a cabinet in his room, a bullfighting tattoo on his shoulder, and is full of stories about fortune and misfortune and interesting people along the way, but for whatever reason, none of this seems to count towards aficionado or a spectacular life in his mind.  It all simply resonates.


He explained to me tonight about how, despite the thesis and the tattoo and the seemingly uncoincidental following in the footsteps, he doesn’t think that Hemingway is the greatest author.  “I think the Great Gatsby is a better novel than anything that he ever wrote.  But it’s not about one person being a better author, it’s about how committed he was about just being a man.  It’s in all of his books.  He was obsessed – other authors’ works were just their art, Hemingway’s books were his entire life. Other authors fall into two categories; people who write about themselves and their experiences, and people who just make shit up.  Hemingway did both and he did it backwards – he would make up a story then try to live it. There’s something to be respected about that.”

“At one point in his life, he took to big-game fishing. He eventually found marlins to be too boring and took to hunting U-Boats in the Caribbean with his fishing boat because he was a crazy bastard doing what he didn’t know and doing it the best he could.” When Will told me this story, his eyes were glowing with the look of a man who someday, too, will wind up dead and slumped on a typewriter ticking away under the weight of his body.  It makes me smile to know that Will shall say goodbye to the world with a final series of Ks and Ls and semicolons.


Will sits outside on the stoop all the time - even during the day - with his pipe or a glass of something cool, finding a spot in the sunlight for himself and his book. “Filling my body up with that Vitamin D,” he says, “Fighting off that depression. Fighting off those rickets. Getting a tan.  Watching pretty ladies.”  It confuses us to think that Will could ever be depressed by a lack of sunlight.  While he does spend lots of time in the depths of the unwindowed library, Ryan and I feel his demeanor a victim of circumstance.  Lots of circumstance and lots of crazy women. But he rolls them off, getting back in the saddle and carrying on. (For this, among other reasons, we frequently refer to Will’s ex-girlfriends as “horse.”)  According to the poetry department, people are shaped by tragedy, anyhow.


He insists that his father thinks of him a fuckup.  This is because his father reminds him of the fact whenever they talk.  I insist that’s just a sign of affection, not unlike the way that my own father calls me a fuckup, or the way that Ryan’s parents refer to us as Ryan’s fuckup roommates.  Ryan is an engineering student in the Airforce ROTC program. According to the Airforce, there’s no room for fuckups in the air.  All of those rejects are sent to the ground - to the trenches or the stoops along Washington Avenue. Ryan made us promise freshman year to never let them know that the three of us sit and watch cars go by together late at night.  We think there’s something in these relationships that would help indicate why we get along so well. Freud would probably say that we all want to kill our fathers and seduce our mothers, but we know that’s the not reason we want them dead.  And besides, we’ve never been keen on psychiatrists or the deceased telling us our intentions.


Some nights I’m there alone or with Ryan or Will and work on the introduction to Stairway to Heaven on my ukulele.  Some nights I must play it forty times.  Nate has a friend who’s dating a guy who lives in the apartment next to us with a neighbor that sits outside and plays the ukulele.  Apparently it’s a bit too much for him at three in the morning, but that’s when the mood strikes, so that’s when I play.  Ryan and Will don’t seem to mind.  When we talk about music or writing or girls or anything else that we all care about, the word sisyphean comes up.  Different reasons for all of us.  We’re not trying to be the best there ever was – we’d just like to do something that resonates with someone somehow.  Even if just among the three of us.  And even if we just have to keep starting over, it’s worth it somehow.


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