As we walked away from the party, I realized everyone was getting high except Joy. She was sober, shockingly sober. She was watching everyone, like a feral cat, searching for an incoherent mouse. I felt these thoughts like electricity at the back of my brain and the hairs on my neck stood up, tingling with high voltage.
What do you think of that girl?” I asked.
“Dangerous,” Johnson said.
“Are we out of earshot?”
“Your name frequently comes up over professorial chitchat. Teachers have restless minds. They want to know what is happening in other departments; who is sleeping with whom; useless information that will get them through their day.”
“I wouldn’t think philosophy professors to be the type,” Johnson said.
“Philosophers are desperate people who have trouble believing in anything. That’s why they think you are intriguing.”
“Really?” Johnson asked.
“Yes; they heard that you aren’t married at 45, despite being financially well-off and independent. You don’t believe in anything, at least that is what they say. And your wealth is tied up in assets that can’t be managed by the state or repossessed by the banks.”
You hear a lot; it’s mostly true, I admit,” Johnson said. “I try to keep to myself, but I have become the big man on campus. Strange how that works.” He said this like it wasn’t strange; like he had come to expect all things not to make sense.
“Then, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you the way you are?”
“Life is filled with countless traps. Money can trap you. Marriage can trap you. Beliefs can trap you. I make freedom the focal point of my life.”
“But isn’t your life empty?”
“It is, but not in the way you think. Most people fill their lives with things to make them feel better. They adopt new ideas, new hobbies, new relationships…I’ve come to realize all of these are a waste of time.”
“But aren’t you depressed?”
“No. I have all the money, time, and energy in the world. The best part of dreams is they transcend our self-imposed limitations. I am living in a dream.”
“What do you think about that girl back there?”
“She’s a killer. Maybe not in the literal sense, but she’s capable of destroying what a man holds dear. She’s already getting to you.”
“How do you know?”
“I know when the feminine influence falls on a man; he stops being rational.”