Drop #62: Inertia

He was out drinking with Larry and Bones on a Friday night. They had brought a few colleagues along, people he’d never met before: two guys and two girls. At 1:30 a.m. he was alone with one of the girls, a blonde called Jessica, who preferred Jess. She was the type many men instantly and habitually want to sleep with: blonde, tight little body, short skirt, white teeth, flirty smile, touchy and available. Over the last hour, she had made it abundantly clear that she could be had. So he let her take him home.

Luther’s father had died three years earlier at age fifty-six. He’d had lung cancer and liver cirrhosis and it was unclear which of the two had taken him in the end. He’d drunk and smoked his whole life, often in excess.

In the weeks before he died he’d made a point of repeating the same story every time Luther came to visit. Listen, he’d said, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on cigarettes and booze over the years, given chunks of my life to them, drinking in bars and lighting up on street corners, but you know what? I was never really addicted. Not to the liquor. Not to the nicotine. There was no physical pull keeping me at it. I could go days without a cigarette if I felt like it, and I never craved a drink. But worse than that: I never really liked either act. Neither gave me much satisfaction. I never got the whole coffee and cigarette thing, and a smoke was no better after sex. I didn’t particularly care for the guys in the bar, or feeling drunk, and I didn’t drink to drown my sorrows cause I wasn’t sad. But I went ahead and gave my life to them anyway, and I’ll tell you, son, that’s the scariest thing I have ever come across: this automatic way of doing things – more so than this sickness I’m left with. It’s dangerous, and I am the proof. Boredom, habit, inertia: that’s what killed me. Not the booze and cigarettes. I didn’t need or like any of it, but I never bothered making the slightest effort to work with the tiniest bit of logic. My whole life I faced the feeblest of charges, and I never even put up a fight.

When Liz got back from Boston Saturday evening, Luther immediately told her he’d slept with another girl. They’d been together a year and it was the first thing either had had to own up to, but he was never going to keep that type of secret. She was disappointed but took it well. These things happen, she said. It had been a perfect year and she had no doubt about his feelings for her.

A month later Liz went for her yearly checkup at her gynecologist, who performed several standard tests along with the pap. They found that Liz had contracted a high-risk strain of HPV, the type associated with cervical cancer. It wouldn’t necessarily go on to cause it, as the virus often clears up by itself, but a very real chance now existed. She was calm when she told Luther at home but he didn’t take the news well. He had obviously given it to her. He would have it too, in some form, but was unlikely to get cancer from it.

That night Luther thought about his dad’s sad admission in the weeks before his death. Luther didn’t smoke or drink heavily, and agreed it was preposterous for a man to give his life away for something he didn’t even like, out of sheer laziness. Then he thought of Liz and the HPV, and where it had come from. He thought of Jess and the night they had shared, entered into willfully, with little objection. She had been available, and conventionally sexy, with a tight body and flirty smile – any man would have wanted her, fucked her, enjoyed her. But the thing was: he, Luther, had never felt any specific attraction to Jess.

He hadn’t really been into her and the sex hadn’t been particularly enjoyable. And he had known it would be that way before he let her take him home. He’d known it when they chatted alone for an hour, and when they took the cab back to her place; actually, he’d known it the moment they met. But at some point during the night he had decided to do it, or rather, he hadn’t decided not to do it. He had succumbed to the feeble charge.

A scary thing, indeed.

By E.M. Vireo

About EM Vireo
flooding the world with fiction

5 Responses to Drop #62: Inertia

  1. AP says:

    Serious but fantastic piece. Succinctly portrays modern man’s callous attitude towards life. Hits home hard.

  2. This idea could go a long way. Is ‘doing something’ the same as ‘not deciding to not do something’? Inertia is a very appropriate title. I could think about that one for a long time.

    • EM Vireo says:

      Thanks. Your gorilla seems to be having a good think about it too! I’ve always been intrigued by inertia – the word and the action/inaction.

  3. We think we are anonymous, but we are not. We think small aberrations in character are not important, but they are. We think actions have no consequences, but they do. But then, we don’t think, do we? We just go with it.

    Someone always receives the kick in the gut.

    Great piece…

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