I Know Iím Not Alone
by William Michaelian

1.
These days, I have to laugh, because if I donít, Iíll cry. The trouble is, my laughter isnít real laughter. Hearing it makes me sad ó sadder, even, than I already am. And I donít want to be sad. Iím tired of being sad. But it seems that no matter what I do, thatís what I am ó sad. And so I laugh. I laugh at my own unfunny jokes, and at the unfunny jokes of my friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Itís a painful operation, but it makes people smile, and thatís a good thing. People need to smile. But the fact that they need to smile also makes me sad. Why should they need to smile? If they were happy, wouldnít they be smiling already? And when they do smile, I can barely hold back the tears, because their smiles make them look like their faces are going to break.
2.
These days, I have to cry, because if I donít, Iíll laugh, and if I laugh, my friends, neighbors, and co-workers will think Iím laughing at them ó which I will be, because theyíre behavior is amusing. To me, nothing is funnier than watching people break their necks so they can pay for the useless stuff they bought with their credit cards. And so I cry. When they ask me whatís wrong, I tell them how broke I am, and how Iíll never be able to pay my credit card bills unless I get a third job. This makes them want to laugh, but they donít, because if they do, then they might have to admit that they, too, are looking for a third job. If they laugh, theyíre afraid Iíll say something like, Oh, yeah? What about you?

3.
These days, I have to ignore people, because if I donít, Iím afraid they wonít ignore me. And if they donít ignore me, they are apt to discover that Iím laughing, or that Iím crying, and will be duly offended or amused according to the situation. Itís easier this way for everyone concerned. As for those who arenít concerned, I say the heck with them. Who do they think they are, anyway? What right do they have, thinking they are immune to the problems of the world? In fact, Iíd be willing to bet they are the cause of the worldís problems. Look at them, smugly pushing their little buttons. Well, I have buttons too, and you donít see me looking smug. Iím responsible for my actions, by gum.

4.
These days, I donít know what Iím talking about, because if I do know what Iím talking about, then everyone wants me to shut up. Hereís something you might not know: no one likes you if youíre smart. Oh, they pretend to like you, but thatís just because theyíre trying to find a way to take advantage of your brains. They want you to make them look good. So if you are smart, I recommend not knowing what youíre talking about. It will save you a lot of trouble. If you absolutely must know what youíre talking about, then save your talking for when youíre alone. And remember, donít write anything down or say anything into a tape recorder, because it will come back to haunt you.

5.
These days, I know what Iím talking about, because if I donít know what Iím talking about, people will laugh at me for being dumb. Hereís something you might not know: everyone likes you if youíre dumb. Itís great having dumb people around, because it makes people feel smart. If you think this sounds dumb, thatís a good sign, because it is. Itís also a good sign if people donít like you, because that means youíre smart. But hereís one other thing you might not know: Iíve yet to meet a person who is smart enough to know how dumb he is ó myself included. And if you think this sounds smart, youíre in worse shape than I am. Joking aside, being smart is a royal pain in the ptoot. Then again, so is being dumb.

6.
These days, I forget what I just said, because if I donít forget what I just said, people expect me to remember everything else. There is a nice breeze blowing this afternoon, I think it might rain. Iíve never been crazy about dark beer, but Iíll drink it all the same. My great-aunt Fiona is in the vestibule. The helicopters are coming. I rode the bus, but it didnít go anywhere. Fallow fields fume forever following flippant flowers further from Framingham. See what I mean? Act like an idiot, and people will believe youíre an idiot. Itís quite easy, really. Give it a try. Donít expect instant results, however. Forgetting what you said takes a little practice. What you do say has to be meaningless enough and dull enough to put everyone to sleep. Thatís the key.

7.
These days, I remember everything I said, because if I donít remember everything I said, people will recognize me for the fool I really am. And while this is bound to happen someday, Iíd still like to put it off a little while longer. (I know what youíre thinking. Isnít that odd?) Also, remembering what I said reminds me that Iíve gone exactly nowhere during my stay here on earth. Is this is a good thing or a bad thing? Who knows? Who cares? Iím here, remembering, forgetting, talking, not talking, being smart and being dumb, ignoring people and being ignored. Iím here crying, and Iím here laughing. Unfortunately, Iím no better at it than I was when I started. But I know Iím not alone ó or am I?

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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