Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Conference of Bonobo

Three hundred persons converge on a mid-range hotel in a resort city where a cadre of perhaps fifty other individuals await them.  Within a matter of minutes, the two groups are beginning to exchange alternate visions of reality.

You are a portion of the latter group.  Along with ten or twelve of your peers, with most of whom you have already exchanged ritual, social embrace, you have repaired to the cocktail lounge, placed orders for drinks, and begun a systematic depopulation of several bowls of mixed nuts.  On the far wall, a large television monitor, its sound system at merciful mute, a procession of commentators for Fox TV News appear to demonstrate various stages of behavior consonant with a petite Mal seizure.

You wonder aloud why it is that Fox News broadcasts appear in so many public venues.  One of your number reacts to your musing by sliding off her stool, marching toward the TV set with some vigor, then switching the channel to CNN, which action adds layers of nuance to your immediate perception of reality. Watching the channel switcher's progress to and from the TV set, male that you are, you consider the experience of exchanging more that ritual embraces with her and the consequences, both positive and negative, from your point of view.  She is the first to remark on the smile of amusement on your face and the shaking of your head.  It would be easy for her to conclude, you reckon, that your smile of amusement was a grimace of scorn, particularly in tandem with the shaking of your head, all to the point of signaling your distaste for CNN News and your preference for Fox.

Your particular reality at the moment is the wry amusement over your sexual fantasy with regard to this person, who is, it must be said, attractive and talented, without even having consumed your first of what will eventually be two Campari and soda.  You have, in fact, had similar fantasies about this person while you were at some point along the vector of drinking--either glasses of wine, ale, or aforementioned Campari.  You have conveniently filed such fantasies away in the large, general folder of fantasy, content with your ultimate assessment that were you to in any way act on an attempt to make a reality of it, you would be most unsuccessful, to the point of being laughed off.  Nevertheless.  You are a male.  Even in the act of congratulating yourself for recognizing a trespass fantasy for what it is, then successfully setting it to rest, you remind yourself that you were likely to have seen in this alternate vision of Reality some existential loneliness and need in her.  Down, boy, you tell yourself.  Even at this remove, such rationalizations are enough to pay your dues for another year in the Male Vision of Reality Club.  You do not wish to be in this club. Momentary awarenesses of your own participation in its initiation rites and behavior do not add bonus points to your comfort zone miles.

Being a person is a fraught experience.  Your once- or twice-removed cousins, the Bonobo, seem to have made admirable strides toward adjustment to being alive and in the Reality that is.  Had you been a bonobo in this group seated before the altar, now of CNN, you would likely have acted more directly on your fantasy and experienced some more immediate consequence.  You might even, all possibilities more open to bonobo Reality, gotten yourself laid.  Then again--

Later, more ritual behavior, including embraces with many of the three hundred in the former group, those who came from elsewhere to be here in order to participate in this event.

The event, of course, is a writers' conference, an entire week of lies, refracted Reality, emergence of sudden jealousies, flare-up of animosity, and one of the stronger senses of communal bonding you have ever known.

You are striding purposefully down a long corridor, thinking you have oriented yourself on the map of the hotel, provided by the writers' conference, thinking to check out your workshop venue and its convenience for bringing Sally with you.  You are arrested by a voice, calling your name.  Impressed by the friendliness in its tone, you turn to identify the source.  She is one of those you had thought to avoid at all costs due to past indictments against civility as compiled by you.  If you were to describe her as bright, with edgy humor and pleasing appearance, you'd need to qualify that with the observation that not all women in this landscape by any means fit that description.

"I've been hoping to find you,"  she says, approaching.  "I've been thinking of you."

And what, you ask yourself as she draws into embracing range, were you thinking?

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