12 November 2013

Way Out

Filed under: Fiction, Psychology, Reflections — ktismatics @ 4:08 pm

Truth be told, Stephen had been looking for a way out for quite some time. His friends, seeing him apparently mired in the sort of midlife crisis they could comprehend, eagerly and repeatedly shared with him the self-help tips they’d latched onto for getting themselves on track toward a more desirable future. Invariably these tips converged on the same basic scheme. Listen to your True Self. Discover your Passion. Become childlike. Believe in yourself. Be present and live in the moment. Visualize the future you want, make a plan, and relentlessly pursue your plan until you arrive at the desired destination. These were not the sort of tips that inspired Stephen.

“What if my True Self turns out to be an asshole?”

“Well in your case…”

“What if it turns out my Passion is to be the object of worship for everyone around me?”

“Well that’s pretty shallow, Stephen. You need to look deeper.”

“How do you know that’s not the deepest, truest me? Maybe if you looked deeper you’d realize that you really want to be a serial killer.”

“Look, nobody’s forcing you to read the damn book.”

 “No really. The inner voice that’s telling you it wants six million dollars and a nice vacation villa in Tuscany – how do you know it’s really your True Self, and not just another imposter taking his turn at the microphone? Besides, aren’t you a little suspicious that everyone’s True Self wants pretty much the same things: chronic happiness, lots of money, good weather, universal admiration? Maybe everyone’s gone too deep. Maybe we’re all delving somewhere down below unique individuality into the universal unconscious, where everything is pure narcissism, will to power, and the longing for fabulousness.”

 “Okay fine. So what are you offering up that’s better? Not to get too critical here, Stephen, but what I see is a guy who hasn’t made a dime in I don’t know how long, who’s probably going to have to sell his house, who if anything seems even less happy than the rest of us. Man, sign me up for what you’re selling.”

After awhile Stephen started avoiding these conversations. It was true: he had a fairly strong sense of what was wrong with the good life, but not much to offer by way of an alternative. That he was expected to elaborate some optimistic new game plan of his own he regarded as symptomatic of the cultural tyranny he was trying to resist. What’s wrong with a little pessimistic fatalism as the basis for a friendly chat among neighbors?

He wanted to perpetrate his own escape. Not only that: he wanted a language for describing the way out. He wanted something else to do, something else to think about. And so it was that Stephen Hanley became the new Proprietor of the Salon Postisme.


Stephen Hanley is one of my fictional alter-egos. I wanted what he wanted. Making-of: I wanted to write my own escape, the act of writing being the means of escape. Made: I wanted that which I wrote to constitute a language describing the way out, for myself and for my “clients.” Twelve years later, I’m not sure whether Stephen and I have tunneled our way under the wall or dug ourselves into a hole.


Stephen’s wife? She was fine about it.

“What have you been up to? You look like you just had about four espressos.”

“Yeah, well.” Stephen took his shoes off and set them on the mat by the door. “I got a job.”

“A job? I didn’t know you were looking.”

“I wasn’t. As of today I’m the Proprietor of the Salon Postisme.”

“You cut hair now?”

“No, it’s not that. There’s no pay, and I didn’t have to quit any other job, so I figured what the hell?”

“I’ll open the champagne.”


Thus ends chapter 1 of book 1. We try always to have a bottle a champagne in the fridge. There’s one in there now.



  1. Hi John,

    Greatly enjoying your posts of late. Hope things are going well for you in NC.



    Comment by Jim — 12 November 2013 @ 5:07 pm

  2. Thanks man. I should put some Irish stout in there to chill too, in case you happen to show up at the front door.


    Comment by ktismatics — 12 November 2013 @ 7:06 pm

  3. I love this. You even told us that you really do have a bottle of champagne there. I have long been sure that Anne kept you around partly because of your sly, wicked wit, but I was pretty sure you kept her around for the same reason. There’s no substitute for a sense of humour if you have one yourself. Of course there are other equally strong factors , which it is important to use in combination severally, but the euphoria of humour is sometimes so great it can even interfere. We all learn about that the hard way. Anyway, runs in her family, from the hilarious reports you’ve given of her mother. “Tell him I said Ha Ha Ha”.


    Comment by Patrick — 12 November 2013 @ 8:09 pm

  4. Well you think it’s funny, and I think it’s funny, but those literati writers’ groupers? I’m sorry, but they found it confusing. Even that strikes me as funny now, though it didn’t while I was in the moment.


    Comment by ktismatics — 12 November 2013 @ 11:11 pm

  5. I’m O.K. , you’re O.K., that’s better than O.K. The Salon of post: trauma, modern, Christian etc. Post cool. I’m drawn on by the mystery of its specialism


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 13 November 2013 @ 1:24 pm

  6. The story opens inside a Boulder aura fer sure, looking for a way out of there — post-Boulder.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 November 2013 @ 10:00 pm

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