Selling Out

Posted on by Dave Woodruff

I always hang at the same bar. For years now, I have been an installation in the same town, the same bar, many nights the same seat. Talking with the same people lamenting the same stories. Many of them multiple times. I don't take any special pride in my stories. I have no belief my life is any more captivating or intriguing than many others, possibly, I just have a knack of telling stories better than many. Maybe, it's just my capacity to recall and connect common topics, I'm unsure of most of it, likely because knowing why doesn't make for a good story.

Recently, just before I was preparing to crawl home for the evening, a gentleman asked if he could buy me a beer. I didn't suspect him to be gay, so what the hell, Why not? even if he was gay, I suppose I would still drink his gratis beer. He went on to tell me about how he been coming to the bar for a few months now. He said he overheard me on several occasions, talking with my friends, and he believed my stories were terribly interesting, funny, heartwarming the gamut. 

"Are they all true?" He asked, leaning in as if I were going to let him in on a secret.

"They are all true as told." I looked away from him as I aligned the octagonal corners of my beer glass with the squared edges of my napkin. It's just something I do, the glass must remain aligned, and stay within the ring created by the condensation of the glass at all times. If not, my precious balance is out of whack. "Nothing exceeds like excess. " I tell him.

"I've actually heard you talk about the whole glass, napkin conflict before." He says. I get creeped out a bit. Who is this guy to be sitting around listening to me wax poetic about my life and times?

"The thing is, he continues, Is I spent my life in school, studying every day and night to become a lawyer."

I instantly prepare myself to listen to the drivel of the lonely, the droning lament of a wasted soul. I am not far from true.

"What I need is a history." he says as I watch the last of my beer disappear down my gullet. "Thank you sir, I will have another."

For the better part of the next hour he tells me of his desire to have the kind of stories I have, the past I have amassed, the interactions, the love life, the folly, the foolishness, the craziness of youthful abandon, the soul and experience of an artist... everything.

He sits himself erect in his chair, I assume this is what lawyers do when they want to be proper and formal.

"How much would it take for me to buy all your stories? Seriously, I have money, but I need something to fill the holes in my life I missed out on."

I'm fairly confounded. The amalgam making up may life has never been something I thought I could barter with. It could certainly make for an interesting story later on.

What he explains in painstaking legalese detail is his desire to have me write down all my stories in chronological fashion, cross referenced for easy use and memorization.

"Of course, you would not be able to use these stories again. Anywhere. Once they are mine, they are mine, your past will be my sole property, at least the parts we agree on."

He slides a sheet of paper to me. He has scribbled a number for our contract, the figure is staggering. 

"What if we both use the stories?" I ask.

"That won't work, If I buy something, I want it for myself, exclusively." He seems very stern and determined about this fact.

What is a life worth? How do you value the accumulated stories and volumes making a complete edition of your biography? Would someone else's accounts be persuasive enough mortar to fill the cracks of an incomplete life? Is a life borrowed and edited worth trading the wealth sacrificed to replace it? Imagine washing your memory clean of the events forging your character, your identity. 

True character and identity comes from experience and interaction, the fallacies of the foolish and the wisdom of hindsight. I can sell him a story about getting kicked in the nuts, but without the true experience to adhere with it, the grist gets lost in the translation.  He won’t know what it’s like to feel your lungs suck up into your throat as your wait frantically for the next breath to finally return. Could he relay the atypical interaction between my ex-girlfriend and I as we got married clandestinely to avoid paying tuition fees? Would he remember her name, her hairstyle? Would he know the secret thrill in our minds as we held hands in front of the Justice of the Peace? Could a retold story even begin to evoke the passions of the deaths of my parents? He was not witness to my Mother’s cancer and my Father’s heartbreak. Could someone pass off another's past as their own, not only in practicality, but in principle?

I really can't answer these questions, but I do know two things. It'll buy a shit ton of beer, and I'll have a great story to start the new edition of my life with.