For all those times someone invites you to a party, a reading, an open mic, an after-work drink gathering, a screening of their film, etc., there is nothing more satisfying than, at long last, being able to say, “I’m going to be out of town that day.”
Never before had untraveled everyman Dermot been permitted the pleasure of asserting this. It was previously not within the realm possibility; he was always too poverty-stricken to go anywhere, living from paycheck to paycheck in that way all too specific to New York, though also applicable to any major metropolis.
But, at long last, he had managed to save some of his pittance to go to Greece, a country he felt embodied the true beginning of civilization–but he generally kept this to himself for fear of people calling him racist for not acknowledging Africa as the birthplace of humanity. In any case, Dermot’s job as an assistant to the editor-in-chief of a little-known lifestyle magazine called Chouette was finally going to prove fruitful in that he had planned to write off most of the expenses as part of “research” for the publication.
He would land in Athens, get the city element out of the way. It was also necessary, he felt, to pay his respect to this part of ancient history before diving right into the paradise aspect of things. From Athens, he would take a boat to Mykonos, where he would try his best not to become gay–but if it happened, who’s to say it wasn’t meant to be?
From Mykonos, he would go even further down, to Kos–still not quite as revered for its nightlife yet as the former. Then he would make the final roundabout shlep to Santorini, where he may or may not decide to abscond completely from everyday life by deliberately choosing to miss his flight, which had an infinitely long layover in Rome before making its way back to the city of New York.
Gorging on brantada each day at the moderately priced hotel where he was staying (he was of the Goldie Locks age where he was too old for hostels and not old enough for posher overnight setups), Dermot began to feel evermore liberated–responding less and less frequently to texts and emails, and even going so far as to refrain from posting any of the photos from his trip thus far.
The longer he stayed away, the more he unearthed how much bullshit it was to care about being a part of the civilization he had become so obsessed with impressing. He now saw the absurdity of his previous fixation on being relevant, noticed at a job and in a city where no one was ever going to, primarily because the denizens were never going to look up from their own ambitions and self-involvements. Who was it all about if it wasn’t about oneself?
Dermot was starting to see the answer, and it didn’t lie necessarily in human connections as we’ve been conditioned our whole lives to believe in a society that prides itself on not raising sociopaths. It was about places, impressions and wallowing in complete and utter loneliness. That’s what made a person stronger, indestructible.
As Dermot was floating in the Mediterranean thinking about his newfound philosophy on life (Greece brought out everyone’s inner philosopher, he surmised), he bumped into something–or rather, someone. She was Tempest, a name he still had trouble wrapping his head around when he looked back on their time together. She was, naturally, Australian; they were the only ones ever traveling, after all. And one of the few cultures that could withstand vacationing alone without becoming depressive about it.
With the exchange of one glance and the revelation that they both spoke English, Dermot and Tempest began an unforgettable leg of their tour, one that made each of them remember that yes, in fact, it was truly unbearable to be isolated and detached from human contact–what the fuck were they thinking trying to get by on their own? Incidentally, it was around this point in the journey that Dermot came across a book of Aristotelian aphorisms that included one in particular that just about smacked him right in the face: “Anyone who either cannot lead the common life, or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”
He had encountered men on this voyage who truly believed they were the latter, that they had found the secret to avoiding the complications of work, a permanent residence and the burden of heteronormative relationships. And, for a split second, he was one of those men–without Tempest to remind him of the pleasures of the temporal. In his mind, she was Temporal Tempest, the girl who awakened within him the ability to feel again. She with her Margot Robbie aesthetic and stoic demeanor made him recall why he once strove to be a part of a collective.
Though he had already opted out of his flight roughly two weeks ago, and with it, his job (Americans have no damn understanding of a person’s need for a reprieve), Dermot was beginning to come to the conclusion that he needed to return. New York might not have been much to most people, but it was his home. When he asked Tempest if she wanted to get married and come with him, she declined. “I’ve got a bloke back at home, you see,” she finally admitted.
And even though he was just a fling for Tempest, she would always be much more to him, the defibrillator that shocked him back to a new state of elevated consciousness. There was no inculpability–no avoidance–in escaping from town, in running away. The dramas of being human inevitably persist in creeping back under the skin. Also, he was out of money and needed a new source of income. So maybe the lesson really is: even when you find yourself “immune” to the need for kinship, monetary pressures have a tendency to reel one back in to the world of parties, readings, open mics, after-work drink gatherings, screenings of films, etc.