Today I intend to document how the middle-aged, physically fit and balding Tully Lieberman lived in a house on the very edge of the city. It goes without saying that such a description could befall a hundred other citizens, except Tully Lieberman was, perhaps, the greatest example of a detached citizen I ever came across. Yes, there was a terrific sense of anomie with Mr. Lieberman which pervaded throughout his long life and caused a great many problems to arise. Most notably, a great upheaval was endured when one morning Mr. Lieberman received a phone call from his lifelong landlady Ms. Tangerine, a married woman of some renown in the city.
Mr. Lieberman answered the phone with the usual politeness, except there too was an irritated twang to his vowels because he was just about to head out the door to work. Already, his landlady was saying she wanted to sell the very house Mr. Lieberman was living in! But why on earth would she want to do that? Well, Ms. Tangerine’s husband believed their own house to be too small, it required an enlargement, so the idea was to exchange the physical asset of Mr. Lieberman’s house for the gaseous asset of capital so as to begin the lengthy extensions on the Tangerine home.
Now, Mr. Lieberman had absolutely no idea that his landlady was married. He was outraged and figured there’d be a list a mile long of other things he didn’t know about Ms. Tangerine, who had always referred to herself as Ms. Tangerine and never, ever, Mrs. Tangerine…And as for the Tangerine homestead being too small for Mr. Tangerine’s liking, well, where had this come from? The answer was that things came up sometimes and needed to be dealt with. It needed to be done and the only way to do it was by removing the Tully Lieberman element from Mr. Lieberman’s house.
Oh, folly!—Except, truly, Mr. Lieberman knew about as much as the ramifications of this turn of events as the sun knew about making ice cubes.
What would happen now?
And Mr. Lieberman was a kind man who was middle-aged, a gentleman who was physically fit, a noble individual who was losing his hair. He calculated privately in those moments on the phone with Ms. Tangerine, who really was Mrs. Tangerine, that his collaborating with her in this instance would not be a surrender or an acceptance; he’d never engaged in combat with Ms. Tangerine, nor was he in any position to categorically deny what his landlady had said.
He’d give her his notice then; so that month’s rent would be the final rent owed to Ms. Tangerine.
Indeed, Ms. Tangerine agreed only to give Mr. Lieberman two months’ notice in her capacity as his landlady. This confused Mr. Lieberman to no end. It was the beginning of March, so would he need to be out of the property by the end of March, or by the beginning of April? Ah, well, both and neither he was informed! Ms. Tangerine was happy for him to move out either in March or in April!—A moment of silence followed, so solemn, so misunderstood, and Ms. Tangerine added that the “estate agency” would be arranging viewings for Mr. Lieberman’s property. He’d be notified in advance if a viewing would be going ahead.
Naturally, Mr. Lieberman assumed his landlady knew these people from the estate agency. But she then explained that any such assumption was ludicrous! Ha! No, no, Ms. Tangerine would have zero control over these viewings. In fact, she’d much rather let this estate agency compile a list of applications from every person who wished to see Mr. Lieberman’s house, then she’d comb through them and pick the “best candidate”. But surely if the purpose of her selling Mr. Lieberman’s house was to generate capital, then it would be far better to do the whole thing on a first-come-first-served basis? Why not give the house to whoever wanted to purchase it first? Because this course of action would be unfair, Ms. Tangerine maintained, it would go against every single principle she bravely adhered to. Except the whole thing was unfair, though, wasn’t it? In the long and varied history of the planet Earth, there’d never been a tenant whose primary purpose was to find a landlord. This delightful conversation was brought to a staggered end when Ms. Tangerine suggested that Mr. Lieberman not think “too hard about the whole thing”. Especially now that he needed to find a new property in a month!—Or was it two months? Ms. Tangerine had given Mr. Lieberman two months’ notice, but she had also said that it didn’t matter!—“You see, I’ve forgotten already!” Ms. Tangerine believed this proved her point. In any case, Mr. Lieberman had been a terrific tenant—if somewhat middle-aged, physically fit, and balding—and Ms. Tangerine wished him all the best in his property search and hung up.
