The Overshoot

Ronald Kranski sat a table at his coffee house next to an outlet where he could plug in his computer. He had his book open to the Pequot Massacre. His hair was rumpled up from his hand running through it over a hundred times that night. He was tired. He had studied for this test for three days already and wasn’t nearly done. It was the most important test of the semester.

As he read, a man came down the aisle toward him. Ronald quickly glanced up and then back down. You may pass, he thought. The man was disheveled, a grey sport coat that was soiled. A tie, checkered. Perhaps he was a professor, but in all probability he was one of the crazies that roamed the streets around the university. He pulled in tighter as the dark ship passed. But it didn’t.

“It’s the overshoot.” The man had just stopped right there. Ronald looked up and saw a scraggly philosopher. He knew he was a philosopher. He called them philosophers. The last philosopher he spoke to had admitted that the CIA was hot on his trail. Another philosopher. Oh, God.

“It’s the times when you go over the end of the tunnel or the end of the cliff or whatever and it happens. It’s the overshoot, man, when you’ve got nothing inside of you but you go over anyway. You must think I’m crazy, like I know what “it” is, this thing, this thing that is always there, the moments. Then you’re alone, man, but you’re in the world, but not in the world, the way that we all are, really, that stuff we try and drown out, the invisible swirling oceans we’ve got inside of us, the unknown and unnamed seas that we think that if we could only name we could float upon and not fall over and out and down.”
“Hey, man, please, I really need to study, “ Ronald said.
“You need to study?”

The man actually looked a little angry. It confused Ronald. Ronald didn’t know why the man was talking to him. He was grungy, dirty, his face marked with lines like a wooden cutting board or a crumpled lunch bag, his hair thick as strings, gray and black, a hooked nose, black glasses that covered only slightly an earnestness that exasperated Ronald from the moment the man opened his mouth. His test was in two days and he had no time to spare. Could you ever find peace?

“You know what I mean? Over and out. But nobody is telling us nothing about what it is that we’ve got going on inside of us. How could anybody? If they do they’re making money or they’re trying to figure it out for themselves. They get fast cars and their wieners grow large and they think that’s it. So they tell us, get your souped up Chevy and take it for a joyride and you’ll know what “its” all about. Or they’ve got a big book binge going on and they’re going to let you know that Freud said this or Freud said that, but you know they can only tell you that because their belly is full of Chardonnay and raw French steak. They can’t tell you nothing.”

Ronald definitely didn’t need this. Ahmadinejad was screwing shit up again. Sarah Palin was ever calling her soccer moms to arms and their men were following because they didn’t want to lose the sex. In the 1630s the Puritans slaughtered the Pequots of Connecticut and almost wiped them out for good. People hadn’t changed and now this, this guy, sitting there telling him this same old shit from the same old store of used up loser thoughts that Ronald ever tried to escape. Everywhere he went there was another and another and another. Always another wordy answer man waiting to take up his precious airspace. This exam was huge, Colonial history in America. It would be a bitch and he didn’t need this. He didn’t Need this.

“Yeah, so what’s your point?” said Ronald, kicking himself instantly. It was 9:25 and he only had 35 minutes left before they kicked him out of the damned coffee shop.
“Well, this, young man.” The man took the response as an invitation to sit in the chair across from Ronald. “You don’t know shit! Excuse my French.”

The French. The French! Ronald thought. He would have to get back to the French too.

“That….book, you got there. What’s in there? Let me see…
He tried to turn Ronald’s book around.
“Hey, hey!
“Well, whatever you got in that book, look, it’s not going to stay in there.” The man, about sixty, pointed to his temple. “It’s in here and then it’s out here.” He pointed to his ass.
“Look Mr. I don’t think you’re right about that. I’ve put so much of this in my mind over the last few years that they’re going to give me a piece of paper proving that it’s in there. They’re going to stand me up on a platform and a genius in a robe is going to hand it to me and it’s going to be my proof. Then employers are going to look at it and it’s going to prove it to them too. Everybody’s going to know that it’s still in there. Please, will you just go back over there?”

The man just stared at Ronald. It wasn’t a hurt stare as much as a stare of disbelief that somebody would question his wisdom. His crooked, grey teeth poked out at him from a tilted smile that Ronald could see was definitely going to let him hold on to this thing that he was trying to do to him. Ronald didn’t feel like being mad.

