“No way. Not a chance: there’s no way I’m going back to that lunatic asylum” Peter replied to Cheryl. He was sitting in a flight simulator machine, playing an aviation video game at the local amusement center in Seekonk. Cheryl and Tim had caught up with him for drinks, but at the mention of the Boatyard, he had lost interest in their discussion and had excused himself to the downstairs level to play some video games and skee ball.
“This is your chance to prove them wrong!” Cheryl insisted. “I’m not disagreeing with you. In fact, there are a quite a few people that are not happy with the way things turned out. They’re just too shy to speak out.”
“Then why aren’t they defending me?” said Peter as he inserted a few more slugs into the machine.
“I just said to you: they’re too shy to speak out! Besides; you’re wrong about that. Michelle defends you. I just spoke to her before I came here and she said something about how she doesn’t want to explain fully why, but something doesn’t sit right with her about the newcomer’s claims.”
Peter had to smile. “I should really call her” he admitted.
“Something about how things keep screwing up the energy in the environment at the Boatyard” Cheryl continued. “All this is bringing bad energy, and she doesn’t want to see it ruin things anymore.”
“You know, for a scientist, she is quite irrational; new agey” Peter remarked with a smile. “But I like it.”
“If it makes you feel any better” put in Tim. “Harry is documenting this whole incident in his journal. He wants to analyze it so it this kind of shit doesn’t ever happen again in the Boatyard. He’s on your side too. He thinks some of the accusations the New Wavers said at the meeting are proof enough of their own hypocrisy.”
Peter shrugged as he blasted some fighter jets on the screen. “Great, but I think these idiots will implode themselves during any rational debate without us needing to collect evidence.”
“Well then all the more reason to do this” said Cheryl. “Harry feels your case just needs to prove the lack of logic to the new waver’s way of thinking. As you said, that shouldn’t be difficult.”
“Why are you all putting up with this shit?” Peter asked them. “Just move out already. They won’t be able to survive long without the artist’s skills, and the revenue that the real artists bring into the place.” Suddenly an enemy ship in the video game came on screen from out of nowhere and blasted Peter into oblivion. Mumbling a few curses, he threw another few slugs into the machine.
“It’s not even that” said Cheryl. Peter was about to hit ‘start’ on the game, but refrained for a second and looked at her.
“And why is that?”
“Well, look: this is a very delicate issue. It’s put people very uncomfortable, and it’s made quite a few of us question the point of everything we’re doing there.”
Cheryl hesitated. It was as if she herself was afraid to think any more about this matter. “Well what if Michelle is right?”
Peter had to laugh, and he shook his head. “Michelle” he scoffed. “What did she say?”
“What if the way we approach our thinking existential problems is all wrong? I mean, she’s explained it to all of us once. I can’t really replicate how she said it. She’s very profound: almost clairvoyant; you know that. “What if we’re bringing bad energy into the Boatyard with all this bickering?”
“The way she worded it was pretty convincing” Tim admitted.
“You know, reality really doesn’t work that way” said Peter reassuringly. “I wish more of you would study more science literature…”
“At any rate, we have got the most to lose in all this, and she thinks the New Wavers are crazy” Cheryl interrupted.
“Let me ask you something” said Peter. “Do you think there is more cult mentality going on in terms of political ideologies and how class divides go?”
“What do you mean? Solely at the Boatyard?”
“No, I mean in general: Do you think there are a crapload of more people that believe like these ding dongs do? You know; majoring in some sociology idea or something that is not a hard science? And then getting all bent out of shape just because they are not willing to process uncomfortable facts and seeing things through? In terms of people giving up seeking universal truth when they no longer feel comfy?”
“You’re starting to sound like Michelle herself” Cheryl pointed out. “That’s like something she would have said.”
Peter grinned. “Yeah, probably. I miss our talks – even if she does get loopy once in a while.”
“Well then give her a call! She misses you too.”
Peter frowned and went back “No, I need to cut all ties with them, no matter who they were. I can’t call Michelle yet. Maybe soon. I think she’ll understand; I hope you understand.”
Cheryl was repulsed. “No, I don’t understand!”
“Hanging out with some of the people I was fond of there” Peter tried to explain. “That’s like a partial addiction. They come with the whole package. And the whole package is that damn Boatyard. If I start getting close with them again, I’ll eventually go visit them at that place, and before you know it, I’ll get caught up with all this bullshit again. I’ll end up compromising their idiotic beliefs again despite the lack of logic. We wouldn’t be doing the world a favor being like that. I need a break from it all.”
“You’re being overdramatic!”
“No, I can’t do this to myself: before I can continue in life, the cycle must end.”
“What ‘cycle’?” Cheryl tried to reason back. “And what about Michelle? You can’t associate her as a ‘fix’, or ghost her as if she was at fault for all the shitty things that happened to you at the Boatyard. She’s a human being. That’s so selfish!”
“Stop lecturing me; it’s too wearing” Peter tried to explain as he shot down some enemy fighter ships on the screen. “I’m not talking about Michelle – I’m talking about the others: if you see a bunch of people doing something no matter how asinine it is; if it breeds familiarity, you’re going to follow; I’ve discovered that about myself. The pull to want to be part of a collective, no matter how fucked up it is, is too great in me. That’s not their fault necessarily; the people I actually like over there, I mean. That’s my flaw as being a human being. But the pull to want to be part of the hive is too great. It takes up too much energy. Having to keep my independent thoughts over there peacefully; I feel like my brain is a battery being drained that’s connected to a useless circuit.” Peter tried to dodge a few more enemy fighter pilots on the bigger screen, but failed miserably.
