I was only ten steps up the hill and I was already out of breath.
I paused for a second, squinting through the sun so I could see to the top. Things were not going as planned. First of all, it was about a million degrees out—and I had just walked nearly three miles—so I was very sweaty. This wouldn't have been a big deal, but the sweat kept dripping into my eyes and making them sting like hell. This wouldn't have been a big deal, either, but I was carrying this huge stack of fliers under one arm and clipboard under the other, so when I tried to lift my hand up to wipe the sweat out of my eyes and stop the pain from blinding me, I dropped the entire stack of fliers onto the ground. This wouldn't have been a big deal, either, but then the wind started blowing like crazy, and so the fliers all leapt up and started dancing around my head and stomach; I tried to grab at them, but I wasn't very successful; because I couldn't see very well, due to the sweat in my eyes; and also because when sweat finds its way into your eyes it becomes very, very painful.
Things are always more complicated than you expect them to be.
I managed to save two or three by stepping on them and pinning them down with my feet. By the time I had recovered from all of the salt burning my eyes, most of the fliers were about a half a mile away. I left them alone, figuring that maybe somebody would pick them up and the message would get out that way. I knew this probably wasn't true, but it was nice to think that way sometimes—like when I was a kid, and I thought that if I accidentally threw a quarter in the garbage can, it meant that the janitor was getting a tip. That kind of thinking is comforting; that everything is fair, and nothing is for nothing, and it'll all balance out, in the end.
I've spent a lot of time thinking of all of the quarters I've thrown out. There have been a significant amount; although no more or no less than for anyone else, I suppose. A pretty average amount, all things considered; but still an awful lot of money.
I started towards the top of the hill again. It really was a terrible hill. By this point, I was half-hoping that I'd get to the top—all sweaty and everything, with the stupid, crappy fliers—and Delaney Fowles would tell me to get the hell out of her house. That was what had happened with all of the others; and a small part of me was hoping it would happen this time, as well, just so that I would never have to walk up the goddamn hill again.
But something kept me going; something, although I wasn't completely sure what. I'm never really sure what keeps me going; but once I start something, I know I'll finish it. It's certainly not endurance or heroism or anything, but I don't think its masochism, either. It's not that I want to finish, it's that I can't not. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but that's what kept me walking up the hill.
That's another problem with me—I'm never sure about anything. I'll wish I was, or I'll say that I am, but I'm not. I have always wished that there were some people who were sure about some things—it's another one of those comforting beliefs, the ones that you have when you're a kid. But the truth is that nobody's sure about anything, even though I and they might wish that they were.
I guess that even if someone once was or is sure about something, their brain is or will be all decayed by this point or some point and neither the sureness nor the not-sureness is or will be sure anymore because what was is not, and what iswill not be. It always depresses me to think about how one day my brain will be all decayed and all the sureness and not-sureness will be gone. It depresses the hell out of me every time I think about it.
I was still walking up the hill. I started thinking about the other people I'd visited that day; adults, mostly. Things probably would have gone better for me if they'd let me inside, to talk to their kids.I mean, I wasn't trying to recruit the goddamn parents.
I really don't like talking to adults. I'm sure this will be problematic later in life—after all, I practically am an adult—but adults are always giving me this look. It just about drives me nuts every single time I see it. It's the kind of look that says, "Isn't it time to go home now, kid?" All kind and condescending and very polite and very concerned. You know. Thatsort of thing.
And I will admit it. Usually, it is time to go home. The problem is, I can never tell when it's time to go home and when it isn't. I've heard a couple different people say it to me; that I just don't get things the way other people seem to. Everyone's always telling me that. That I just don't get certain things. I wish I knew what I wasn't getting, but I suppose if I did, then I would get it.
I really do try to get things; the same way everyone tries, or has try. But I get more things than people assume that I get. Most likely, everyone gets more things than people assume they get. People's best thoughts get trapped inside their heads. What usually happens is the best thoughts stay holed up in their heads their whole lives, and then when their brains decay what is is a was, so it isn't is anymore.
People are funny. I don't get people, I guess, like I don't get most things. I get myself, but not them. You would've thought that because I was a person, if I got myself, I would get them. But nobody seems to get each other, and everybody seems to get me even less.
I've always pictured myself sitting inside this castle, I guess; it's a metaphorical castle, of course, but it's a lot realer than any other castle, if you think about it. And I open all the doors to my castle and yell at all the people walking by to see if they'd maybe like to come in; but they don't. I don't know if they don't because they don't or because they don't want to, but they don't either way.
