"I used to be a person," he said with the full affectation of a long cigarette drag and a far off stare, "But now..?"
He waved thought away and ashed his cigarette. The cafe was noisy for a Tuesday. I don't know what happened. I remembered books and espressos, but now it was lattes and laptops, a constant buzz of skype deals and phone interviews. We were an island of anachronisms adrift, if not vulnerable, to these alien swells of change.
And that was about all we had in common, for I could not understand what he was talking about.
"So, you're what now, a cat?" I asked.
His chuckle was perfunctory and heartless, as if all his soul was puffed through the tobacco, burned and blackened and tapped into the bottom of the ash tray.
"I mean, of course I'm human," he said, "But that is merely a biological fact. A chair is always a chair, but only sometimes a throne."
He looked at me with steely brown eyes. Normally I would write them as tanned, tawny, chestnut. But these were fierce, beady, maybe piercing.
"A person is not a biological fact. More like a social construct."
"You've been deconstructed? Dethroned?"
He nodded vigorously, "Yes. That's it. A person is self possessed. Autonomous."
"And you're not?"
He shook his head.
"Not since Miasma In Fugue."
I looked down at my notepad. Human/Person, throne = toilet??, coffee and cigarettes, a cliche in the hands of a master. The interview was not going well.
"You're not saying you're washed up, are you?"
"I didn't say that," he stubbed the cigarette. His face was gaunt and shrunken. One might mistake it for an illness, or vegetarianism, but I believed it was another affectation, a hunger, the pretension of something eating at him.
"I'm not sure this is what your publicist wanted us to talk about," I relented. Not enough in the notepad for even a hit piece.
"A publicist isn't a person either--just an extension of a brand."
"And what does that make you?"
He pursed his lips and nodded his head to one side. Taking a pack of cigarettes from his breast pocket, he banged it five or six times before choosing one and lighting it with a match. Matches--another anachronism.
"I am an extension of Miasma. Before it, I was an up and coming artist. After, Miasma is famous--I merely ride it's coat tails."
I looked at him with decidedly unjournalistic expression.
“Once, I was a person who paid rent, bought coffee, cigarettes,” he held up half a butt as evidence, “Now I am a brooding genius or craven charlatan, depending on the critic. The byproduct of a ‘triumph.’”
“So you’re concerned with celebrity?”
He shrugged and stubbed out the second cigarette.
“No. Nothing so vapid. It is not about a sex tape or paparazzi,” he took a sip of his iced cold brew. Perhaps even antiques can be dragged into he new world, “It is more like knowing that the first line of your obituary has already been written, before you’re done. Before you’re ready to die.”
I looked at my notebook again. Coat tails, extensions, sex tape.
“You sure you don’t want to talk about,” I gave a sly look to my notes, “Effervescent Folly?”
“Will your first line be about Maxwell, famous for Miasma In Fugue?”
I would have crossed it out if I had written it. Better "Maxwell, prisoner of ego." He snorted at my silence, took out a third cigarette and looked out at the sidewalk as he smoked. I was once again conscious of the digital din surrounding us and all the syrup based drinks. I sipped my coffee--it had seemed exotic to order it so plain. It had grown cold. Another victim of entropy. So it goes with warm drinks, young artists, and the stars in the sky.
“Is it really so bad?” I wanted to know.
He shook his head.
“A gilded cage, to be sure, but it’s like being a prisoner nonetheless.”