They walked on the roads, because past midnight, in that sleepy town, no one, not the cops, not the neighbors, would be out and about. Sure, the occasional screen, the occasional person driving along would be there, but, for the most part, the town may as well not have been in existence.
“Is it pretentious if I say—?”
Howard laughed. “You didn’t let me finish.”
“If you have to ask,” Charlie said, “then it is pretentious.”
“Fine—fine. But, I am going to say it, anyway.”
“I never said you couldn’t.”
Howard rolled his eyes. “So, anyway—I was just going to say that I appreciate being able to talk like this, at night, I mean. I have, for so long, been craving being able to talk with someone. It’s mean, but people are so dumb sometimes.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m in college—lots of dumb people.”
“Ha.” Howard walked a little slower. “No, but they really are. They repeat the same stories and act like it’s the first time.”
“Some stories are worth telling twice.”
“Fair,” Howard said, flicking out his finger. “But, seriously: the same stories as if it’s the first time they’ve told them, again and again. They always tell them in the same way too. The same random facts. It’s like talking to a recording.”
“People are busy,” Charlie said. “They forget.”
Howard sighed, and walked along, staring up at an overarching tree. Water from when it had rained was caught up in it, and drizzled down the long distance, right past a streetlight. Howard could not help but think it looked pretty that way.
“I know they are.”
“It’s really quite hard to keep track of everything.”
“Right—it’s this thing where it’s too much. There are too many consequences to everything, so we just do what we always do. Same stories, same actions: damn the consequences.”
“There’s a word for that. Something sounding like “disso—?”
“Right—uh, psychic dissonance?”
Charlie let out a little whoop. “Nice! We got there!”
“The long way around.”
They kept on moving in the dark, up a hill of pavement. A tree stood there, close by, and they walked up to it, leaning against it. Charlie seemed a tad tired. Howard wired.
“But, like, I do that too,” Howard said. “Like, I recycle—I do that—but I know that’s not enough, and that the world is fucked by global warming, but I can’t think about that stuff anymore.”
“Sort of a ‘what do you expect me to do’?” Charlie replied, sinking down until he was sitting on the ground. In the darkness, with dirt staining his fingers slightly, he plucked out a few blades of grass.
“Yeah, exactly. I can only do so much. I’m one person.”
“Enough people, though,” Charlie offered.
“But always more of the same issues,” Howard said. He stared up at the stars. “This fucking world. I wish it would…ugh.”
Charlie leaned back, but then checked his watch, staring at it for too long with bleary eyes. He puffed out his lips, and then stood, awkwardly. “I need to go. I need to get home.”
“Sucks,” Howard said. “I don’t deal with that.”
“But you’re broke, so…”
“This is true,” Howard said, laughing. “I’ll walk you to your car. It’s like a block from here.”
“You know, we should talk next week, just text me.”
“Okay. Sounds good.”
And, silently, except in thought, they walked back, so one could sleep, and the other could stir around, feeling himself slowly drifting back to being sane.
Special thanks to: Bob Gerkin, Collin Pearman, Dylan Alexander, Jerry Banfield, and Michael The Comic Nerd.
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