“I can’t even focus right now because of this shit” he said to Cheryl as he pointed at the ‘game over’ window on the video screen. “This is exactly what I don’t want anymore.”
“But you bring reason. You’ve got logic with a lot of your ideas. And your science facts… well, whenever you use them, they are facts.”
“Facts” Peter sneered. “What are facts? What is truth? Deep down, I don’t even think you really appreciate that kind of stuff.”
Well in the same light, how is it that you get these strange urges to get all philosophical? See? This is why you should stop ghosting Michelle. You two are so alike.”
“People are in love with their ‘independence’ mentality” Peter continued. “But in reality, they don’t even know that they’re not ‘independent’ and free. Everything is controlled by Demodads.”
“Demodads?” asked Cheryl. “Like in that old show? There you go again with that. What the hell does that really mean, anyway?”
Tim put his hand on Cheryl’s shoulder. “Never mind. You don’t want to hear his crazy theories.”
“Yeah, whatever” Peter had to smile. “Never mind. I don’t have the energy to convince you right now. Anyway: yeah; facts — this was what Michelle and I used to talk a lot about actually. As for those ding dongs at the Boatyard: they should travel more and see what real injustice is in real life. They want true independence, they need to understand that possessing true independence has responsibility. And that can only come with being educated with real facts.”
“See? This is more of what we need at the community. You’re needed!” She went on to explain that if he agreed to show up on Friday this week, the Boatyard was going to hold a great debate about identity politics – just for him and anyone who thought like him– and settle these differences once and for all. To show a token of open mindedness, they sincerely wanted Peter to show up and engage in a rational debate with them.
“Otherwise, the deal is off, and we just end up in the same conundrum as before, and I doubt anything is going to get better. There’s more of them than us.”
Peter finally exited the flight simulator ride and went straight to the skee ball lanes while his friends followed. “Yeah; way to put pressure on me!”
“What’s more” said Cheryl with some hesitation “the winner of the debate – or at least the terms everyone could come to an agreement with would determine the actual doctrine of rules the Boatyard would follow from then on.”
“Really?” Peter asked incredulously. “They’re really going to drop their stupid system of rules if I can prove any of their twisted ideas are that insane? That is amazing. I never thought I’d see the day they would be this open minded to do that.”
Cheryl hesitated a bit, but she had to confess some things to Peter: “Well, it took a lot of convincing” she explained. “They really weren’t even up to the idea, until I proposed a penalty for us.”
“Anyone who disagrees with them. If you – we — lose the debate.”
“Are you insane?” Peter cried. “What the hell kind of pressure are you putting on me?”
“No, I take full responsibility!” Cheryl insisted. “Michelle is in on it too. She thinks it’s a good idea…sort of. We’re allowed to talk with you. In fact, anyone who agrees with you can ally on your side during discussion. You just physically need to be there.”
Peter hurled a skee ball up the lane; hoping to score a bullseye in within the crop-circle shaped maze of the skee ball lane. He threw the ball too violently, and it sunk into a useless hole. Despite the twenty five cent loss, he had to laugh.
“You people are all insane!” he cried. “Michelle agreed to help? That’s great; you should put her in charge, she’s much better debater than me: half her family are lawyers. But who the hell is guaranteed to show up?”
“A huge message was posted online” Cheryl explained. “Everybody in the community is aware of what’s going on. In fact, this is kind of a big event now. Kids outside of the community want to be part of this.”
“Have you all lost your rockers?”
But Cheryl seemed surprisingly confident. “You said it yourself many times: half the things Valentino and the other New Wavers believe are completely deluded. That they always want to fight for change for the better, but that they are not interested in learning the real logistics that work to make change. If you’re given a chance to speak your mind, you could prove to them the ideas in economics and business strategy you’re always talking about and maybe get them to realize that thinking like that doesn’t automatically make you some evil capitalist pig.”
Peter grinned. “Yeah, that’s not the only way of viewing things that they got ass backwards. I think we’d run out of time if we really could get a chance and to lecture and educate a little: the day would be over before we finish. Wait forget that” he added sarcastically “they’d never listen to me anyways: I’m a white male. I’d only be mansplaining.”
Cheryl smiled but tried to stay serious. “Listen, if we have anything to offer the community – which we do — this is the perfect chance to do it without fighting. I’m serious.”
Peter relaxed, and attempted his next attempt on the skee ball ramp. Complete focus. One hundred points and two feet worth of tickets. “See, that’s why I love the sciences so much” he told her, feeling absurdly pleased. “The real sciences. It gives you clarity. You stay clear of emotional neurosis and focus on mechanics. Not like these social sciences” he added somewhat arrogantly. “If you embrace the thought of independence without including responsibility, it’s a mess and you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot with it.”
Cheryl laughed. “You’re an odd duck – but in some ways, you sound just like Michelle. Call her.”
“They’re all a bunch of hypocrites there” Peter continued. “But I’m looking at this all wrong. Even if we lose this debate and you all end up moving out. You know what this is like? It’s like reverse gentrification. Because unlike gentrification, things actually get better in the greater community of Warren because of this.”
“Better? Gentrification creates higher rent and only makes space for a certain type of demographic.”
“Better in terms of for the rest of us if you think about it” countered Peter. “Keep all the boneheads in one area – until they can’t pay their rent because they got no skills and they all get evicted.”