"The Difference Between," short story excerpt

Monday 7/4/22

The difference between being a pussy and a bitch is if the pussy gets beat up—and we’re being metaphorical here, and not gender-specific, nor does “beat up” mean anything sexual, as in, “I beat up that pussy”—or has their very self and/or self-esteem eradicated by someone else, they will take it. They may not actually roll over, but that’s also a possibility. “We’ll leave the light on for you” quickly becomes, “Shit, it is dark, I won’t be able to find the bathroom, I will stay in bed.” Whereas, if a bitch gets beat up or has their very self and/or self-esteem eradicated by someone else—say, with a humiliating dressing-down in public—the bitch (who is also a pussy) will not only take it, but would then go out and get that person’s car washed later in the day, if asked. Is it a key distinction? I feel like it is.

On an episode of Cheers, the gang was discussing the worst way to die. Cliff Clavin, being the know-it-all he is, asserts himself with what he wants everyone else to believe is the definitive answer. You know Cliff—that’s how it goes. He needs to think that people believe he’s provided the final, winning word. It’s on this principle that his self-esteem is built, and it’s why he can never be truly happy until it’s built upon other things. He said that the worst way to die would be sliding down a greased razor bannister naked. Or someone else adds the naked. Norm, probably. I’ll keep an eye out to make certain the next time that episode is on. So you’d have to live in a house co-designed by Poe and Dali. But the point holds. Frasier Crane then provides what he feels is the answer, stepping past the typical inanity from Clavin. The worst way to die, he says, is alone and unloved. The difference being that he’s correct. But people often want to disagree with what is correct. They want there to be another difference, in-between, some wiggle-room, an island between poles. This is hard to locate, because the poles are fairly proximate polarities. Most things in life are closer to each other than we think. So they’ll just laugh and try and come up with an answer of their own that will be much more like the Clavin answer than the Frasier answer.

The difference between drinking coffee black and drinking coffee with four ounces of cream and seven packets of sugar is that in the first instance you are drinking coffee and in the second you are drinking something else. The something else doesn’t have its own name so people call it coffee. Humans are also this way. A good person will be pure of heart and intention. Let me correct that. When they are not pure of heart, because they are human, they will still be pure of intention. They’ll act accordingly to what is the correct form of behavior. They may have to fight against themselves—and certainly their impulses—in order to do this, but do it they will. Another person will give in to the impulses. They don’t put up much of a fight. If the impulses said, hey, do you want to jump off this bridge—you remember that thing your mother used to say to you about, “If John jumped off a bridge does that mean you’d do it too?”—they are airborne faster than a crow that has been given a hot foot (a gag that baseball players used to subject others to). Yet we call both of them humans. The difference being that the person of the first example is the real human, having answered the challenges of what that means, whereas the second person is something else. And we also don’t have a name for that. We just call them a human, like we call the caffeinated drink with the four ounces of cream and seven packets of sugar coffee.

You get it. Or you don’t. That is also a difference.

The difference between a woman who squirts and a woman who is merely urinating—hold up. That’s childish. Continue.

The difference between an adult and a child often has less to do with age—bah—than it does one key factor. The child will not think in terms of can’t. Don’t say the child doesn’t think, because it does. The child may not think in words, but we too often fail to consider that we can think through what we see, feel, touch, hear. Want. Don’t want. Our minds have a language beyond words, and pre-words. Post-words. When words on the inside will not do. The child experiences the world as a universe of “can.” Why a universe? Because when one experiences the world this way, it’s more than one world. Simultaneously. How many worlds is it? I can’t answer for you. And it varies from child to child. The adult often starts with can’t. When one starts in this manner, “can” rarely happens. “Can” has to settle for being…not a fossil, because “can” is never set in stone. But let’s put it this way: “can” is a member of a lost civilization that still exists. It’s not on a map, but it would be like Atlantis existing in our world right now the same as Boston does. You used to live there, then you moved. You’ve forgotten what it was like, but people still get their mail there, couples argue about money, twelve-year-old girls are cruel to other twelve-year-old girls. Life goes on back where you once lived. One adult not in Atlantis but somewhere like you are right now, has a childlike capacity for wonder. All is “why not?” rather than “no way, Jose.” A difference is that they are more of an adult than probably anyone they know, because the only way to be a human adult—as we’ve been defining human (see the coffee above)—is to be a child at the same time. Then you are also better at being serious, because you are best at knowing what matters and what doesn’t. You may experience that which others would never try to, because they don’t have a fucking clue it could possibly exist. And when they see that it does, they don’t get it. They are baffled, lost, fearful, made more insecure. What they are missing in themselves and also out on—what is causing them to feel those ways—is exactly that which makes life special when it is.

A break. Comic interlude: The difference between a dead cat and a cat that’s alive is ten minutes of inconvenience to throw the latter in a bag and drive down to the river to throw it in, because cats suck, right? Apologies. I just don’t like cats. Many do. I think it says something less-than-ideal about you personally, but that is neither here nor there, so I’ll leave it out, though yes, there are differences between people who like cats and those who don’t. People who prefer a lake to an ocean are worse, I’d say, than people who prefer cats to those who don’t. It’s a lack of imagination thing. See the child part above. A lake is just so...contained. Lacking in the rich mystery of possibility. You shouldn't be able to swim across anything truly worthwhile in this life. You should have to fight for it more. Fight with it. Another difference. Anyway: if I had a sailboat, I’d want to take it out on an ocean and not a lake, and my animal on board besides myself—if there are no other humans—would be a dog and not a cat, and he’d wear a life vest because I would never want to lose him—after all, this is a dog I went sailing with—though I understood that eventually I would, but not that way, barring a terrible mishap after the weather abruptly changed.