Through These Eyes: Two Sets of Books
“In my dreams, I see a fat man. On his face is a frown. He’s got money in his left hand. In his right, he’s got strings that run all over town… In my dreams, I see the young men that will change history. They will die for the fat man as he laughs so carelessly…” sings John Fullbright.
And then there’s a stuffy networking event at a bar where cologne and perfume clogs pores and windpipes—a cloud of insufferable, urban-weather-effect-inducing flower musk ready to set everything aflame. People stand in their ties and their blazers, pretending they want to hear the latest about their acquaintances’ trips to Exciting “Oh, Where’d You Go Again?”
And there you are, looking from the outside-in, quietly judging these people about how artificial they seem. You see no irony in the fact that you’re standing here, too. In a suit. With a drink in hand. Waiting to see someone—anyone—you know, so you don’t look like a loner. You’d introduce yourself to a stranger, you think, but only if there were someone else with you.
And so you wait, making eye contact with people who seem interesting, charming, or nice—quietly reaching out for attention, but not relenting in your soft, internal commentary about how you hate networking. While we love most things at a distance (when it’s the details that push us away), things like networking are different—things like this, that require forced (but somehow voluntary) conversation, things like this are better up-close. The idea is terrible, but the execution is self-indulgent: All in the name of having a name. Or pushing through an idea for which you are passionate. Or finding friends. Or jobs. Why can’t it be easier?
And you wonder if there are others here like you, with two sets of books: one that tells a story of how one “really” feels about being here—those resentful diaries—and one that tells the story of how it’s important enough, for whatever reason, to be here. To “suck it up” and make it worth it.
And you see no one who sticks out like you feel like you do, no one here standing by himself or herself. They’re all chatting, laughing, toasting; all championing themselves, their friends, their loves, their charities, their passions, their jobs, their everythings—it’s an orgy that feeds on itself. But time here is precious, and the longer one stays alone, the more his alcohol has an effect opposite than were he to have a group to which he was part: He feels more and more removed, and early departure becomes increasingly attractive.
And just as you’re about to leave, you see someone you’ve met but whose name you can’t remember, so you approach her and tell her how fabulous she looks. You ask how she’s been and offer to buy her a drink. She introduces you to the friendly folks she’s talking with, and you learn her name through your new acquaintances: “So how do you know Carol?” And you laugh nervously because you don’t know the answer, but respond: “Oh, you know, through Match.com.” And everyone laughs because you’re obviously gay. And you’ve evaded the question.
And the night progresses and you meet Carol’s other friends, and then their friends and acquaintances, and before long you’re having the time of your life, losing yourself to conversation and alcohol, handing out and receiving business cards to and from delightful and pleasant people: good people with sincere intentions and sparkling senses of humor.
And you’ll tell yourself that you really should come to more of these events. You’ve met so many friends this way. Sure, you’ve met a lot of people who remain acquaintances, but here, too, have started some genuine relationships.
And you’ll feel this way, high on life and social fulfillment, until the first twenty minutes of your next event, when you’ll have both sets of books in hand, judging the fat man for his social gluttony, without knowing that his will be the card you walk away.