I had gotten very deep into a thought by this point—about people and the way they never know if it is or if it isn't, and the way they do or don't get things. When I get into a thought, I usually don't notice what I'm doing anymore. People do that a lot—they get deep into thought—but not as much as I seem to. I've always wondered if maybe I was a bit more like people than people, and that's why I had such a hard time getting the things that they got.
When it comes to people, the more you try to make sense of them the less sense they make. So, the more you get them the less you get them. I figured that, maybe, I got them a little bit more than they got me or themselves, and that was why I didn't get them. I was hoping that eventually I would not get them enough so that I would get them again, because if I figured if I could get people then I could get everything else. I thought that, if I could figure that out, people might stop saying that I didn't get things; and then the is could become the is again; and then the janitor could get tips when you throw out a quarter by accident, and everyone would come into my castle.
So that's why I was walking up the hill.
When I got to the top, I was so out of breath I just sat right down in the middle of the driveway. If these people had looked out the window just then, they'd probably have wondered what the hell I was doing sitting in the middle of their driveway. But I wasn't too concerned about this. Nobody looks out their windows anymore.
I finally got up. I walked down the driveway; which had an awful lot of potholes for such a nice house; and knocked on the door. They had planted all of these rosebushes out front, but there was something wrong with them. They were healthy and green and everything, but they didn't have any roses. There was no reason for it, but they had decided not to bloom.
I was still looking at the rosebushes when somebody opened the door. I'd never met this girl's mother before, but I could tell right off the bat she was a very friendly sort of person. I could tell because she gave me this big smile, like she was all thrilled to see me, even though I was just some sweaty, emancipated-looking kid she'd never met before clutching a handful of crappy fliers.
"Are you alright?" she asked me. I probably looked like I was about to pass out or something.
"Yes," I said. "I'm here to talk to…to…" I reached into my pocket and pulled out my list. "Delaney Fowles."
She looked surprised. "You're here to talk to her?"
I hate it when people do that. When you ask them a question, then they repeat it, like they didn't goddamn hear it the first time, even though you know that they did. But I still didn't like Mrs. Fowles quite as much as before. I know it seems a little bit judgmental, and everything; but sometimes you can't help things like that.
"I'm trying to recruit her," I said to her, because I had been silent for a long time and she was starting to look confused.
"Recruit her?" she frowned. "Oh! Is that what your fliers are for? How creative!"
"Yes," I said, although fliers weren't exactly the most novel idea in the universe. I looked over her shoulder, hoping she'd move to let me in the house. She didn't move.
"What are you recruiting for, Mr…?" she trailed off.
"Underwood. Farley Underwood." I held out my hand. She shook it, even though it was all sweaty. I liked her a bit more again. "I'm recruiting for the SIOTE." I said each letter out. Acronyms are good marketing tools, because people usually have terrible attention spans and can't listen to all five words.
"Oh? What does that stand for?" she asked, like it was very interesting. She still hadn't called for this Delaney girl, and she still wasn't letting me into the house.
I sighed. "The Society in Opposition to Everything." It was a joke, but people had been having a difficult time understanding it so far.
"Oh?" she raised her eyebrows. I'd noticed that she said 'oh' an awful lot.
"What does that do?" she asked. She was getting that very "skeptical" voice that most adults get when they talk to me. I could feel that look not too far around the corner, but I wasn't ready to go home yet.
"We go around opposing everything. It's very symbolic." I peered into the house. "Is Delaney not home? I can come back another time."
I don't know if it was because she felt bad for me or because she was very confused or a bit of both, but she stepped aside and let me into the house.
I became very excited. I didn't usually get this far in my recruitment. By the time I had started down the hallway I realized I didn't even know where the hell this girl's room was. It occurred to me that maybe her mom thought I was her friend or something, and that was probably why she had let me into the house in the first place. So then I realized that I probably couldn't go back and ask where her room was; that'd give it away. I walked down the hall very casually, in case her mother was still watching me; like I knew exactly where I was going. I got lucky, though, because I eventually came to this door at the end of the hall with a bunch of dents in it and a ripped up Metallica poster on the front. I tried to push the door open, but it was locked. So I knocked very politely.
You could tell there was someone in there, but they sure as hell took their time getting to the door. Finally, after what seemed like an unprecedented amount of time, this girl opened the door. She didn't exactly look thrilled to see me, but she didn't seem too bothered or anything, either.
"Are you Delaney?" I asked her, just to make sure.
She didn't say anything. She looked a little confused, which I guess was understandable. Finally, she just nodded at me.
