When I was young, Rémi says, I discovered everything the world had to offer.
I stumbled upon Eden, he says, and it was Hell (because that's the whole point of Eden).
I found happiness, he says, and it was dull (because that's the whole point of happiness).
I reached enlightenment, he says, and it meant nothing (because that's the whole point of enlightenment).
I even attained nirvana, he says, and I felt nothing (because that's the whole point of nirvana).
Most spend their lives searching for any of the four of these.
Most fail, die mid-journey with nothing to show for their troubles.
I, instead, discovered them all before I even turned twenty.
I, instead, discovered them all after less than two decades, two decades spent cyclically swallowed and spit up by an empire of signs and sins.
He turns to me, and there is a profound sadness emanating from beneath his forehead, and I am sitting so close to him that it envelops us both, overtakes me as well as it has overtaken him, and in this moment, I can no longer consider myself immune to the melancholy manifesting itself before me in the form of a man; in this moment, he is I and I am him and we are one another.
(But it is only a moment, for when he opens his mouth, the air falls back into the bar and we once again fit into our character descriptions, an "aged professor" and a "precocious student," exchanging bits and bites of language across transatlantic generations.)
He asks me:
What does a man do when he is finished with life before it has even begun?