Half Listening – A Short Story

High on hashish and superiority James covered his ears with headphones. He tried to find the right song, so that he could be inspired to fill the pages of his sketchbook. His dormmates were having their same conversation. The one that shuffled back and forth between the breasts of the girl on the third floor who never wore a bra and the meaning of the lyrics of Us Verses Them.

They were in the third month of this conversation. At first the trio seemed a good match when the university crammed them in a small room. They all enjoyed the taste of marijuana over beer and pretended not to care what anyone thought of them when really that was their chief concern. James was sick of their dynamic and so when Phil took a bite of his dark chocolate candy bar and made orgasmic noises James tried to drown him out with the second side of a mixed tape. But the volume was not up all the way. James could still listen in to his roommates’ words.

“I’m thinking of changing my major to Philosophy.” said Phil

“There’s a big job market in that field.” said brian.

“There probably is. The class sizes are all really small. I probably wouldn’t have that much competition if I wanted to be a professor.”

“Is it a lot of work?”

“We do things we’d do anyway. Read a lot of obscure writers and discuss the big questions of the day.”

“Like what?”

“Probably, the biggest question is what is freedom.”

“Bullshit.” James called out from beneath his headphones.

“It’s true,” Phil said with the experience of living with someone whose attention span flowed with the wind. “All the top dogs have been writing about it.”

“Whatever. The big question is and always will be, what’s it all about.”

“It’s all about the benjamins.” Brian blurted.

“What’s life all about? What’s the point of it all? That is, was, and always will be the biggest question of the day.”

“That’s true.” Phil said as he took another bite of chocolate. “But it’s through more specific questions that we find a framework to discuss your bigger issues. Like if we can figure out—”

Phil went on, but James paid more attention to the drum beat of the song. The rhythm change always got him.


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