happy people dancing.

the two boys showed up at my door around 9. "we shouldn't hang out here," i said. "my mom's sleeping." "oh," he said. "my bad." "no problem," i said. "i'll just put on some pants and meet you at your house."

when i got outside, they were waiting inside his truck. "do you want to come with me, or will you drive there?" he asked. "i'll just drive," i said. "we'll meet you there, then," he said, and they laughed.

i mailed a letter.

i got there. he handed me a bag. "how much?" i asked. "eighteen," he said. "i'll make it twenty." "no, eighteen's good," he said. i wrote a check out for twenty.

"why isn't she here?" i asked. "because we're not together anymore," he said, and he sat down. "oh." i didn't know what else to say. i looked at his dogs.

"i didn't know you had dogs," i said. "what? these guys?" he said. "i've had these guys forever." "yeah," the other boy said, "he's had these dogs forever." "even in high school?" i asked. "yeah, even in high school," he said.

i took a seat at the table. i didn't wish to stay too long. but then again, i didn't go out much, so what difference did it make.

we watched the fourth quarter of the golden state/l.a. lakers game. the warriors made a comeback, and we were happy when baron davis sank a three. "you'll never see as many asians as you will at a golden state game," the boy said.

we sat around the television, we three asian boys.

"how's the job?" i asked. "it's cool. you know, same old stuff." "what about you?" the other boy asked me. "you still teaching?" he asked. "no, i said. i left after a week." he laughed a little. "what happened?" he asked. i told him about it. "so what do you do now?" "i grade tests," i said. "so you actually give grades?" he asked. "well, no, not really," i said, and then i explained. "man, that sucks," he said. the other boy agreed. we could all agree. we were off to a good start.

"i still have your books," the boy told me. "i have a lot of them." "did you read them?" i asked. "no," he said, and then he laughed. "i don't think i cracked a single page." "you should," i said. "you should read them. especially dante." "i've been looking at dante. i want to read dante," he said. the other boy spoke. "yeah, i heard dante was really, really good." "it is," i said, and i came to life like i hadn't come to life in years. i told them everything i could about the divine comedy. how dante is lost in a dark wood and how he goes through hell, and then through purgatory, before he finally reaches god.

"what is god like?" the boy asked me. "he was just light," i said. the boy nodded. "what else was in heaven?" he asked me. "there were all kinds of lights," i began. it was difficult to explain. it had been exactly two years since i had read it. "but i do remember all the virtuous people, and all the saints were there. and there was this circle of people, and they were all happy, and they were all dancing," i said. the boy stopped me. "whoa. i got kind of creeped out. just now, right when you said that," he said. "i got creeped out when you told me there were happy people dancing. i don't know why. i just got creeped out."

"who was in hell again?" the other boy asked me. "weren't there three people?" "yeah," i said, but i couldn't remember exactly. "one of them was judas," he told me. "yeah," i said, "that's right!" "and then there was the guy who betrayed caesar. brutus, right?" "yes! brutus," i said. "who was the third person?" he asked me. "lucifer," i said. "oh yeah," he said. "lucifer. "who was lucifer again?" the other boy asked me. "lucifer led the revolution against god," i told him. "oh yeah," he said. "the holy war against god. i remember that."

"i've always wanted to read dante," the boy said, "but i just could never get it. i didn't know what the fuck was going on." "i know," i said. "it's pretty rough. i wouldn't have gotten it had i not taken a class on it. but even after taking the class, there's still probably 80% of the text which i still don't understand." "he must've been a pretty smart guy." "more than smart," i said, "he was more than human. the shit he describes is so real, it almost makes you believe that he actually had to have gone through it." i was getting excited. "the craziest part was that he had to memorize the whole thing while wandering the wilderness in italy. he was exiled." "what do you mean 'exiled?'" the boy asked. "there was some sort of political strife going on at the time, and he didn't support the right party, so they said he couldn't come back to florence. he couldn't even see his family again."

they wanted to know more, so i told them everything i could on the subject. i wished that i had known more because i just wanted to keep talking about dante. "even my professor said he'd read the trilogy seventeen, eighteen times, and he would still find parts of it where even he had no idea what was going on," i said. "you have to be really intelligent to get it," the boy said. "no," i said. "you can understand it, but if you want to know all the references and everything, you would have to know greek literature, the bible, and even italian history would help." "you could probably spend," the boy began, but i finished his sentence for him: "you could spend the remaining years of your life reading those three books," i said. and then i added, "and it would be worth it."

i told him the story about father rowan meeting an old student of his, and how the student told father rowan that he spent all day contemplating the paradiso. "man," the boy said. "that's crazy. it must've ruined him," he said. "he was so into it that he couldn't do anything else," i said.

i told them how it was mathematically perfect. how each book contained exactly 33 chapters and how each chapter contained 33 verses, and, to top it all off, all the verses fucking rhymed. the exception was, of course, the inferno, whose first chapter contains his wandering through the dark wood, and where he meets virgil. the entire scene serves as both an introduction and a metaphor for the entire journey he will soon encounter. i didn't know what this meant, or how to properly explain it. it brings the trilogy to an even 100 chapters.

we moved on to other things. who's doing what these days, who got married, who will we be voting for, what books we've read, what movies we've seen, what music we've been listening to.

the boy got up to let his dog outside. when he came back in, i couldn't help myself. "so, what happened?" i asked. "it just wasn't working," he said. "i think living together killed it." i nodded. "yeah," i said. "it's tough." the boy sat back down. "i just felt like i was...married." the other boy spoke. "i don't know what that's like," he said. "but i can imagine." "did you end it?" i asked. he nodded. "yeah. after two years, i should've done it," he said. "i shouldn't have waited so long. to tell you the truth," he said, "i don't think i'll ever get married." he rested his head on his hand, and then he looked at the t.v. "i just don't think i can...live with a girl." "hmm," i said. i tried to be supportive. "yeah, i don't get people our age who get married," i said. "i just don't know how that works," i said. "you know, i wish them the best," he said, "but it just wouldn't work for me."

the other boy spoke. "you know, my parents got married when they were 20 and 18. back in the day, that's what people did, all the time." "yeah," i said. "that's how they did things back then. i just don't know how that works now." "i don't know," the boy said. "our generation,"
he said. "our generation just can't get it together."

after some time, i said it was getting late, and that i'd better go. "what are you doing tomorrow?" he asked. "i don't know," i said. "i might go to work." "might," he repeated, and then he laughed.

we walked out into the cold, and we said goodbye.


Laura said...

have you read my book? it's damn good:

Talking about Hard Times said...

i haven't. i will.