It was there, at that moment, under the bright lights, that it finally dawned on me. I had a big moment of clarity. Although clarity is not exactly accurate. But you get the idea. I was sitting there, watching them but not watching them, the mic in front of me turned on, and each and every last one of them waiting for me to go on, to say something new, something interesting, something they will add to their notes, bring back home, read and re-read, ponder on, or just throw away. They expected that out of me, it was implicitely stated, agreed, there was no choice. I had to do it. I did. But just out of principle, out of instincts. Nothing more but mechanics.
Two of them were jotting down sentences, paragraphs, on pages that already seemed as tired as can be, rapidly, rabidly, I barely said two words. Not even a complete sentence. And yet they made it out to be some sort of secret truth, an access to whatever metaphysical answer there would be somewhere. It could make you feel powerful, strong, wise. All of those at the same time. And yet it did not. Not for me. Not this time. All I could think about was getting up, and leaving. Leaving. That word escaped, my mind, my mouth – it just went out there. Floating above our heads like a symptom. Hidden liberty. Denied Liberty. Something along those lines. And in the meantime they went at it again. They read in that something I did not necessarily say, something I did not necessarily imply. Probably the contrary of what I meant even. That’s the way it has to be sometimes.
I carried on and fed them what they wanted. Like impatient dogs; I threw bones here and there and they fought over it. Nicely, rudely, in every way conceivable. Is that how it is supposed to be? I have no earthly idea. But I am sure no one in their right mind would want to be here anymore. Not for pleasure. At that moment I started picturing myself sitting among them. My younger self. My idealist self. He was sitting in front of me, smirk on his face. Smug, arrogant, brash, and many other words of that nature. And thinking he was free. He was not taking notes, barely paying attention. I stopped and stared, he stared back, and just like that I knew he was right. He stood up, grabbed his backpack and headed towards the exit. No one really paid attention – it’s every man for himself out there.
I focused on the echoes. The noise he made as he left came back through waves. Somebody asked something that I did not quite understand, and I answered something they did not quite understand either. It goes both ways; you never truly understand anyone. You just have to make up for it. They teach you to do that on a regular basis – pretend you are smarter, in power, able to deceive. It is all about tricks. Everything is about having tricks. And they teach that too. That the only person you can trust is yourself.
Dismissed, I said. See you, I said. Thank you, they said. Goes around, comes around – probably how it is supposed to be. But they were all packing and grabbing their stuff and leaving now, and I was the only one not moving. Waiting. Again. Always. The neon lights buzzed angrily, yet I did not care.
What the fuck am I doing with my life?