It was about the coldest day in Hell on record but my friends and I for some reason were hopping our way through every petty excuse for a funhouse across town. Maybe it was the fact that it was the first Saturday night of the school year that it wasn't expected to snow or maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were dragging ourselves to church tomorrow morning, but Ed insisted on doing something fun that night. He insisted on going somewhere fun, that is, even after we'd gotten to the house where the party was to be held, paid our dues, went in to bear witness to absolutely nothing of the slightest excitement, and left (with Ed leading the charge yet again) in search of greener pastures. So now we had been walking down the longest street in the city for approximately half an hour, in the freezing cold, in our inadequate excuses for party clothes, and I was getting a little sick and tired of being a proud Canadian.
"You wanna try this pool place, right here?" Terrence sounded off. No, no I really didn't, but why even bother voting when you know you're bound to lose? Ed and Marlowe chimed in with a resounding yes each as I followed silently into my personal hell for the next two-plus hours. God, I hate tapletop games so much. I hate tapletop games with a passion that most people reserve for their jobs. But me, I reserve my passions for hating tapletop games.
As the four of us wasted away the night and our youth on a billiard table, I came to the silent but certain conclusion that there was some truth to the immortal words of that windbag, Jean-Paul Sartre; Hell really is other people. Ed was gabbing on about something to do with the moon landing, I really couldn't care less, while Terrence laughed and tried to get a word in edgewise somehow relating the moon landing to his overbearing mother. How he manages to relate everything to his mother nagging him I don't know, nor do I have any desire to find out, but it is something I am a little impressed with. Don't tell him that.
Marlowe was dead-silent, completely and utterly focused on putting up a good fight against Terrence in pool. That being said, he was not putting up a good fight against Terrence in pool. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but envy him a little for his remarkable ability to actually care about everything he does with his time. Me? I stood, leaning lethargically against my pool cue, trying very hard to look carried far away with my deep, engrossing thoughts. In reality, while I was trying my hardest to summon something intellectual to say or at least ponder on, I couldn't come up with anything more entertaining than the not particularly entertaining reality of a game of pool in front of me. So I ran over my to-do list for the next week, studied my friends' body language far more closely than I ever needed to, and pretended as though I hadn't heard what they'd said and asked them to repeat themselves any time they said anything to me. It really is quite hard; being an intellectual.
And so the hour passed ineffectually until the time came that it simply seemed socially appropriate to return home. We made our way back to the failing college campus we called (or more aptly, tried to avoid calling) home and said goodbye and good night. Marlowe and I, living in the same house, walked to and into our house together before parting ways on the staircase: I lived a floor higher than him. But before we did, I made sure to ask him how he thought the night went.
Disaffected, he told me in simple enough terms, "bland and uneventful", before sinking into the shadowy corridor that marked his floor and home.
And so I crawled my way upstairs into my bed, turning off the light and letting my head hit the pillow without saying a prayer as I sat in my little nest of filth and dreams and ran over what I'd done that day and more importantly, what I'd thought in the same time span. It was only after about 15 minutes of sitting still and silent in the darkness of my room, not really trying to sleep, though I wouldn't even if I wasn't trying, that I came to the harsh conclusion that my day had benefited from spending it with others. Yes, I had to go along with what the others wanted even when I didn't want to. Yes, I had to walk through the freezing cold for long stretches of time in insufficient clothing. Yes, I'd spent the whole night in places so loud or so busy that I couldn't think about anything else not in there with me for a damn. But at the very least, the absolute least, I hadn't had to bear with the much worse torture of being stuck alone with my thoughts for those several hours. True, Hell is being stuck with people, but for all I try, I seem to be stuck with myself every waking second of the day, and it's a consolation that I needn't ever bare with myself alone for very long. And that on its' own was worth a thankful little prayer. If Hell is other people, then I thank God for Hell.