“Indifference, but what was really even meant by a word like that?”
The old codger sucked back his whiskey and eyed the glass then me. He was a barfly skilled at the art of conversation. He used it to trap unwary patrons into a pseudo relationship and then proceeded to ply free drinks all night. If you were like me, you fell into it willingly. It was always easier to let someone else talk than do the talking.
I nodded at the bartender before answering his question.
“I just meant that indifference is the new prejudice. Not caring is as bad as hating.”
Yeah I was a philosophy major and these kinds of debates kind of got me off. I loved hearing the views of the masses on these little mind fucks. This guy was about 70 years old, so his answer was one I wanted to hear. The views of the old are always politically incorrect and amusing.
“Well I think you are a bit off on that ideal boy. Prejudice is based on jealousy and differences in the eyes of God. Well, not my God. My God created the whole damn enchilada and that includes the whites, blacks,japs, chinks…hell everyone!”
He held his glass and pointed to me with it. Some whiskey almost sloshed over the rim, but he was an expert and manged to save himself from that loss. I liked his thinking so far and nodded to get him to continue.
“Indifference is the same as accepting. To be indifferent of race is what we all should be. I fail to get how you don’t see that indifference would stop war, pain, abuse, and all sorts of horrible things. I may be old, but I have seen some things that would grey your beard son.”
He punctuated with a gulp.
“But,” I said looking at his blood-red eyes, “to be indifferent, truly indifferent, would mean you do not care. Life, death, abuse, war, would all just be fine. Indifference means you really have no moral compass.”
He belched out the first word of his reply, “depends on your definition of indifference. I wouldn’t want to stare down the barrel of a gun pointed at someone who also had a gun and didn’t care if they lived or died, but I think that is taking indifference to a level that is unrealistic. What saved me in the war many times was knowing the man on the other side of the trench was just as scared as me. Indifference doesn’t take away human nature.”
I stared at this barfly, almost too pissed to sit straight on his stool. He made some strong points and was easily keeping up with my misdirect and leads. I may have underestimated the old guy. Apparently drunks can still function intelligently. This made me smile, though his smell still made me sit a ways away from him.
“Human nature is basically a way to hate. Survival of the fittest always means humans will hate something.”
I let that sink in as I ordered another glass noticing his was empty. He was looking at me with a glazed stare. I couldn’t decide if he was thinking or catatonic.
“You a philosophy major?” He asked out of the blue.
“Um…yeah,” i replied. No point lying.
“You do this a lot?”
I blinked, “hangout in bars? Now and again.”
“No, I mean do you always look for the drunk and try to get good paper material. Sonny, just because I drink, doesn’t mean I am not an educated man. Sure I sit here and milk drinks from people and I am an old-looking guy that appears pathetic to most…”
“I didn’t think you were…” I tried to interrupt.
“Shut the fuck up kid!” he snapped. “I was not always this old. I was as young as you once. Age gives experience and experience lets me know when some little snot faced university student thinks he is better than an old drunk.”
I felt the animosity between us starting to build and i was getting very uncomfortable. I waved to the bartender for my check, hoping to escape a drunken ramble. He was just staring at me with fire in his eyes. I wasn’t sure what set him off, but I wanted to get out. I threw a couple of bills on the bar and got up to leave.
“I was once as young as you! Younger even, don’t you dare think you are better than me. I was as young as you!”
I still heard him yelling his mantra as I left the bar. I walked quickly trying to escape the image of the old guy yelling and spitting as he got angrier and angrier. I was surprised how that had turned. I didn’t care much. I talked to him about indifference and felt that way toward him. The old guy was intelligent, but still, old and drunk did not last long when you were his age. I smiled at the thought of the old geezer dead on a bus, missing his stop.
As I reached the edge of the campus I slowed my stroll. It was a nice night, warm but not too warm. I walked down the little pathway that ran through a small wood. It was dark, but I had taken this path hundreds of times. It was my secret shortcut. As I emerged I felt a hand wrap around my neck and pull me back into the woods.
“Get off me,” I yelled, flailing my arms against my attacker.
The smell hit me first. A mix of body odor and whiskey. I was shocked to see those red eyes. How could the old guy catch up to me. That was…
“Impossible?” the old guy finished my thought. “I told you I was young once and I have to thank you. You made me see the error of my ways. You see years and years ago I decided to turn over a new leaf. I decided to let the world move and to move with it. To grow old and die. I was ready to do this, but you made me see that there are things in this world worth living for”
I looked at him confused. In the dim light I saw his mouth, his lips moist from his tongue darting in and out. He smiled and I saw teeth so stained and so sharp I had to scream.
“You made me see I need to be more indifferent. I need to let go of caring and live in the moment. It’s time I experienced what it means to be uncaring, unfaltering and to live again.”
He drove his teeth into my neck and I felt pain beyond words. I felt him slurping and felt myself slipping away. When he broke free, I glanced at his face before passing out.
“I told you, I was once as young as you! Younger even.”
I looked in his face and saw a young man looking down at me. In fact. I saw my face looking down at me. My eyes fluttered as I lost more blood. All I wished now was I had been less indifferent.