You work two desks down from my office. Your feet are large and obtrusive. Your eyes are dull and overly perceptive, to my mind. Your lunch breaks are taken outside the building and suspicious as a result. I offer you everything and you take it. Put simply: Your job is on the line, Mr. Lieberman, and you must earn your keep like everyone else.
Honeste vivere—do you live in a morally upright manner? Your pencils are too sharp, your pens are too wet, your face is too bright. No, no, no.
Neminem laedere—do you refrain from harming others? You work in the finest accountancy firm in the city and you live outside the city. This is no good.
Suum cuique tribuere—do you render to each what they deserve? That is, do you bequeath to others what they are due? You think you are kind; you think you are morally upright; you think you render each person, even your boss (me) with what they are due, except this could not be further from the truth! The truth is what is at stake here, Mr. Lieberman. And you are not preoccupied with the truth. The truth is that you are a lowly pathetic employee and yet you would feign the truth!
Hermann Coquillion, DMC, MMA, ILY.
P.S. Driving Me Crazy, Making Me Angry, I Loathe You
Oh, horror! Horror! What a dastardly letter Mr. Lieberman received from his boss that day! Taking the long walk back to his house on the edge of the city that letter, those words, filled his skull with a spiritual loam of such enormity that not even his large and obtrusive feet could break free entirely from the moody shackles they imposed. What a terrible day he’d had: he’d been accused of being lazy, beating employees with sticks, defecating adjacent to the toilet, smelling bad, all of which was untrue! Of course, it was untrue! There wasn’t a spot of truth in any of these accusations! Yet his boss Mr. Coquillion had the temerity to sermonize at length on the importance of veracity, the light-bearing faculties of truth…
Where did all this leave Mr. Lieberman amidst his search for a new property, though? Mr. Lieberman remembered how Immanuel Kant had died after somebody brought him something to drink. His last words were, “Es ist gut,” but if anything, this pointed to Kant’s being poisoned! Mr. Lieberman had reached the awkward decision—as he walked through the front door, removed his shoes, put the kettle on—that he would move out at the end of March. As Kant had outlined there was positive freedom and negative freedom, complete autonomy, and independence from alien causes. Thus, in his finding a replacement property straight away he would be forced to exercise his autonomy, which, Mr. Lieberman thought, indicated complete autonomy. He also set aside a large amount of money to do this, since Mr. Lieberman was not a poor man. This way he could afford to pay the requisite deposit for the replacement property and the first months’ rent for the replacement property. Like Kant, he began to look.
After scanning through advertisements here and there Mr. Lieberman found what he believed to be an appropriate replacement property. It was represented by The Helpful Agency and Mr. Lieberman called their number. Unfortunately, his inquiry was cut off by an estate agent who said that the property was “no longer on the market”. Why hadn’t it been removed from the property listings, then? Well, this was a simple question with a simple answer: all listings for The Helpful Agency were managed at the sales office and not the lettings office to whom Mr. Lieberman was speaking at that time. This didn’t make any sense to our hero, alas, who complained, complained, complained. So, the estate agent apologized over the phone, suggested they start again, then asked for “some details” about Mr. Lieberman—“What details?”
“Oh, just a few details.”—Mr. Lieberman provided his name, his phone number, his address, and a thinly veiled sentiment of confusion to boot. The estate agent gasped! For, a property had appeared that seemed to satisfy the criteria Mr. Lieberman had set out!
“What criteria?” But this was a silly question; surely, it was of far more importance to know that said property was in the city? More than that, it had a front door and running water! In all honesty—for honesty is always at stake in housing situations—Mr. Lieberman was happy that he was being granted a viewing at all. There would be a viewing for “House A” that afternoon, except Mr. Lieberman would be at work during that time. Oh, confound his never-ending schedule! Moreover, it was the only viewing for House A; and there would be no further viewings as The Helpful Agency was adamant that there be but one viewing that afternoon.
Mr. Lieberman’s affairs did not concern the estate agent, his propensity for negative freedom notwithstanding. Rather, his affairs concerned the lettings office with whom he continued to speak. The estate agent believed this to be an excellent point, a most excellent point, except the only viewing for House A would take place that afternoon and there was nothing in the estate agent’s power in the seven galaxies, the six moons, the five planets, the four kingdoms, the three cities, the two towns, the one replacement property available that would alter this fact.
