I arrived at Joey’s upstairs apartment at four o’clock. He was waiting for me, sitting in the same little room where he had delivered his life story to us a couple of nights before. A cup of tea was waiting for me on the table, next to his own. He looked at me for a long time.
“It’s day three,” he said, finally.
“I know,” I replied.
“What else do you know?” His look was piercing.
“That’s what I’ve been wondering all day. Nothing seems to be very reliable just now. I think a lot about Sam, but at the same time I’m realizing now that she can’t really give me what I want.” This wasn’t entirely honest. The lines were more hers than my own, and I think he knew it.
“What do you want?” asked Joey accusingly. “That’s the question you have to get clear about before we can go any further. What is it you really want? Once you find the genuine answer to that question, you can have it, but there’s no point in driving with your foot on the accelerator and the brake at the same time.”
I had to experiment with several answers before I spoke. “Actually, I have no idea. Every answer I try to come up with doesn’t quite fit. I could say I want my old life back, but that’s not quite true. I could say I want my wife and kids, and I do, but there’s something more. I could say I want to get close to Sam, and that is also true. I don’t know what I want, Joey.”
“That’s a good beginning,” he reflected. “You don’t know what you want.“
“I want to live the way that I felt after the first night with you. I can remember everything was perfect, shimmering, my mind stopped working. I was full of optimism and hope. I want that.” I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Very good,” he said. “Not everyone wants that, you know. You get whatever you put on your altar. If you worship money with unwavering totality, that will fill your days and nights. If you worship sex and relationship, you can have that movie, too. If you worship fame and power, you can dedicate your life to them, and that obsession will fill your life. It just takes a little more time, but desire brings things to you, like a dog when you whistle,” he paused, chuckled, and added, “and then they leave again. If you want what you say you want, you can have that, too. But how much do you want it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t feel there’s any alternative left.”
“Very good,” he replied. “That is indeed true. But so far you are just dicking around with it. How are you going to get what you say you want?”
“I need help,” I replied. “I’m hoping you can give it to me.”
He burst out laughing. “Ah ha!” he said. “ So you want someone to give it to you. What price are you willing to pay?” He had teased Carlos in the same way. “What are you willing to give?”
“I don’t have anything,” I replied.
“Not true, not true,” he muttered. “Oh, if only that were true. You’ve got a lot that you’re still holding on to. And the price you’ll have to pay is all of it. There’s nothing I can do about that.” He dabbed his mustache with an ornate handkerchief.
Excerpt from Arjuna’s new novel, The Last Laugh. Buy your copy here
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcp_dmoz/4037053218/, http://www.autoblog.com/2009/10/09/report-so-called-smart-gas-pedals-could-counteract-floor-mat/, http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/what-are-you-holding-on-to/