American Descendentalism – SG Phillips

In which, after a brief introduction, our narrator has a heartfelt conversation with an autistic acquaintance, and, over seven beers, briefly ponders the nature of Munchausen Syndrome. After watching said acquaintance ride away on his bicycle, he is inspired to write a poem. 

LED’s cast whirred light onto the white countertop, reflected into a clear lager and dispersed amongst so many microscopic bubbles, eventually creating a warm glow on the patron. 

All are their appearance and nothing else. All are within the pale, not beyond but embedded within it.

I live in Ohio, and I work at a fastfood Cajun restaurant directly across the street from my hometown’s main bar, which I will refer to as CB. 

The food we serve is authentic Cajun: overly fatty, cooked en masse two states away, vacuum sealed and flash frozen, delivered, reheated in a thermalizer, poured into a metal bin on a hot-table, then finally ladled onto a plate over parboiled rice. The telos of prole cuisine. Most importantly, though, there is no system in place for managers to audit alcohol sales, which I consider a cornerstone of Cajun authenticity. We do no business on Saturdays. Today is Saturday. 

Most nights, after closing poorly, I lock the doors and walk across the street to CB. The staff and regulars know me, what little customers we share do as well. I rarely see people my own age there, except tonight, tonight I see Zane. Zane who is my age. Zane who is not a regular. Zane who claims to have depression and autism but who I believe just has Munchausen. Zane who begins prattling in my ear about how troublesome it is to find a girlfriend “in this town”, how he needs to “get out of this town.” Thought provoking, lesbian-like conversation.

I listen to Zane, I speak calmly, offer him a cigarette, I recommend he check out videos from a popular liberal Canadian Psychologist (if anyone needs the videos of this popular liberal Canadian Psychologist, it’s Zane). Zane mentions he has Tramadol and I, over the course of buying him several drinks, goad him into selling me around 700mg (half of which I take in the bathroom immediately). After about 20 minutes I begin to listen more attentively- not just listen but understand him. I empathize. I used to feel the same way. Stoicism helped me, and so did working for a while. Working helped me find what I was naturally good at. 

In a single hour my attitude towards Zane has shifted three times: from one of annoyance, to one of reptilian procurement, and finally to one of warmth. What a pleasure it is to see an old high school acquaintance! We reminisce for what feels like hours. After sharing a cigarette, hugging goodbye, Zane rides off on his bicycle; the silhouette of his shrinking frame inspires me to compose the most vulgar poem. The title is obvious:

Faggots on Bikes,

Faggots on Bikes,

There is nothing worse,

Than faggots on bikes.

Riding around, 

they give me frown,

Holding up traffic, 

all through the town.

Faggots on bikes,

Faggots on bikes,

The flexing, spandex-ing, 

all that I dislike;

Wreaking a wreck when they run a red light.

There is nothing worse,

We all share the curse,

Of sharing the road with those faggots on bikes.

The rhythm is there, and I feel a sense of pride when I discover the structure, which is tripartite: I am, through simple vulgarity, making the speaker present himself as an angry, childish halfwit; someone the reader will ignore, who the reader’s conscience demands they quit reading immediately. It demands the reader recoil.

In the second section, the speaker is redeemed as an empath: we’ve all been stuck behind bikers in traffic, especially if the reader lives in a college town with triathlons.

Finally, I present the speaker as Self: all drivers have experienced the adrenaline spike at the actions of a reckless cyclist. The speaker is someone who not only understands the reader’s road rage, but understands it totally. A speaker that, by the end of the poem, the reader understands as being them (if the reader makes it to the end). I pull into my house.

As I lay in bed I picture the mirrors of CB reflecting into each other, the friends I saw but didn’t speak to. I play out conversations I might have had with them, I wax nostalgic on moments that will never occur. The faces in the mirror all smile back. The owners face me and frown, their reflections still standing about-face, smiling. The reflections whisper of an immanent beauty within my soul. Both melt into each other, cover me in a blanket of kisses, and I disappear.