Two German sculptors sit side by side. After dinner, under the gazebo, one says to the other that the word “gazebo” derives from the Greek. He’s certain of it. They both nod. I’m curious, so I go inside to look it up, and announce gazebo’s origin is actually “uncertain.” Both disagree with the dictionary immediately. One even waves her hands at me, dismissively. Two stubborn Saxon minds. Two wunderkinds from Hamburg go back to stare at the stars. Back when cavemen could still smoke in bars, I’d care about the distinction of manners; it would tear my soul away from this holy-turned-cheek. And just to myself, I think “gazebo” has got to be French or Italian—for why would the Greeks lay a second gaze to, let alone give a name to, some wood pavillion with raised legs? Did they even have carpenters then? But tonight, in Jesus Christ’s name, I stay silent. We sit outside—me and two German sculptors, who gaze at each other Romantically, stuck somewhere in the Romantic age, and I drink their Riesling wine with religious certainty.
I am eating dinner with a confident young man. He’s composed the music for his own novel. He plays selections each night in his friends’ apartment, and yearns for the times of court poets. In Shakespeare’s time, he would ignore the corner contortionist, the bear tied to trees for the dogs to eat. As a child, his mother would whisper to him on the piano bench, You’re the best, some day you shall grow up to be king! He deals with today’s eyesores with stacks of German philosophy. These books have told him to carry a stick with him at all times. In the Fall, he will go to Amherst, Massachusetts, and enroll in a creative writing program. He points his stick at me, and it pinches the skin against my cotton shirt. He tells me he prefers belief over action, tortoise over hare, product over fancy. And I sit there in my chair, in the United States of America, a brash country that dies and dies. And in Jesus Christ’s name, I hold my tongue. I do not pee in his baseball cap. Instead, I listen to him, think about the dogwoods that flower outside, and give him tips on television programs worth watching.