The bar is nearly empty. Sun strains through a dirty window. Nic looks over at Karl, and Karl looks ahead.
Nic pushes against the bar, leaning back on the stool and straightening his arms in his t-shirt, which is fitted. “I don’t think you can create effectively toward expectation,” he says.
Nic stands up, and puts his head in his hand. “I’m not in the service business,” he says, rubbing his temples with his thumb and forefinger. He places his other hand on the bar and looks down at it.
“It’s writing, it’s not a real thing,” says Karl. A string of hair falls in front of his brow, which is deeply creased.
“You almost feel like issuing a disclaimer: ‘This show will not change your life,’” says Nic, placing his right hand on the back of his head, his back to Karl. Karl can’t see, but Nic’s eyes are closed.
“It’s the world, out of reach for us, and it is death,” says Karl. Shadows cuts scars into his face. “That was the whole point. Not to try to go somewhere else than this. This is how it is.”
Nic is sitting on the floor now, his elbows resting on his knees, his head resting in his palms. “I always had the rhythms and the language in my head,” he says quietly.
Karl says nothing.
Nic looks up for a second to check on Karl. He quickly puts his head back in his hands. “I always had the rhythms and the language in my head,” he says, less quietly this time. A few seconds pass. Silence. The bar is now completely empty. “Stupid criticism,” he says, standing up with difficulty and purpose. His eyes rise slowly to meet the back of Karl’s head, which is pointed straight forward but is now just inches from the surface of the bar.
“Of course, you’re going to have discussions and difference of opinion, but what matters is that everyone is working without ego toward the best realization of what we have,” says Nic. “As an autodidact pessimist…” he trails off, drops, and does five slow pushups.
“Of course, you’re going to have discussions and difference of opinion, but what matters is that everyone is working without ego toward the best realization of what we have,” Karl says without moving his lips.
Nic has found a mirror. He looks into his own eyes and does not smile. Moments later he averts them, then lets them creep back up to meet themselves. “As a creator, you always have one eye on the back of the room, where you know they’re loading their guns and building your gallows,” he says, lightly punching the reflection of his own fist.
Karl stands, finally, and puts his hand on Nic’s shoulder. “In this matter I am a classic Proustian.”
Nic turns to Karl. He knows he looks wounded, damn wounded. “Rarely have I taken traditional wisdom,” he says.
They embrace briefly, and then part. Nic briefly considers the nature of God and Karl briefly considers the nature of truth. Fleeting eye contact. A mistake; regret. Nic brushes off his chest, and Karl does too.