Boy Meets Girl Without All the Bullshit
“Existentialists Sing Sad Songs,” a short story by Simon Henry Stein
Boy Meets Girl Without All the Bullshit
Existentialists Sing Sad Songs
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy journeys into the underworld on a rescue mission and girl follows boy back to the world of life, but rules designed to exploit human proclivities for “connection” with idealized loved ones cause complications, so generally this is where a cranky local god would intervene or someone would turn into a tree but it doesn’t happen so girl follows boy, except not quite. Boy sings sad song.
Boy meets girl, except not quite. Boy meets boy and/or girl, and/or girl meets girl and/or boy, except not quite. Boys meet boys and girls, girls meet boys and girls, everybody loses everybody because death is a terrifying inevitability though luckily there’s a happy ending in many forms of highly glossy printed/recorded/filmed entertainment. In a fluffy, white, nominally Christian heaven no one ever sings sad songs, and character actors get their wings.
Boy meets/loses girl he never actually “had,” girl meets both girl and boy and loses both but second girl meets and wins heart of other boy, other boy meets/loses yet another girl and after several weeks of depression-related insomnia and emotional lability decides to “pull a Leonard Cohen,” as he tells friends, and disappear to a Buddhist monastery in the foothills of metro Los Angeles; depressed boy’s current whereabouts are still unknown but a cryptic postcard to a friend from boy reports he has “found love, but it’s not what I had thought” and no one knows what he means or cares much. People seeking closure sing sad songs.
Boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy expects to win girl back, boy fails to do so, girl eventually becomes an acclaimed, award-winning actress in elliptical indie films that boy swears never to watch but watches anyway and then expects himself to feel wounded by but is surprised to find he does not. Successful actor’s high school classmates stuck in unfulfilling jobs and prone to romanticizing the film industry sing sad songs.
Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, both brace for complications but things are okay and everyone lives happily ever after, including neighbors and passersby. Acquaintances of boy and girl who aren’t really buying it sing sad songs and sometimes engage in trolling on social media.
Boy meets and loves girl but girl is in love with other girl so boy embarks on elaborate mission to drive wedge of doubt and distrust between girls, girls lose and then, after hijinks, win each other back while boy is involved in bus accident leading to brain injury rendering him unable to love in the romantic sense of the word but endowed with both supernal empathy and psychic ability he uses to game the stock market and fund humanitarian charities; almost everybody lives happily ever after for a while. People involved in bus accidents (ordinarily) sing sad songs and fend off ambulance-chasers, ambulance-chasers stifle any remaining embers of shame and blame socialism and safety standards for decline in business; hijinks ensue and ambulance-chasers sing sad songs that become unlikely but modest Soundcloud rap hits.
Boy meets girl who meets other boy who meets two girls, those girls meet three other boys plus the aforementioned boys and girls and a plastic replica of a Greek statue of Dionysus that can sometimes talk or seem to talk when certain parties are under the influence of certain pharmaceuticals, statue persuades entire coterie of hesitant and confused romantics to visit mysterious island off the coast of Greece where the statue says all will become “clear” but widespread protests over collapse of financial systems in Greece during coterie’s visit hinders quest because island proves inaccessible so everyone complains about “wasting” a vacation and things go downhill as coterie of itchily lovelorn tourists depart for the south of France, which is deemed lovely but not really magical enough to be worth it and consensus is reached that nobody ever really knows what they want or why they want it. Tourists with maxed-out credit cards, persons working subsistence-wage jobs in the tourism industry, and scapegoated public officials sing sad songs.
Boy meets and loses girl but wins back heart of girl, so to speak, and girl and boy begin to entertain nagging anxieties re: what winning someone’s heart means and at what cost and why it always seems to be effort on culturally-agentic boy’s part while girl is mere object so boy and girl conspire for girl to meet/lose second boy and win his heart, but after girl locates second boy, original couple’s well-intentioned but not-well-thought-out plan to ensure loss of boy involving another boy/girl duo hit snag when girl fails to “lose” boy well/completely enough for subsequent heart-winning to be meaningful, intervention is held in which this is explained to patient, generous-in-love boy whose heart was sociocultural test case but much to the consternation of everyone (esp. original boy losing/winning girl and boy half of hired girl/boy couple, whose heart was (accidentally) won by conspiring original girl and ends up losing hired girl) when experimental and plausibly genderfluid boy (no one asks) is informed of heart-winning experiment he doesn’t really mind because of agreement re: basic premise of test regarding gender agency, boy then gives flowery speech re: how a human heart can be available to more than one person and duality is also a social construct, hired/split boy and girl are hella pissed at original boy and girl, hijinks ensue that cause lingering stress beneath original boy and girl’s otherwise happy life together and girl eventually locates experimental boy after sudden death of original boy who “won” her heart, discovers him living in a country villa in the Mexican countryside, happily involved in complex polyamorous relationship he invites grief-stricken but conflicted girl to join; girl declines more out of wanting to save face than out of being weirded out, etc. People overly invested in the allure they hold for others, the power of individual vs. social agency, and how that power/allure can be manipulated sing sad songs, as do people who suffer aneurysms while feeding Mr. Fluff on a cold Tuesday morning before another long day of work.
Boy and girl meet, fall in love, lose/win each other, live happily ever after for a while despite thankless careers in which boy and girl are trapped in order to provide for their three children, two of whom are perfectly nice, but lead both boy and girl to begin to question not just who or what they are or were in love with but the nature and meaning of love itself relative to the formless void of existence; family relocates to remote village in Wales, mean child is maimed by rogue goat, everyone expects to (re)discover the (restorative) power of love in care for maimed child (who recovers but is still kind of a jerk) but fail to do so, boy and girl both disappear separately and without explanation, leaving two nice kids and a jerk alone in remote village to face ambiguous future of unguided, puberty-complicated maturation and eventually launch a successful online marketing consultancy firm selling harvested data on the side; as adults, they are wary of romance (and goats). Existentialists posing as fishing industry workers in a remote village sing sad songs consisting of sea shanty melodies overlain with text borrowed from the work of Victor Frankl, resulting in a New York Times trend piece on existential sea shanties.
Girl meets/loves suspension bridge, discovers she can marry bridge and, with consent of bridge, does so, everyone lives/exists in contentment for a pretty long time even after girl loses job as Elvira impersonator when Elvira-themed restaurant goes under. People (such as evangelical Christians or comedians looking for cheap jokes) easily rankled by the plausibility of the non-normative sing sad songs and/or make cheap jokes.
Girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, boy and girl give up because love is failure and failure is a magnificent but terrifying storm headed in our direction that will surely destroy all we know and hold dear but leave us alive to carry the burden of our lives’ erasures across dark oceans of lifespans, except not quite, because existence demands a certain amount of pragmatism from all but the most untouchably wealthy, who sing songs they believe to be sad but are mostly more redolent of a kind of theatricalized ennui. We should give up, according to the latest statistics, except we never do, not quite.
About the Author
After a weird, boring detour in the southwest and a weird, boring detour in the sciences, Simon Henry Stein has recently returned to writing and composing and currently lives in the midwest.
“Existentialists Sing Sad Songs” is published here by permission of the author, Simon Henry Stein. Copyright © Simon Henry Stein 2018. All rights reserved.