“Look, I’ll let you go. I’m just passing through here anyway. I’ve got me a business in Lisbon, Spain and it’s going through the roof. It’s in the mental arts. You don’t know what that is. Well, it’s not that.” He points at the book. “It’s not in your words, your knowledge that you think you’re getting from it. It’s from the all-knowing wisdom factory that you’ve got up here. “ He points to his head. “That’s connected to this here.” He points to his heart. “ And comes from everywhere.” He runs his hands around his whole body as if outlining his aura.
“New Age,” Ronald said simply. “And Lisbon is in Portugal.” Christ! Even he couldn’t let this just die.
“Not new age. Not exactly.”

He moves in a little closer. The snake in the man was getting closer and Ronald wasn’t going to push him away just yet for fear of getting bit.

“It’s New Mind.”

Ronald involuntarily rolled his eyes. Great. The snake recoiled. The man leaned back a little bit. He’d thrown his pitch. A ball.

“You’ve got a mind,” the man continued. “ In that mind is a lot of stuff. In that stuff is everything you ever experienced. I’m not talking about actions. I’m talking about emotions: love, hate, envy, greed, goodness, love.
“You said that.”
“Yeah, I’ll say it again because it’s a big one. Love is a big one because we think that it has to come from outside of ourselves, from a pretty little thing, and that’s where we get lost. We don’t need to have love from others to feel love for ourselves.”
“Not new age,” Ronald said.
“No! What’s new age? Look, there is you and there is me and…
“No you look, I’ve got to study.”
“What are you studying?”
“I’m studying the massacre of the Pequot by the Puritans in the 1600s.”
“The Pequots?”
“Indians. They killed all the Indians because….” He stopped. He really didn’t know why, not really. That’s what Ronald was really thinking about before the man interrupted him.
“They killed the Pequots because it’s in their nature to do so, “ the crazy man said.
“Yeah, I guess so. It’s in man’s nature to take what he wants.”
“And you say that it don’t matter what’s in here all swirling around all nameless like I’m saying? You say that it doesn’t matter that you are going toward the outer region every day of your life and when you come to that cliff that you better be able to fly or else you will flail all the way down to the bottom and will grab anything (or anybody) you can to break your fall. You’d take your own mother down with you if you thought it was going to keep you from hitting the bottom. That’s what they did, isn’t it? They picked on people easily picked on to get further ahead. Great warriors for God, I imagine. You’re talking about the Puritans.”

The man lowered his eyes and searched the table for something, some formerly forgotten roadblock to his understanding from the past.

“Yeah, sure, the Puritans,” the man continued. “The Goddamn Puritans. Not so pure the Puritans. Still got ‘em today for sure. Still on their rampage in the name of God. Christian Puritans. Muslim Puritans. Doesn’t matter. They’re the holy ones, but really they’re the most afraid. They’re the ones who won’t listen to what I have to say. They won’t listen to me when I tell them that they’ve got a wild storm going on inside of them that they got to ride through or they will go over the edge of everything and take everybody with them. Then there’s people like you who don’t believe in the invisible and you stuff everything in your head for God knows what reason, but it doesn’t help you. You’re not strong enough to do anything about what the dummies of the world are working for night and day, even in their dreams. You’ve got nothing but a few dumb words on the page about some Indians and Puritans and that’s all. You got nothing at all about the fact that you’re a monster and you don’t even know it!
“I’m a monster?”
“You’re a monster.”
“A monster monster?
“A monster monster. If you’re unconscious. It’ll suck you down the moment you get weak. Then you’ll take others down with you and then those others will take others down and then you’ll have your history, all the history that you need from any book. All these history books are documents of the ways that people were so unconscious that they chain- reacted their lost-ness all the way across society. The blind leading the blind…and we’ll all go down together…”

He actually sang this last bit loudly and an old couple just across the way looked up from their meal and stared. Ronald smiled at them embarrassedly.

True, true, true, Ronald thought, true all of that. But you can’t leave out the particulars. Got to keep moving with the facts. He felt an uneasiness, that same uneasiness he felt when he thought in class that he was missing something, missing some crucial point that mattered. This old man was going there, but it made him feel weak. If he gave in to the man’s ideas he would be the man’s victim somehow, that really the man was just shrewder than he was and that he’d better be careful on these craggy peaks.

“You’re still not saying anything, Mr., You’ve got nothing to give me here. I know that man is shit to man, always has been, but you’re pointing me to some nebulous shit and I don’t need it, okay? I can’t see me and you can’t see you. Nobody sees themselves yet we all stand up for who we are. True. That’s true. We can only guess about the reasons we’re making our decisions or what we believe in and all that. But we can be on top of things. We’re not all lost in a cloud of unknowing like you say and sometimes what we see is what there is. A lot of times it is what it is and that’s it.”

