‘How long have you been travelling?’ he asks.
‘Oh about 8 years all up now.’ replies Dave with his characteristic slight wave of the hand holding a beer.
There’s a pause. ‘Have you ever thought about living a decent life?’ Corporate yells over the din of the crowded bar.
‘Decent?’ checks Dave. ‘Decent?’ checks I. A nod and a blink.
A look passes between us both. It had been a 2-way conversation with me the awkward sort of glue, being responsible as I was for introducing two men I didn’t realize at the time are polar opposites of each other. It was a nice sort of discussion to this point.
But now it’s war. Dave and I against the Turtle.
‘A decent life?’ Dave begins… ‘With a house, and a car, possibly a wife. A job and a boss?’
‘Working 8 to 6.’ I offer. ‘Maybe a corner office in a decade.’
‘Incremental wage increases. 4 weeks of holiday a year.’
Enthusiastic nods from the bar.
‘Like the life 97% of the rest of the world live?’ concludes Dave. ‘Yeah… no.’
This is Dave’s world, the conversations about what is normal and what is not. 24 year-old Baldy has no chance, you can’t argue about convention until you’ve lived outside of it.
‘You make compromises either way,’ shrugs Dave, ‘I had your life in a way, the house, a job, a cat….’
‘I hate cats,’
‘Perhaps a dog then. Or a snake…’ Dave proposes how long – or short – the snake might be, with his hands. ‘And now I live without all that, which means I compromise on a solid base, a familiar social circle, I don’t know where money comes from next.
But I wouldn’t change it, because if I have the house and the job and the snake I compromise on freedom, on the time I need to make the most of life, on the ability to accept all opportunities when they come along. I choose the most important things for me, if I lived your life it wouldn’t be decent… What do you think?’
He opens his mouth but no sounds come out. We wait.
It comes eventually, as does wet concrete through a straw. Sparky explains how wonderfully free his job is because as long as he meets his sales targets They don’t care what he does.
“So…” I summarise, “As long you do what someone else tell you to do, they don’t give a shit about you?”
More enthusiastic nods.
And I’m only halfway through the white wine he bought me just a few minutes before. I was once told to be bought a drink is His opportunity for a conversation. The longer you take to drink it, the longer the conversation.
Better hop to it.
Now he’s tallying up his travels and wild adventures. In bars with women and a corporate credit card.
‘And have you ever tested yourself?’ nudges Dave, clearly referring to the act of pushing your personal limits.
‘Yes and I’m totally clean.’ This declaration is made pointedly at me. I snort on a mouthful of Sauvignon and then have to drop my head to my lap, hiding my face with my hair as he continues. ‘I tested myself just two months ago. I don’t have HIV or anything…’
Dave’s doing a much better job of controlling himself. I catch his eye through my tears of laughter as he agrees I’m probably very happy about that.
Just, honestly, can’t drink this glass of wine fast enough.