Lit Up
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Lit Up

The L657 Dialog

Part VI: Breaking the Promise of Happiness

Catch up with:

A Brief Intro to the L657 Dialog, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V

Relevant philosophical and theoretical works:

Touching Feeling, by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

The Promise of Happiness, by Sara Ahmed

FADE IN:

EXT. SOMEWHERE QUIET IN BROOKLYN — NOON

The Student and Saussure the Cat walk out of the golden entrance of The Side Door and stand baptized in dim neon light. Everything has changed. The street before them is empty and the bouncer is gone. The sun, hidden by a moth-eaten haze, sits just above the tall rooftops surrounding them. Somewhere in the deep of New York City drums are sounding. A siren sighs in the distance.

SAUSSURE THE CAT
(uncharacteristically
apologetic)

I know I told you that I’d let you jump

if we weren’t successful in our search for answers

about the bottom of the canal, but

I want you to know that I really hope you won’t

because you seem like a well-meaning person

despite the fact that you’ve become some type

of paranoia-loving maniac.

STUDENT

It’s funny how empty all the streets are now.

SAUSSURE THE CAT

They’ll be full again.

STUDENT

I only wanted

to make a difference that mattered for once.

SAUSSURE THE CAT

Let’s go home and get some sleep.

STUDENT
(angry, maybe at himself)

You’re a stray —

who’d let a bag of fleas like you in their bed?

Saussure the Cat head-bumps the Student’s shoe, and the Student pushes him away. Meanwhile, the drums are getting closer. They practically beat on top of the bus stop less than a block away. A marching band suddenly appears, followed by a crowd of protesters carrying posters painted with anatomical designs and catchphrases like “WE GRAB BACK” in bright letters. Many of the protesters wear pink self-knit cat-eared pussy hats, and one of them approaches the Student. She holds a sign that reads “I refuse to be your type of happy!” in one hand and takes the Student by the arm with the other. The protester, AHMED, pulls him into the fray. Saussure the Cat follows, and soon everyone is being swept along in the flood of protesting marchers.

STUDENT

Where are you taking me?

AHMED
(exuberant)

To a better life!

Don’t you see the sea of revolutionaries

that’s flooded down the street? Just look around —

we’re a people pushing past the cracks

in a broken dam, civility be damned

with happily excluded possibilities,

which sought to frame our future in a crisis

as if the failure to defend against

the plot-holes in their ideologies

was ours to shoulder. But the people like us,

who refuse to force a happy face for

the sake of another sunny day in the lives

of men who sit in power and smoke cigars

as loosely wrapped as their reasons for leading us,

are marching in maddening numbers through the streets

to show our solidarity with those

who were forced to live their lives like lucky totems

by circumstances beyond their own control

and to blaze a different trail to failure’s end

where we can be unhappily seeped in

the pleasurable possibilities

and unmoored multiplicities of life.

STUDENT

You remind me of a woman I just met,

and once upon a time I would’ve believed

that it was possible to change the world

by uniting and marching in the streets, but now

it seems to me that maybe you might be

a little paranoid like me — or like

the way I was before I was fired this morning.

AHMED

So you think I’m paranoid?

PROFESSOR

AHMED

Who said that?

SAUSSURE THE CAT

It’s tough to explain.

STUDENT

Yes — I think you are.

SAUSSURE THE CAT

Sorry! We’re having a strange day.

AHMED

Well, I think

that you’re being paranoid — about the presence

of paranoia in our lives. We are

an anti-paranoia people full

of possibilities that know no bounds

in terms of happiness. We’re the unhappy,

the battling brave and free! But we will march

united in our paranoia, if that

is really what you want to call it, comrade,

against the force in our lives that seeks to bind

our joys and hopes to predetermined paths.

That man reclined in the oval office

is not our president, and here we’ll set

a precedent in happiness by erasing

his face from the currency of history

with every step we take along the way.

As Ahmed speaks, the wail of sirens seeping down roads and through alleys grows in strength, and when the marchers turns a corner they meet a police blockade. Thousands of uniformed officers in medieval armor hold their lances in a line. Familiar canons spin on the hoods of SUVs parked like castles across the road. A dark jumbotron has been positioned in the middle of the blockade. The march comes to a stop, and the police speak in many voices.

POLICE

Stop the rioting and go back home.

VOICE OF GOD

Fuck off pigs — they’re protesting in peace.

POLICE

Who has a megaphone?

PROFESSOR

POLICE

Whoever you are

go home already. Can’t you see that we

are sick and tired of standing here? We’ll do

whatever it takes to make you stop

so everyone can finally go to sleep.

AHMED
(yelling at the
policemen)

We’re the unhappy, and we refuse to see

anything less than an open road

full of possibility for all

the people daring to cross the street. Go home

and sleep if that is what you want to do —

we won’t cause any harm. Just let us through!

STUDENT
(to Saussure the Cat)

With all these people marching, the police

might have to listen this time.

SAUSSURE THE CAT

You see! Maybe

paranoia gets you certain places

if what you’re paranoid about is how

to make your way down such a busy street.

PROFESSOR

POLICE

Quiet! Pres. — will soon appear

across the screen to give a speech and send

a message to the protesters who refused

to leave when they were asked. Prepare to be

berated by a loud man who can’t read

anything that’s longer than a tweet,

who single-handedly dismantled all

the most intelligent republicans with

a large and fatherly hand. Turn the screen on!

FADE OUT.

Continue to Part VII

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Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

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Cole Hardman

Cole Hardman

I’m an engineer with a passion for poetry and literary theory.

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