Chapter 5:  Peace talks

“Of course” Michelle thought to herself, although she tried not to entertain any ideas in her head. She instinctively drew her chair closer to where her friends were sitting around their little table. Still slightly nauseous from something she couldn’t physically pinpoint, she shook the cobwebs out of her head and did her best to not let her mind amplify any unnecessary-stupid stress. She didn’t want to stereotype these nine clean cut ‘frat-boys’ sitting across from her in the coffeeshop, but she was finding it a struggle. And as her friends kept conversing, the young men started to drown out the conversation with their own loud harangue.   So insensitive.   And as Michelle eavesdropped on some of it, her own jaw started to tighten up with revulsion.  Dammit; her instincts were right.  It wasn’t so much the sports talk they kept babbling about.  “Sports stars who probably could care less you’re alive” she thought.   But it was all the truly misogynistic talk they were having. This wasn’t like ‘Peter accusation’ talk they were engaging in.  These guys were just flat out sounding like assholes. She didn’t know any of the women they were mentioning personally, but if they were real people, she really did feel for them.  These guys were talking about scoring unapologetically like it was a game, and every time they would burst out laughing in unison about something crass, Michelle and her friends would turn around in disgust.

“See? This is what I mean” said Lorraine.  “You don’t want to stereotype assholes.  But these are assholes.”  Nobody disagreed on that one.  Michelle kept wondering.

“But see; these ding dongs are not like Peter – or Tim, or even Lionel, despite his temper” Michelle observed. “I hate to see all my friends categorized with those bone heads, just because…”

“Because of their white gender?  Well then how the hell do you think I feel?” said Foresman. “Or Harry here?” Jamie was feeling mischievous.  “Well go up and talk to them” she said to Foresman.  The other two girls grinned and Harry looked uneasy.

“Excuse me?”

“Go up and tell them to shut up the next time they get too loud.  If they are giving your white gender such a bad name, tell them that and tell them to shut the hell up.”  As Foresman attempted to get out of the verbal corner, Michelle looked out the window.  Above the clouds where she couldn’t see clearly was a dull purple glare to the west right over the ocean, and one red glare to the east: ever so faint.  Dull enough where she wondered if her eyes were playing tricks on her again.  She really needed to see an oculist. The sun had set about fifteen minutes ago and Michelle wondered if this mirage was due to the refraction of light from any fog lights that might be nearby.  But that was still odd.  Light pollution usually didn’t appear that high up.

“You go tell them” Foresman countered back to Jamie. Harry just shrugged and smiled, looking very uncomfortable. “You find them just as annoying, and it was your idea.”

Lorraine had to smile.  “Yeah, I dare you.  With those guys: saying someething completely misogynistic is bound to happen, so see what happens.” As if on cue, the ‘bros’ burst out loudly in laughter.

“Go ahead; perfect timing.”  Foresman hesitated. “Couldn’t hear what they were saying.  Wouldn’t be fair.”

“Come on, you know they were saying something obnoxious.”

Foresman suddenly defended the young men. “Prove that: you don’t even know what they were saying.  The ‘bros’ burst out laughing again.

“Yeah” put in Michelle with frustration. “But at least they’re being obnoxious.”  Harry looked out the window uncomfortably.  But as the men kept getting louder and got more animated in their discussion, Lorraine had had enough.

“You’re just stalling now” she said to Foresman.

“What am I supposed to complain about? …”

“That they are loud, and therefore kind of rude, how’s that for starters?  I bet you’ll be able to come up with ten more reasons as soon as they open their mouths.” Foresman got up slowly, shaking his head.  How did he keep getting suckered into these situations?  Then he remembered, and he looked darkly at Jamie who just shrugged with a grin.  Michelle shook her head as well, but at the absurdity of the situation.   Lorraine watched Foresman walk up to the young men.  His moppy blond hair partially covering his eyes with his head bowed as his six-two lanky frame shuffled across the floor looked comical.  Lorraine almost felt guilty, she had the look of someone about to observe a kill during a boxing match.

For several minutes, Harry and the three young women just stared in the general direction of Foresman and the young men.  There were nine of them altogether, not including their new friend.  The ‘bros’ had looked up in surprise as soon as Foresman approached them and tapped one of them on the shoulder.  He then nodded towards the direction of Michelle, Harry, Jamie, and Lorraine.  All of the young men immediately turned their gaze towards them.  It was very intimidating.   After a few minutes, to their surprise, Foresman sat down with the bros and started to converse with them as if old friends. They even laughed together at two things that Foresman had said, although they couldn’t hear exactly what he had said to them.  This left Harry and the three girls slightly confused, but Michelle got over it.  She was just curious what was going to happen next.  Jamie was the first to chime in.

