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Whatever's Clever

Bluffs / Derricks

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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A feeling I've had more and more lately - - that you are the last one celebrating, the last one at the party. You are alone in the room where you once until moments ago felt surrounded by people you loved, desired, would empty your whole wallet for, would embrace with your whole being. Not only are you alone, but the lights are on. You see that it was a normal room all along, though mere minutes ago you felt as if the room had no walls. That the room went on forever, the horizon obscured by darkness, that perhaps at a far away distance the floor fell away, dissipated into mist, far beyond your vision. This suddenly brightly lit room was the center of a world that fell away at the periphery. There was nothing outside, only beyond. And that in this space all was possible, that any number of people from your past or present, living or dead, fond of you still or obviously through with you, could appear beside you at a moment and take you in their arms. That they would forgive you for all, laugh heartily alongside you as you felt at best loosely connected by rigorously spoken anecdotes or - better yet - that they might conspiratorially stage whisper something to you over the music, an intimacy within the gathering's intimacy, their breath warm and wet on your ear as you turn your head to hear them. That - even more outrageously - you might in this party setting forgive them for their past transgressions (which you hold onto tightly, with your jaw, like a terrier refusing to let go of a frisbee). And not only might these friendly ghosts appear and receive your benediction, but the people in attendance (who, until moments ago when you realized you were alone, you felt by your side and all around you) represented all possibility and every pinnacle of human experience - that someone in attendance might become your best friend, that any number and any type of person there might take you home with them, maybe multiple people at once, that these people would attend your wedding and your funeral, that you may at some later date accomplish something truly incredible together and look back on this very night as the origin of your companionship, throwing your heads back in a knee slapping chuckle of recognition. You felt that your ideas, generated in this mystical boozy atmosphere, were maddeningly original and certainly worth following through in the daylight. This evening was a turning point. You were a runaway convict without direction before tonight but then a giant hand of inspiration had pinned you to the wall with an enormous bowie knife through the collar of your shirt. No more bullshit. Fire in the belly. You felt, until this moment, like you held jokes and personal observations on your back like a quiver of arrows, thumped loose from the bow at just the right moment, striking the target with every punchline. Punishing, nearly, in your wit and charm, your companions almost begging you for mercy - please, tone it down a notch, you're too bright to look at directly, I have to shade my eyes. You felt all of these things at once, an incredible surge of affection and capability and hitting your stride, until the moment you realized that you are the last one. That your jubilation had been too great. Out of proportion. Significantly more spirited than your peers who have now slipped away, some even making good on the potential you felt that you apparently failed to activate. They are now in other spaces without you. Your laugh was too loud, in the largeness of your feeling you pushed others away, maybe even hurt their ears. There are walls to this room, definite ones, and beyond that a world with obligations and expectations of you, ones you've potentially endangered with the swell of your good feeling. There is a door to walk through and something to return to and the party was over long ago but you somehow didn't notice.

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from My Life's Work, released August 30, 2018

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

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