Year in Review

I took my watch out of my pocket and held it in my hand like a pair of dice.

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“What am I going to do with these pennies?” he said to the cashier. “Do you know what an inconvenience it is to have all these pennies in your pocket?”

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“Rrrrrrr!” Samson growled, as if he had been cornered by a big dog.

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It was getting late and we hadn’t eaten anything all day. By the time we reached the campus, I was limping and pinching my side in order to suppress a hunger cramp.

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Ferdinand continued talking about unrelated subjects.

“He sounds very familiar,” I thought. “It’s not just his voice or the things he says. His whole way of talking sounds very familiar.”

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“Let me guess,” Samson said, “you’re hard, with a soft middle? Soft, with a hard middle? What kind of person are you?”

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I had to study, but decided to take a nap first. When I woke up, it was already dark outside.

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“Me too. We need some kind of relief,” Casimir agreed.

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Friday morning was cloudy, but not cold.

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I shook my head and said, “That’s going to be very difficult.”

“Well,” said Marc, “at least it’s not impossible.”

“I don’t know…” I said uncertainly.

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I examined the books on Gilles’s shelves. I looked inside Gilles’s refrigerator. I opened Gilles’s closet and saw a beautiful leather jacket.

“What a beautiful leather jacket!” I said to myself.

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Suddenly, the air was filled with strong emotions.

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One of the waiters showed us to a big table, which was empty, except for one seat, which was occupied by an older woman.

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My attention started to swim. I couldn’t concentrate on the teacher.

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“Did I understand you correctly?” I said. “You hugged a stranger?”

“Yes,” Ferdinand replied. “A complete and utter stranger.”

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On the way over, he said: “Try not to offend anybody.”

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I took advantage of the opportunity to return to a point made earlier in the conversation.

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After the music was over, I said: “What was that?”

“Tchaikovsky,” Gilles said significantly.

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When Ferdinand was introduced to her and heard that her name was Isabella, he was visibly shaken.

“Isabella!” he said, pulling me off to the side. “Do you understand what that means to me?”

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“It’s a simple yes-or-no situation,” said Samson. “Answer me. Yes or no?”

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“No,” laughed the woman at the cash register, “this is where I draw the line.”

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The teacher finished going over the reading list and started discussing different philosophers. He pronounced the names of the French ones in a ridiculous French accent, and the names of the German ones in a ridiculous German one.

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“Which nuts am I going to get?” I thought. “Walnuts?”

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The sun burst into my room like an unexpected guest.

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“Do you remember the stupidest thing I ever did?” Samson said.

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We lounged around, eating our watermelon.

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He looked at me. I looked at him.

“What am I doing here?” he said, finally. “I should have been a rabbi.”

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From that point on, events in my life became short and fast.

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Marc went through a list of his complaints. Casimir encouraged him to rank them on a scale from one to ten, or to arrange them in alphabetical order.

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The books fell into my backpack off the shelves like over-ripe apples.

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I stepped outside and looked around pessimistically, jingling the change in my pockets.

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People were laughing, some with him, others at him. I even tried to balance and laughed with him and at him at the same time.

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Something very sinister was going on. They were standing in the dark and not saying anything. It just didn’t look good. I was uneasy—and alert!

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Then I fell asleep.

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It was a Friday afternoon, around the time of the sunset.

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“That,” I said enthusiastically, “is a wonderful idea.”

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“God,” Casimir said, “the food here is so mild!”

“Are you kidding?” said Ferdinand. “I can’t eat this stuff.”

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“God!” Casimir said to me. “I must be living next door to some idiot!”

Casimir’s next door neighbor was laughing uncontrollably.

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In an instant, we were in the embrace of the crowd.

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“My heart aches,” Gilles said lyrically, “and a drowsy numbness pains my sense.”

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I saw a bassoon sticking out of the orchestra pit.

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When Theodore saw it approaching, he grabbed my arm and said: “Do you see that van?”

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We were watching the sunset. I was almost paralyzed by a feeling of nostalgia.

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I walked through the stacks, pulling different books from the shelves, and examining them with curiosity. In each book, I read the first sentence.

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“If I don’t eat something soon,” Casimir said to Marc and Samson and Ferdinand and me, “I’m going to die.”

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What was I afraid of? Who knows!

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Casimir and I were standing like two captains on one of the islands in the middle of Broadway and waiting for the light to change. This island was like a ship sailing down a wide river, and whoever stepped on it became a regular navigator for a moment.

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Samson: “If you had to choose, how would you describe your life: as bittersweet or as hot and sour?”

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I rubbed my chin and Ferdinand scratched his forehead.

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It was my third philosophy lecture of the day and I was impatient for the action to begin.

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“All of the above,” I said to myself, happily.

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Ferdinand was on the phone. He was aggressively contradicting the person on the other end of the line.

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Like two laconic cowboys, we strolled down the sidewalk.

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I was no longer following the conversation.

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“There’s Casimir—maybe he can help us,” said Samson.

“Help us? Help us do what?”

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This period of solitary reflection was not destined to last longer than a few minutes.

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“Did you hear about the famine in Hungary?” Samson said. “They’re thinking of invading Turkey.”

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“No,” I said, “you’re the fucking idiot.”

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Ferdinand was afraid to go out, because it was possible that he would run into Victor. He sat down on his bed and tried to think things through more carefully. After all—what was he supposed to do? Never leave his room? Sit inside all day?

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I was making open-faced sandwiches with onions and cucumbers.

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“I feel adrift,” Gilles said. “Never again will I set foot on any shore.”

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They saw us looking at them. They looked back at us uneasily.

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Apart from the absence of instruments, we were correctly positioned to play a string quartet.

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At that point, Ferdinand could have asked me for many different things, and to all them I would have replied: yes.

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List of metaphysical words: optimism, pessimism, happiness, unhappiness, admiration, appreciation, recognition, imitation, repetition, memory, future, past, present, time, space, surface, depth, homogeneity, heterogeneity, accident, argument, philosophy, metaphor, joke, idea, attention.

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“Let’s buy a watermelon,” I said.

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In the spirit of contradiction, we kept contradicting each other. Finally, Casimir cried…

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Everybody looked at us and we looked at everybody.

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“Let’s discuss James Joyce,” Ferdinand said.

I was eager to share my views on this great writer.

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There weren’t many leaves left on the trees, and the sidewalk wasn’t very crowded.

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“You should have waited for me,” I said.

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As I was leaving, I passed a group of Spanish-speaking men looking at the sun through a torn piece of a garbage bag. One of them was explaining something to the others in Spanish. Something about the sun, something about the moon-those were the only words I could understand.

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“At the same time?” I asked.

“Yes,” Samson answered, “but not necessarily in that order.”

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“No no,” he said, “I’m not kidding.”

I was really amazed.

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“My God,” I said to myself. “These things happened a long time ago!”

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Following a string of distant associations, we finally arrived at the topic of…

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Two policemen were standing on the corner of Amsterdam Ave. and 100th St.

“What’s the matter?” one was saying to the other. “You had a fight with your girlfriend?”

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Time was flying. Cold days started coming one after the other. My life was becoming wrinkled, like the surface of a lake on a windy day.

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Ferdinand paced up and down his room, squeezing the receiver in one hand and making wrathful gestures with the other.

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Lying in the dark under the covers, my mind drifted back to my mysterious past.

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