“Do you think he’ll join the dark side after all?  Maybe he’s finding his roots.”

“That would insinuate he was truly a misogynistic asshole all along” Michelle said.  “You should tell him what you just said.  You’re the one that got him into this.”   Jamie seemed visibly upset, but Michelle was guessing why.   Lorraine and Harry said nothing: they just remained fixed on the boys across the coffee shop; as if waiting for something catastrophic to happen that would be the next few moments of disastrous entertainment would more than make up for.

Soon, Foresman and three of the ‘bros’ got up and made their way over to their table, while the other ‘bros’ actually did quiet down for a bit, but then ended up getting loud again as soon as they all sat down.  “Your friend said you were all having this big philosophical discussion about us” said the foremost ‘bro’.  He had strawberry blond hair and parted to the side like a world war two lieutenant and was clean shaven.  “What do you want to know?” he asked teasingly.

“Hey to be fair” put in Foresman. “I did explain they were being loud…” “And that he couldn’t actually hear our words” put in another one of the ‘bros’ as he looked at Jamie.  He looked just like the first bro, but with black hair, and slightly taller.

Foresman put his head down and then looked away. “Look; I did tell you guys you were too loud” he explained again to the guys rather sheepishly.

“Don’t worry; don’t get him in trouble” the strawberry blond guy said to the girls.  “Get mad at us, if that’s what you want.  I mean, that’s what you wanted to say to us, right?  What he said.  Only you were too chicken to say it to any of us.”

“Don’t mind him” said a third similar looking bro, only he was a little bit heavier than the rest of them and he had brown hair.  “We just came over because we found the theme of your conversation interesting…if it’s cool if we can discuss with you.”

Harry and the girls were speechless.  They had not expected things to blow up like this.  Michelle, although just as surprised as the four others, was not daunted.  She figured there was no way this should completely get out of hand, if that’s what her four friends next to her were worried about.

“Sure; go ahead” Michelle replied for all of them without trying to come across as flirtatious in any way. She was now looking for a challenge; anything to get her mind off her uneasiness. “Uh, hold on a second: chicken?” Lorraine asked the bros. “Excuse me?  Do you even know anything about me?”

“Us” said Jamie.

“Yeah; us” said Lorraine.

The bros were taken back, except the strawberry blond one. “Well I know you’re kind of pretentious” he answered back to her.  “My name is Mike by the way.  Nice to meet you” he added with a wave.

“I…don’t…even know” said Lorraine, as she looked out the window towards the Marina outside with bewilderment.   Luckily, the conversation did not get that much more tense after that.  Michelle elaborated to the guys what they were talking about:  the big world issues going on.  She was curious if they were interested in of these topics.  This wasn’t just about football.  But Jamie and now Lorraine’s goal was to gainsay these guys in an argument and prove what pigheaded misogynistic douchebags they were.   It turned out they were partially right.  Only one of them, the heavier guy named Phil, made an off color dick joke that didn’t sit well with his audience there.   They hardly knew the fool, and even Michelle just shook her head politely but looked away.  She was hoping these guys wouldn’t come across as completely ignorant and reinforce the perceptions of misogyny on a massive scale going on outside their sheltered community at the Boatyard.  It didn’t help that they thought the current president elect was going to be the next savior to all the problems in the country.

“That idiot?” shot back Lorraine. “Didn’t your parents teach you any lessons about trusting government to solve all your problems?  You can’t be that ignorant.  Tell me you’re not that ignorant.”

“Why not?” replied Mike. He went on to explain some of his views. “Look: our economy is screwed up.  I mean, do you new liberals really have any answers?  No!  You just complain a lot but don’t have the skills to actually start a society responsibly.  It’s not just happy candy-land ideas as to how the world ought to be that we’re talking about here.  It’s about understanding economics and policies.”

“Well actually, Jamie here was an economics major” Michelle interrupted him. “And I got a degree in biology.”

“Oh good” Mike answered back.  “Not just some frustrated dykes with a gender studies or basket weaving degree.  Why do they still teach those majors is beyond me.  But then again what the hell are you doing looking dirt poor if you’re so educated.”

“Excuse me?”

Jamie, Harry, Foresman, and especially Lorraine were taken back.  Lorraine’s eyes looked furious, like she wanted to punch this insensitive dick.

But Michelle remained resolute. “By which you’re saying, you’re doing very well for yourself because you work hard I’m guessing.”

