By Jim Tully
Originally published in The Smart Set, Dec. 1923.
Life, to me, is a mirror, moved three times by a transfer company. Every time a fellow tries to adjust it, he cracks it again.
There was a day when I worried a great deal about life. I accept it now. It is interesting, confusing, heartbreaking and bewildering. I have watched my ideals shrivel up like daisies under an African moon. I have loved women, and have watched them pass to other men and other dreams. More deceitful even than myself, and more subtle, they are now crooning the age-old songs in less sophisticated ears than mine. And the ears flap in joy and wonder. On the boobery of man floats the ego of the world.
I never did believe in God. I had it all figured out when I was still quite young. And, as a rule, I don’t like clergymen—those puffers of platitudes while little children are hungry.
I have never believed in “working myself up” to any certain position. If one is clever, one gets by. If one isn’t—what matter?
As a boy in a small Ohio town, I was a magnificent drunkard. I have reformed since. Volstead and others were conniving to poison me. I believe in life, though; for there are a few things I should hate to leave. Meaning—
A white and blue dappled sea under the light of the moon—a woman with brains—and a heart— A woman who thinks that I am a real writer—and that barring accident—I may not die with a knot under my left ear, but live to a troubled old age. For Irish dreamers are always troubled.
My beliefs are—vague and confusing. My sympathy is strong—and useless.
My heart goes out to the Wobblies—head-battered and bloody, facing the shrapnel of economic wars. I admire the miniature overalled Dantons who scream like the mad French eagle—”We must dare, and again dare, and forever dare!”
I do not admire Judge Gary—suave believer in God, the Bible, and the twelve-hour day.
Now and then, when driven into a corner, Life slamming me all the while with lead in his gloves, I ache for a solace. So I turn to the woman mentioned a few lines above. But I have forgotten. She has left me since I began writing these lines.
I have been a pagan all my life. Yet—I like Christ, the Agitator. The cross must have hurt His shoulder. I have heard since that a nail of it stuck near His heart. A Jew friend of mine, a pawnbroker, told me about the nail. He believes in reincarnation. He was the fellow who handed Christ the sponge dipped in the bitter stuff. I believe his story at that. For he buys trinkets from old women with shawls on their heads. And he cheats them. He thinks his fellow pawnbroker, Jurgen, was the name of a modified milk.
However, I have always felt sorry for Christ. Out of twelve chosen friends—two double-crossed Him. And the rest of them probably garbled His words. One should not choose friends among fishermen.
Just what does life mean to me? I don’t know. Fame is merely the prolonging of neighborhood gossip. Money—my happiest days were spent—broke—under the stars—a youthful hobo. Drink—damn Volstead! Men and women are only interesting when they’re drunk. I mean the interesting ores. The rest are terrible at all times. They bore me—like attending an Artists’ Ball in Greenwich Village.
I have lived greatly in my time, “touched flowers and furs and cheeks,” and I have never met a man who was not a hypocrite. As I bulge my way up the ladder, though, I meet men who admit it. That helps.
My dream: a brown-skinned maiden on a still purple and yet undiscovered island. I have had everything else, I think. I would never run away from her as Frederick O’Brien did. Fred is a poor Irishman.