Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

The Hubris Narcotic

Chuang Zhe Quan
Oct 9 · 4 min read

Alfred always felt uncomfortable in drinking parties so he kept his head low and appeared to be deep in thought… He sat among twenty people or so, all who were drinking, shouting and flailing their arms inside a dimly lit restaurant. His company had just finished organising an event so they were celebrating.

Alfred felt uncomfortable. Not because of the rowdy atmosphere, but because for once, he was no longer in the centre of attention. His hubris was big such that he always wanted to be the “special” one. But he knew intoxicated people never give their attention to anyone else, only themselves, that he knows very well. Many times he wanted to just pick up the bottle but Nietzsche told him that alcohol is a narcotic and forbids him from drinking it. He wants to always be in control of himself, his ego wouldn’t allow him to lose control and risk embarrassing himself. So, he pretends to enter into deep thought, hoping to stand out among the mindless crowd.

“Why don’t you drink?” Benjamin asked. “Oh.” Alfred was caught by surprise, “it’s just a personal philo — ” But before Alfred could finish his sentence, Benjamin turned away, down a glass of wine and exhaled with joyous relief, as though he immediately lost interest in Alfred. That irritated Alfred. Benjamin had tricked him into thinking that his pretense actually worked. Alfred goes back to putting on the facade of being in deep thought, while in his mind cursing Benjamin.

Not long after, he had to vent his irritation. He stared at the group with pitiless eyes of scorn, but also with a certain condescending eagerness. He wanted to see the stupid acts men put themselves through when their impulses have been uninhibited. So he just observed from a distance while they huddled together, clinking glasses, chanting, shouting, acts what Alfred would associate with cavemen discovering fire. At one point, he was confused, “Why are they so happy? The cause for celebration is dismal. It seems like they were just looking for an excuse to not look like alcoholics to each other,” he mutters under his breath, “bunch of druggies.”

Their conversations blasted through the restaurant. All the noise pierced Alfred’s ears so he decided to muffle everything by shifting all mental capacities to his eyes. He mind-numbingly observed their mouths moving which seemed incongruous to the ambient noise. They looked like they were merely mouthing their words while being immersed in a terribly muffled background. To him, they looked foolish. Intoxicated people always think that they are larger than life. They think their words are gospel, their acts sacred, their demeanour worthy of worship, but through the eyes of a third party, a group of them just look like a bunch of mutes trying to speak, fruitlessly trying to gain each other’s attention.

To him, they have lost all control over their own actions. Wherever their compulsions bring them, they follow, like dust in the wind. Shortly after, Alfred got tired of looking at them and left the shop to catch some fresh air, away from the horrid smell of alcohol.

Upon opening the restaurant door, a cool gush of air hits his face, immediately refreshing him. Away from all the noise, he found some serenity staring at the adjacent buildings that were all colourfully lit with bright neon lights of nightlife. At the corner of his eye, he noticed people in the adjacent restaurant were looking at him, so he crossed his arms, shifted his eyes up, and put on the appearance that he was in deep thought. But his mind was blank.

“What are you thinking about?” Benjamin slurred perfunctorily as he pushed the restaurant door open and swung his right arm heavily over Alfred’s shoulder. This annoyed Alfred greatly because his sophisticated image was being broken by Benjamin’s tottering and clumsiness. He forcefully clicked his tongue and used his right shoulder to shrug Benjamin’s arm off, stepped forward, trying to distance himself from him. He knew Benjamin couldn’t care less about him and merely wants him to join the “dark” side. “None of your business.” Alfred said with discernible irritation and Benjamin caught on. “What’s your problem, you pretentious prick? You think not drinking makes you special huh? Mr. Special Boy. No one gives a shit about you,” Benjamin yelled but his drunker stupor caused his words to bleed into each other such that they were barely comprehensible. But Alfred understood and Benjamin’s blunt words stabbed him like the sharpest knife. “Fuck off!” he retorted. He charged towards Benjamin and with the rage of a thousand bulls, pushed him so hard that his head slammed against the restaurant door, leaving a trail of blood as his unconscious body slid down. People screamed.

Alfred’s colleagues rushed out of the restaurant and were startled by the bloody mess Alfred left. Some screamed in horror, some were rendered speechless, some explosively confronted Alfred, some called for help. This scene aroused in Alfred, anarchy, anarchy that he created. Amidst the chaos, he found bliss because once again, he was the centre of attention. It was refreshing after all that mind numbing shenanigans in the restaurant. Nothing else mattered. He smiled through the harsh blows one of his colleagues bombarded him with, through the piercing cries of the crowd, through the thought that he just murdered his colleague. Nothing could beat this euphoria of being the centre of attention. It didn’t matter what was directed towards him, as long as it is directed towards him. His hubris was satisfied, like a dry well suddenly filled with rainwater from a monsoon. That was his narcotic. No matter how ephemeral, it granted Alfred immense fulfilment, such that even before he meets death, he sits down sighs a sense of relief as a syringe filled with lethal fluid pierced his forearm and thought, “The things I would give up to relive that moment.”

Our hubris is the strongest narcotic.

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