“Well yeah” Mike shot back.  “I got a job up by ‘Investiny Corp’.” “Yeah, and who paid for your fucking college, you white privileged male?” Lorraine retaliated.  Her darker side was getting the better of her.  Michelle could feel it too, but she figured she’d let one of these idiots slip in a contradiction of their own logic and make fools out of themselves.

“See? That’s just racist and hatemongering” Mike said calmly.

“Male is not a race” Jamie replied.

“No, but white is, you dimwit. And you’re whiter than me!  I’ve heard your rhetoric in various circles.  I bet your friends are the people that blocked 146 the other week.  Do you people ever sit back and listen to yourselves once in a while?”

“Yeah, but at least I don’t live in complete ignorance of the real world around me” Lorraine yelled back.

“Real world?” Mike and the heavy-set kid said in unison as they started to laugh.  “Let me guess: you must be some of the hippies in that commune down the street.   I bet half the kids in there wouldn’t be able to stay there if they had to pay for their school loans at the same time.  Don’t give me that shit.  You people know nothing of the real world.  Go get some jobs before you make accusations.  I don’t live in a bubble.”

“Shows how ignorant you really are” said Foresman. “I didn’t invite you over here to be dick” he added boldly.  “We all work, dumbass.”

“Yeah, but you probably have no idea how bigger economics works” said Mike. “Are you sure that’s your major?” he asked Jamie. “Hey, if you think the new president is evil as you claim, so was everybody else running for office. It has always been that way.” “Yeah, but at least we didn’t vote for a racist and misogynistic homophobe.”  ‘Mike’ finally looked really irate.  They had found his weaker buttons.

“Prove that he—“he started to yell out.  But Foresman started arguing back in turn and didn’t let him finish.  Jamie, Harry, and Lorraine motioned to get up and leave.  They had had enough.  Michelle, however, sat on her chair curious; resolute to take it all in, almost eager, and she know why: absurdity like this seemed to whisk away her other problems.

“Yeah, see?” called out one of the other guys across the coffeeshop.  They had been eavesdropping the entire time.  “Call them out on their bullshit, and finally corner them like they do everyone else and they start to run away.  Come on; stick around.”  But Michelle’s three other friends had already exited out the coffee shop, but not without uttering how rude these guys were, and not without Jamie giving three of them the finger.   Meanwhile some of the guys catcalled after Lorraine and Jamie.   Foresman kept on arguing with Mike, but their tone had resumed to something at least slightly more civilized: as if they were no longer going to start a bar fight or something.   While Mike’s friends talked quietly amongst themselves or just watched, Michelle listened to the two men engage in debate. Both of them actually had valid political points – but only to a degree, even if in terms of philosophical points about real awareness of the bigger metaphysical l issues, Foresman was blowing his opponent out of the water.  But nobody was willing to acquiesce the truth of the other man’s words.

Michelle almost wanted to interrupt and put in her two cents worth, but she found observing the clashing of ideologies between these two all too fascinating: on one hand, her friend Foresman taking a more liberal view on social issues, and this guy Mike explaining some facts about economics despite Foresman’s idealistic proposals.  Soon their arguing turned to metaphysical ideas.  The talk did not get any more lighthearted, and she finally started throwing in her own two cents worth to back up her friend.  Mike’s colleagues in turn started shouting out their own thoughts on philosophy.  The poor barista behind the counter looked weary, but the arguing just kept getting louder. Even though there were more of them than Michelle and Foresman, Michelle wasn’t worried.  It’s not like they were going to do anything to either of them.  This wasn’t the apocalypse.

 

***

“Man, they really drilled you with some of those questions” Michelle said to Foresman as they walked back towards the Boatyard.  “Just imagine how they would have acted like if you were one of the New Wavers.”

“Hey, I didn’t start calling them misogynists, even if they were being some.  I never win: nobody ever picks sides with me.”

“You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody ever wants to admit they may be  freaking wrong.”

“Yeah, I know; tell me about it!” said Foresman.

“No, I mean everyone.  Those guys, yeah.  But even you, me…”  she explained. “It seems all this wasn’t about compromising and coming to understanding.  It was about just trying to be right.  Nobody cares what the other person has to say or think.  And the worst part is, nobody in that room fully had a total clue about what they were talking about.”

“Oh, and I supposed you do?” Foresman asked rather annoyed. “I’m only saying that it seems… it’s always just some elements of half-truth that we all follow as humans. And that nobody wants to really understand absolute truth.” “You make yourself sound like a space alien when you talk like that” said Foresman.  “What exactly are you getting at?” “I’m just saying, it’s like this is a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with the world.  The exchange of ideas don’t matter: the ego always just  gets in the damn way.”

 

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