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The Unrealistic Philosopher by Jimmy Chen

The Unrealistic Philosopher by Jimmy Chen

Fiction, Vol. 1.3, Dec. 2007

Because of Heidegger, he didn’t have time to floss. He didn’t have time to buy toilet paper or Palmolive dish detergent, so he let his wife do those things. He didn’t have time to take out the garbage, pay the electric bill, and all other ‘ephemeral’ things. He would read and read about being and time; being and sense; sense and semblance; what what was; what is is; etc. Such ontological questions and their incongruity with touchable matter plagued him. Still, he would read and read, until the air around him hurt, until it felt like he was scraping the inside of his scalp with a spoon, the way one might eat half a cantaloupe. 

His gums bled in the morning, the result of grinding his teeth at night. Consequently, he had a receding gum line. His dentist gave him a mouth guard to wear at night. The mouth guard smelled like ass, according to him —during a very brief phone call he had with the one friend he had —so he refused to wear it. His wife upon their marriage, initially attracted to his intensity and earnest existential inquiries, quickly got used to attending dinner parties alone because he just couldn’t deal, he told her, with the asinine conversations so commonly overheard at social gatherings. Slowly, she resigned to having regular dinners at home alone as well. He needed time to read, time to think. When asked what she felt about Heidegger, she replied “asshole,” not exactly sure who she was referring to. 

His one friend would worry about him because he, who read Heidegger, also had a flare for exaggeration. His friend would be at work, and he who read Heidegger would call him on the phone and say “Meet me at the bridge in forty-five minutes.” His one friend understood this meant that he who read Heidegger was proposing that the two of them jump off the bridge, in order to commit suicide. The reason he who read Heidegger felt comfortable saying such things to his one friend was because their friendship, since college, was built upon a sort of amateurish philosophical discourse, in which both parties would ponder —for entire evenings in the dorm lounge while others were getting laid or enjoying a drug’s effect on one’s perception —difficult abstractions, especially concerning the ‘absolute.’ Their inability to define and settle once and for all exactly what the ‘absolute’ was, led to the smashing of lamps, and tearing down of curtains. 

He who read Heidegger, in his quest to resolve the ‘absolute,’ joined a religion. He was adamant that this religion was not like any other religion. The other religions failed where this particular religion succeeded, because this religion asserted that it was the consolidation of all religions, and thus the only true vehicle in which the ‘absolute’ could be rendered and manifested. His one friend told him he respected that, but didn’t want to join this religion, which he who read Heidegger encouraged him to join. The latter continuously broached upon this matter until his one friend’s patience was so strained that he could not help but cite possible incongruencies between Heidegger’s existential implications and said faith; he may have even used the word ‘hypocrisy.’ An argument broke out, a very bad and drawn-out argument which only ended because both parties’ throats were so coarse from arguing that they had to stop. In the silence, they looked at each other with confusion. 

His receding gum line had receded so much that his teeth wobbled in his mouth. He claimed to his one friend that any pressure from his tongue, even by the pronunciation of a hard consonant, would displace his teeth. By this time his one friend had curtailed emotional investment into the friendship because, frankly, he was a little hurt and put-off by he who read Heidegger’s continuous judgments about his character —veiled as concern for his spiritual fate —and could only afford cliché placations over the phone such as “that sucks man,” or “damn bro.” He who read Heidegger was emotionally intuitive and could sense the nonchalance. This resulted in another running argument: that his only friend didn’t have the spiritual capacity to be interested in he who read Heidegger’s life because he, the non-spiritual friend, wasn’t a member of said religion. The arguments became blurry, interchangeable, and so exhausting for his only friend, that he began screening his calls in order not to converse with he who read Heidegger. 

He who read Heidegger, suspicious that his one friend might be screening his calls, grew so indignant that he would violently beat his pillow, imagining it was his one friend’s face. This was often accompanied by the listening of loud and abrasive industrial music. He asked his wife to call his one friend as a means to test whether or not he would pick up. His wife, by this time resentful about things in general, told him to leave her out of his ingrown neurosis, to which he replied that any woman who owns the amount of shoes and handbags that she does must be too shallow to empathize with a man whose one noble task in life is to resolve the ‘absolute.’ He then threw a tangerine at the wall. The splatter marks looked like fractals, though she would not understand. His one friend and his wife often supported each other by conveying the details of any particular incident in which one of them was either hurt, annoyed, or offended by the latest thing he who read Heidegger said or did. 

He, who was not able to finish Heidegger because of a nervous breakdown, prayed a lot especially near the end. There are no transcripts for such prayers, but one may assume that they would contain many exclamation points and passages typed out in caps lock. Feeling a little guilty, his one friend bought him a new book, which non-incidentally, was beckoned by Heidegger. He, who just started Sartre, is now being taken care of in a hospital. A special request was put for a single room, because the ranted prayers, while mitigated with tranquilizers, are still incessant, mumbled through a mouthful of loose teeth and yogurt. If one were to visit he who started Sartre, one would not need to bring flowers, due to their lack of phenomenological description and one’s inability to deconstruct them on a hermeneutical level.

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