Where is the Joy?

“When I was young – which was not so long ago – I used to be a raver. A raver was someone who got a lot of joy out of life. Anyone who wasn’t a raver, wasn’t having a good time.” said the Octopus twining a tentacle around his glass.

I’d noticed him the moment I came into the Bar. This was a sleazy dump where the Angel Fish doing something up there on the cat walk weren’t being Angels. It was a typical sleazy dump with the sour smell of old liquor, raucous music, animated conversation if you were mostly sober and melancholic if you weren’t.

Yea, I’d noticed him the moment I walked in. There were quite a few other Octopuses all flinging their tentacles around the way they do, you know. But of all of them in that joint, there was something different about this guy.

I sat down beside him. “Maybe this is a mistake” I thought. “If this guy’s a weirdo, I don’t want to get involved.” But I sat down nevertheless. I’ll tell you what was strange about this guy – he was very still. I mean STILL. He was STILL. And he had a kind of light around him that looked interesting.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind that susses out a joint for a guy. But, being an Octopus myself, I kind of knew this fella was not true to type – maybe something out of the ordinary. Gee, I’m sick and tired of the ordinary!

I knew he’d registered me ’cause he pulsed once. I ordered my own drink.

“Cheers” he said as I brought it to my mouth. “Cheers.” I said.

“I used to be a raver.” he said.

I guessed I must have looked like a raver to him – which I was – but nowadays we don’t exactly call it that. Life is a drag. Everything is boring, except when I am high or blown or out.

I have a little pad just down the street but I am never at  home. There is only me there -lonely.

“And now?” I asked noticing how quiet he sat, tentacles resting still on the bar top, watching everyone in the place.

“I don’t have to be a raver any more.” he answered.

“Oh, God.” I thought “I’ve got one of those religious fishes.”

“Why are you here then?” I asked.

“I’m saying goodbye to a friend.”

I looked around. I couldn’t see a friend.

“Yeah? Who?”

“He was a raver. He raved too much. He was looking for a little bit of heaven and he found it”

“You mean your friend died?” I asked shocked. No wonder this guy was strange. He was grieving.

“Drug overdose.” he added.

We lapsed into silence. Yet, funny, there was no melancholia here, no sadness, just a calmness and quiet.

“Another drink?” I offered to buy him one.

He lifted his glass ” Water.” he pulsed with humour.

“You don’t drink?”

“Don’t have to.”

“I have to.” I said. “Hey Ollie!” I yelled for the barman. I knew him. He was my friends’ brother, one of our kind. He was  the only barfish I knew who could co-ordinate all tentacles simultaneously . He got good pay – he was the best.

The show on the cat walk had changed to the Seahorses. I’d seen that show so often that I began thinking how gross it seemed to be. But the audience loved it and cheered them on. The guy next to me hardly appeared to notice. And yet I knew he was seeing and hearing it all.

“This was where my friend lived his life.” he said “I came to say goodbye to it for him.”

“It’s not a bad life.” I defended.

He said nothing.

After a long while he said “It’s not real.”

“What’s not real? It’s all real!” I suddenly felt scared –  nervous. I came here at least three times a week. It was certainly real to me.

“It’s covering up reality. It’s a fake. It’s artificial. It’s not life.” This Octopus was so still it gave me the creeps. I gripped my drink and took another swig.

“What is real?” I sneered.

“Come with me,” he offered “I’ll show you.”

He wasn’t a big fish and I can defend myself, I’m a good  fighter. It wasn’t too late and I wasn’t too blown. “Okay.” I said.

He took one last look about the place in some kind of final salute to his friend and we left.

That old battered swordfish was begging outside as we came out of the cave and the sound of folks having a good time floated into the street. The sea was dark but not too cold. I followed this guy – warily – watching – careful. I didn’t want him to jump me.

We swam for quite some time, up, into the lighter areas, along a rocky face; up market dwellings here I noticed. Suddenly we came into a clearing where there was a deep crevice in the rock. I thought this guy was taking me to his home, but he wasn’t. This crevice was some kind of open place for enjoying –  like a park – but there was nothing going on in it, no food stalls, no entertainment, nothing. Just an open place.

“Sit” he said. I sat.

There was nothing to do, nothing to watch, nothing to see.

“So?” I asked, impatient.

“Ssh!” this guy said. So I shut up.

I don’t know how long we were there for. We just sat. I was  beginning to get bored out of my mind. Eventually I began to notice some plants growing out of the rock next to me. Quite ordinary plants really. Seen them before everywhere. Gradually, with the looking, they began to seem different. It was something about them that, the longer I looked, the more strange and unfamiliar they became – like new – you know.

I had bad feelings in all my tentacles, couldn’t keep them still. I must have been fiddling ’cause the guy said “Be still”

So I tried. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. I tried pulsing but he noticed that too. I drew in water and blew it out again real quiet so’s you wouldn’t notice, but it seemed extra loud.

So I just stared at these plants. Soon I had the feeling that I’d never seen them before in my life.

I got to thinking this fella’s stone weird. I’m just as crazy sitting here doing nothing. I thought I better head off to where the action was. But something made me stay.

It was scary quiet. It was scary still. It was scary.

“What is scary?” I asked myself.

“You are scary to yourself.” I answered myself.

“Now you’re talking to yourself you silly mutt!”

I looked at the plants. “I swear I’ve never seen these damn things in my life before.” I said to myself.

Something was happening to my perception, slowly, quietly.  Scary was being replaced by calm. Somehow the whole place looked strange, like real different man. Like more colourful, like darker and brighter, like soft, like kind of lovely. Like new. Like suddenly exciting. Like I was blown!

I looked at the guy sitting still and quiet near me. Even HE looked lovely! “I’ve got to get out of here.” I said to myself. “I’ve flipped.”

“What’s this?” I asked the fella.

“This is reality.” he said

“What’s that?”

“You alone with yourself is reality.” this guy answered.

“Hell man, I spend my whole life trying not to be alone with myself. Why would I want to be alone with myself?”

“To experience reality.”

“Who wants to experience reality? What for?”

“To find the joy.”

” Where’s the joy?” I asked. “There’s no joy in this.”

“You have to be patient and still – then reality comes to you.”

“You’re nuts.” I said but he said nothing.

This Octopus draped on the rock, was so STILL, but I mean STILL that for a moment I imagined he’d disappeared. A glow seemed to come from him like he’d swallowed too much phosphorus from the breakers. He was shining, but SHINING, man!

Everything around him was shining. I couldn’t take it any more.

“Cheers! I’m off.” I pulsed and propelled myself away from there. The guy waved.

It was good to get back to the bar.

“Hey, Ollie!” I yelled “How about a drink?”

Just then, one of the eels from the show slithered onto the stool next to me. She looked a bit drawn and tired. Kind of jaded you know. Dull. She was definitely on something – some substance or other. It irritated me for some reason.

“Hi.” she said, batting her false eyelashes at me. “How about a drink for me? Where’s the joy in this place?” she asked, “Where’s the joy?”

“Oh —-” I thought. “Not another one!”

I thought of the weirdo back there on his rock. I thought of his dead friend whoever that was. The music was loud, deafening. The place was rocking.

The eel woman tugged at my tentacle. “Where’s the Joy?” she shrieked. “Where’s the joy?” I shook myself free.

“How the hell should I know!” I snapped.

“Hey, Ollie, put some joy in her drink for God’s sake. She’s  wanting some joy.” I yelled.

“Aren’t we all?” he muttered as he deftly slid her glass along the bar top.


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