"Why did your parents decide to live on a hill?" I asked her. It wasn't what I had been planning to ask, but sometimes things like that just float to the top of your mind and pop out. There's really no helping it.
Delaney folded her arms. She was quiet for a full ten seconds."Bears," she said eventually.
Now I was confused. "Bears?"
"Yes, bears. My brother was mauled to death by bears when he was a child. That was at our old house. Bears are too lazy to climb all the way up the hill, so they leave us alone now."
"Oh," I said, about seventy percent sure that she was pulling my leg. But she had on this really somber expression; and I had only just met her; so it could've been true, for all I knew. So I said, "That's terrible."
Delaney laughed; it was this very sarcastic, mean kind of laugh that she had. But at least it wasn't one of those fake laughs that people give you sometimes. I can't stand those things.
She kept on laughing. I just stood there, because I was pretty confused. "It wasn't because of bears," she said finally. "You're sweating. Did you know that?" I was about to answer, but she kept on talking. "What are those fliers? I don't want to join any clubs." She looked rather suspicious. Apparently, she was the kind of person who was very suspicious of fliers.
"It's not a club," I said, "It's a society." I liked the word society much better, because the word club carried a number of bad connotations from my childhood that I didn't want to acknowledge. I handed her a flier because I didn't know what else to do.
She read it for a moment. "What does that mean, the 'Society in Opposition to Everything?'"
"It means that we oppose everything," I said. It was really very intuitive.
She stared at me for a moment. "If you oppose everything, doesn't that mean that you're opposed to clubs?"
"Well, yes," I said.
She paused for a moment. "And societies?"
"Of course," I answered.
"Then aren't you opposed to yourselves?" She said it in this very snotty voice, like I hadn't already thought of that.
"Obviously," I said.
She frowned. "That doesn't make any sense."
I sighed. This was the reaction I had been getting every time. People didn't understand that it was a joke. They got very offended because it didn't make sense, when in reality, there were so many other, more important things that didn't make sense that they weren't offended by. It didn't make sense to have something that made sense if everything else didn't make sense in the first place.
I could have explained this all to Delaney; but she was beginning to look pretty impatient, and things stop being funny if you have to explain them to people, especially if they don't have very good attention spans.
So, I just said, "We're opposed to things that make sense."
She stared at me for a moment. "You can't be serious," she said, in this irritated kind of voice. She seemed to be slowly coming to a realization.
"We're opposed to things that are serious," I said.
Delaney stared at me for a moment. "How many members do you have, anyways?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm the only member," I said. "That's why I'm trying to recruit people."
She looked at the flier, then grinned suddenly. "That's the stupidest goddamn thing I've ever heard in my life," she said. Then she slammed the door in my face.
I knocked again, very polite and all.
"What?" she called from inside the room.
"So, are you going to join?"
There was a long silence. When she still hadn't answered, I knocked again.
"Of course I'm going to join!" she snapped. Then she was quiet.
"Okay," I said, thinking she might be pulling my leg again. But this was the farthest I'd ever gotten, so I wasn't just about to give up. "I need your phone number, though, so I can be in contact with you."
Delaney didn't say anything. I could tell she was annoyed that I was still there, because she had been finished talking to me. Certain people, when they're finished talking to you, they really are finished. There's not much to be done about it. I stood there for about a minute or so, and was just about to leave when the flier came sliding back out. It had a phone number scribbled in this terrible, illegible handwriting in the left corner.
"Thank you," I said. I waited for her to say goodbye, but she didn't respond. So, I said, "We'll be in touch with you tomorrow afternoon."
"Stop talking in the plural, there's only one of you," she snapped. "And get the hell out of my house."
I'm beginning with the part about Delaney because that's where it started, and because it didn't really start with me. It might have started with all of the stuff I described earlier; for example, the non-senseness and the non-sureness, and the getting going to not-getting and back to getting again, and the is and the isn't, and whether we do because we do or because we have to or want to do or because we have to don't do or don't want to do. After all, that's how everything starts. At least, probably.
But my thoughts are very disorganized. I wish it wasn't that way, but there you go. So even though I could talk about the non-senseness and the non-getting and the is and isn't and the yes or not wanting or not having to be or not be doing, I'm not going to talk about those things. I'm going to tell you what happened, so that you can see a bit better how I did and didn't figure it all out. I don't know if you've figured it all out or not; but either way, if you have, you probably haven't.
So even though everything started with those things, that's not where it reallystarted; I have thought about it for a long time, and I realized that it didn't start with those things, it didn't start with me, and it didn't start with Delaney, either.
It started with the hill. And then I had to finish it.