Ronald already felt defeated just by falling into the discussion. He had been on a track and he needed to circle the truth ten thousand more times to eventually get to a morsel and know it as truth. He was prepared to stay on that track until he had all the sustenance that he needed. He wasn’t just going to jump off the rails and stand firm that everything was bullshit because everything was bullshit.

“You’re not hearing what I’m saying,” said the man.

Oh, Christ. Great. Complete failure of understanding. Now, daddy, tell me what it is I need to know.

“Dude…” Ronald said.
“Okay, okay, I’ll leave you alone. I can see that I’m upsetting you, but let me finish. There is an answer. No, listen to me, don’t huffaw like that, listen to me, son, listen to me!”

He grabbed Ronald’s arm forcefully. Ronald pulled back from his rebellious stance. The man was serious. Saliva dripped from the side of this maniac’s mouth.

“Now, listen to me! You are going to face great trials. One day something will go wrong. Things won’t ever be the same after some of these things and you’re going to have to deal with them. You’re young yet, you don’t know, but I do. Something will happen. Something major. Major things happen to all of us and they have happened to me and I want to tell you what you’re in for, but you’ve got to take me seriously for just a minute. Okay?”

Ronald nodded unintentionally, nodded to the angst in the man’s eyes if nothing else.

“Now, you’ve got an ocean inside of you as do I. You’ve got no way of ever knowing the breadth of that ocean. It’s too big. It’s you. Do you see? Don’t ever think that you can know the scope of who and what you are. It’s too vast. It’s too deep. But you’ve got to make it anyway. You can drown at anytime.
Now listen, when you feel that you know something remember, just remember, that you don’t know all of it. You don’t know what you think you know because you’re just coming at it from one angle. There’s a million angles and not all of them are coming from you. A lot of them are coming from others or others before them or others before them. Society, belief systems, everything, but at some point you’ve got to know about something that you got inside of you and it’s this: you’ve got a core. That’s right. You’ve got a middle, a center, a place where you can’t be pushed any further, where even confusion can’t go. You’ll have been through too much by the time you find this core of yours. It’s really something that we don’t want to have to know about. We all wish that we could always just live right from this core like we did when we were children, but we can’t, not when the world has taken a hold of you and taught you a few things about human nature and this goddamned world. You’ll be sent sailing on that stormy sea and you’ll be looking for a port and it’s your core that you’re looking for. Dry land. And it’s in you. It’s always there, it’s just that, well, we’re all lost at sea sometimes and you can test the winds and all that (he points at the book), you can throw Jonah over the side and have an argument with God or whatever, but you’re not on dry land until you’re on dry land and you can get to that because its there, right now, its right there, there!”

At that the old man leaned forward and slapped Ronald hard on the chest. Ronald was in shock so said nothing. He wondered whether he’d been assaulted. The man got up from the chair he had never been invited to sit in and walked to the exit without as much as a nod of goodbye.

Ronald watched him go through the glass door and saw that the man had kept a shopping cart outside and it was filled with odds and ends. He was your average bum. Ronald put his index finger to his lip and looked down at the book. Word after word after word. Each word pointed toward something else, some other fact, some other monstrous fact which led to a monstrous idea, each large enough for its own book. It seemed the more that he learned the more there was to learn. It grew exponentially this thing. It was an ocean, just like the man said, and he was on it, but the waters were as yet serene and he was as yet able to believe that he would sail smoothly through it for the rest of his life, pick up his treasure where he may, and live happily forever after and onward.

But there was the idea still of the ending point, the end of the world, the place where the waters fell down the sides of a flat earth into an eternal void where nothing could rescue him. It was what he didn’t know, and was he fooling himself in thinking he ever could?

Ronald closed the book and found himself staring at the old couple sitting in front of him. Neither of them spoke. They just sat there, one looking a little this way and the other looking a little that. Their eyes were flat and peaceful in a way, but blind too, as though something had been cut off from the inside. He wondered if they had fallen off the side of the world, had overshot their boundaries and didn’t know how to get back. This time he did not dismiss it. He did not retreat into the luxury of his youth. This time he held inside their vacant gazes and allowed them to teach him something, something, something utterly nebulous that perhaps a book, he realized, would never be able to do.

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Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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