Finally, he pauses to breathe, and stares at you blankly. A look of epiphany, then of utter helplessness, crosses his face. Then, before your very eyes, he vanishes without a trace, a paradox collapsing in on itself.
You look around sheepishly. No one seems to have noticed that your attempt to change the subject has caused the spontaneous implosion of another human being. As you leave the party, your host thanks you with a wink for. . . You’ve had too much barely potable cheap Australian wine to be sure you heard him right, but it sounds like he knows.
Despite your best efforts at remorse, it seems the well of Catholic guilt you always thought would never run dry finally has. Instead, all you can feel is relief. The longest, dullest two hours of your life have come to a merciful, if abrupt, end.
* * *
Several minutes earlier…
Forced into the corner of this small, poorly ventilated brownstone apartment, conversational claustrophobia has set in. After two hours of relentless political blather careening from arcane theory to red-team/blue-team armchair quarterbacking, from Hegel to Hagel, you can scarcely remember how you ever got trapped in this nightmare in the first place.
You glower with resentment at your so-called friends across the room for recognizing the warning signals before you did, for saving themselves at your expense. You have been trapped by the social leper of intra-Beltway cocktail parties, the dreaded Libertarian Bore.
“Well, I heard that Gale Norton read both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in college!”
Irony washes over you like a bad simile. You realize that, for someone so obsessed with individual autonomy and property rights, your obnoxious tormentor has no conception of personal space whatsoever.
“Of course, the blogger is the sans-culotte of the libertarian revolution to come. TANSTAAFL la Bastille!”
You make a mental note to tell Russell Kirk he should have included bad breath in his list of anti-libertarian ad hominems before remembering that, qua rational being, you no longer believe in an afterlife anyway.
Your observation of this garlicky internal contradiction leads to another, one less odiferous but deeper, and your opportunity to break free suddenly appears. With all the force you can muster, you interrupt: “There’s more to life than politics–I mean, isn’t that your whole point?” At that, the Libertarian Bore simply imploded.
* * *
The next morning–better known as “mid-afternoon” in more productive segments of society–you wake groggily. The previous evening’s ordeal rests at the back of your consciousness, obscured by the merciful haze of a hangover–or was it just another Code Red August day in the Imperial City?
Slowly, you sense the potential for a moment of future cocktail brilliance, and struggle to formulate a clever observation on the similarity of Tom Ridge’s tiny Crayola box of terror a cinque to the MWCOG air quality warning system. Odd that, even as you choke on that combination of SUV exhaust and swamp vapors so uniquely DC–merci, Monsieur L’Enfant–you can’t quite recall a Code Purple day. (Perhaps they’re saving that for a dirty bomb? No, that’s not clever at all. . . not nearly as clever, at any rate, as your punny observation on the characteristically Cro-Magnon ridge of Tom Ridge’s short, slightly sloping brow.)
Anyway, the thought of purple triggers a fragment of last night’s dream. You recall Oscar Wilde appearing, dapper as always, like this:
This odd cameo seems inexplicable at first. You don’t usually dream about overdressed English homosexuals–no matter how sharp their wit. Sure, there was that one horrible dream about Kim Philby snogging Sebastian Flyte (or was it Anthony B-b-b-blanche?) under a spring elm, but that at least made sense: the unfortunate result of a trip to the Spy Museum just before watching Bright Young Things–a dangerous combination, since everyone knows that being gay in Britain in the 1930’s wasn’t all strawberries, champagne, and white linen. Somebody had to do all that spying for the Soviets, by Jove!
But if Kirk was right about libertarians all secretly wanting to sleep with your underage brother–the one with freckles, braces, and an over-bite–perhaps it’s not so strange that last night’s party would have brought Wilde to mind. A tenuous connection, to be sure, but in the alternate reality of dreams, plausible enough to be reassuring. . .
Then you remember what Wilde said in your dream: “The problem with socialism is that it takes too many evenings.”
At once you understand the implosion of the Libertarian Bore the night before: he was the perfect mirror image of the Marxist who constantly ruins everyone else’s dinner with his incessant dialectics. But at least the leftist’s monomania for politics is internally consistent: his revolution marks the beginning of the never-ending task of remaking the world from on high.
But what of the libertarian revolution? What would have become of the Libertarian Bore the day politics ceased to matter? What would he have had to talk about when Washington had become as unimportant as, say, Richmond–but with none of its glamour, sophistication, and charm? The sheer irony of it all killed him.
You smile smugly before a disturbing thought takes form in your still-muddled head: what if you. . .? Before you can even finish asking the question, you disappear.
Berin Szoka writes from an undisclosed location, somewhere inside his own navel.