Lydia Davis — Samuel Johnson is Indignant

Boring Friends
We know only four boring people. The rest of our friends we find very interesting. However, most of the friends we find interesting find us boring: the most interesting find us the most boring. The few who are somewhat in the middle, with whom there is reciprocal interest, we distrust: at any moment, we feel, they may become too interesting for us, or we too interesting for them.

from Blind Date
"I was fifteen or sixteen, I guess," she said. "I was home from boarding school. Maybe it was summer. I don't know where my parents were. They were often away. They often left me alone there, sometimes for the evening, sometimes for weeks at a time. The phone rang. It was a boy I didn't know. He said he was a friend of a boy from school—I can't remember who. We talked a little and then he asked me if I wanted to have dinner with him. He sounded nice enough so I said I would, and we agreed on a day and a time and I told him where I lived."


"Well, when the day came, I didn't want to go out to dinner with this boy. I just didn't want the difficulty of this date. It scared me—not because there was anything scary about the boy but because he was a stranger, I didn't know him. I didn't want to sit there face-to-face in some restaurant and start from the very beginning, knowing nothing. It didn't feel right. And there was the burden of that recommendation—'Give her a try.'

"Then again, maybe there were other reasons. Maybe I had been alone in that apartment so much by then that I had retreated into some kind of inner, unsociable space that was hard to come out of. Maybe I felt I had disappeared and I was comfortable that way and did not want to be forced back into existence. I don't know.

"At six o'clock, the buzzer rang. The boy was there, downstairs. I didn't answer it. It rang again. Still I did not answer it. I don't know how many times it rang or how long he leaned on it. I let it ring..."


"What was strange was how awful this felt. I was treating a person like a thing. And I was betraying not just him but something larger, some social contract. When you knew a decent person was waiting downstairs, someone you had made an appointment with, you did not just not answer the buzzer. What was even more surprising to me was what I felt about myself in that instant. I was behaving as though I had no responsibility to anyone or anything, and that made me feel as though I existed outside society, some kind of criminal, or didn't exist at all. I was annihilating myself even more than him. It was an awful violation."

Mir the Hessian
Mir the Hessian regretted killing his dog, he wept even as he forced its head from its body, yet what had he to eat but the dog? Freezing in the hills, far away from everyone.

Mir the Hessian cursed as he knelt on the rocky ground, cursed his bad luck, cursed his company for being dead, cursed his country for being at war, cursed his countrymen for fighting, and cursed God for allowing it all to happen. Then he started to pray: it was the only thing left to do. Alone, in midwinter.

Mir the Hessian lay curled up among the rocks, his hands between his legs, his chin on his breast, beyond hunger, beyond fear. Abandoned by God.

The wolves had scattered the bones of Mir the Hessian, carried his skull to the edge of the water, left a tarsus on the hill, dragged a femur into the den. After the wolves came the crows, and after the crows the scarab beetles. And after the beetles, another soldier, alone in the hills, far away from everyone. For the war was not yet over.
Previously by Lydia Davis: Break it Down, Almost No Memory

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