Fine, fine, Mr. Lieberman agreed; housing situations made Nazi Germany look agreeable. He’d have to do it during his lunch break. And, as it turned out, he did do it on his lunch break that day and arrived at the viewing of House A. He discerned a line of ten people stretching from the front door to where he was standing. He gave a verbal nudge to the pock-marked woman in front of him enquiring if this, indeed, was the viewing for House A.
And thank the Lord, it was! But should Mr. Lieberman cut in line he’d be banned from the viewing altogether. Our middle-aged, physically fit and balding hero had underestimated how popular House A was and the pock-marked woman described her state as being “unenlightened” and precisely at that moment an estate agent from The Helpful Agency exited House A with a very tall hermaphrodite individual and shook their hand, which sealed the deal. Without hesitation, the remaining nine people plus Mr. Lieberman shook their heads, walked away, and lit cigarettes hoping the deal might fall through. He remembered how the AGM model assumed that a person who had certain beliefs believed also in the logical consequences of those beliefs. Belief, then, could be represented by a consistent set of sentences. Except Mr. Lieberman didn’t really believe in anything. And his sentences were anything but consistent.
Mr. Lieberman asked the pock-marked woman what she intended to do, she explained her penchant for independent landlords, then spoke a little about Proudhon’s idea of “world federalism”. Not only had an independent landlord forced Mr. Lieberman’s presence that day he maintained, but an independent landlord had also singlehandedly wasted his lunch break. “Independent or not,” the pock-marked woman said, “your place will sell. Probably to a person who’s only in it half the year.”—Oh, the injustice! Yes, this was a predictable and irritating path Mr. Lieberman was headed down. He would try The Trusting Agency instead, but the pock-marked woman warned him that The Helpful Agency had forbidden her to use The Trusting Agency for the reason that they couldn’t be trusted.
Really? Was that true? For, in Mr. Lieberman’s booking a viewing with The Trusting Agency, The Trusting Agency had forbidden him to use The Helpful Agency for the reason that they weren’t helpful in the least. (This warning came rather late, as you can imagine.) So, what did all this matter? It was useless comparing one agency to another agency and listening to what one agency thought about another agency—No, only a fool would do such things…Would it not be justified to argue, however, that every estate agency in the world had at one point been a part of one originary agency? Hell’s bells! Poppycock!
“You’re weird,” the pock-marked woman said; and walked away.
Seeing as he was living in a closed society as opposed to an open society Mr. Lieberman looked at his watch—He was late for work! He sprinted back to the office where he faced the foaming wrath of Mr. Coquillion who made sure the follies of Mr. Lieberman were on show for every employee to see.
Mr. Lieberman was spat upon by Mr. Coquillion, whipped, verbally sullied, patronized, destroyed. But the reality was much worse…
Mr. Lieberman survived Mr. Coquillion’s onslaught and woke up the following morning knowing he had a house viewing to attend. He dressed in a set of clothes he’d never worn before and was about to begin to walk into the city when a ding was emitted by his laptop. It was an email from The Trusting Agency, which read:
To Whom It May Concern Alias Tully Lieberman:
Good morning, Mr. Lieberman. You may recall some time ago that The Trusting Agency instructed you write a character biography to help the landlord of House B determine your eligibility for House B, but after you emailed your character biography to the landlord of House B, he read it and thought things over and decided that your character biography made him more concerned than calm, more frightened than loving, more nervous than contented, for, what you provided in your character biography constituted a dearth of information so he couldn’t reach any proper conclusions about your eligibility for House B and wants a better delineation of your circumstances, that is to say, whether you are married or homosexual or expecting a raise or a promotion or if you’ll be alone in House B, because these details are important and he’d like you to supply some photographs of your current property as well to aid in his ascertaining your eligibility for House B, so I really cannot overemphasize how important these new additions are to what will be your new and improved character biography which the landlord of House B would like this afternoon at the latest so your chances of renting House B at all and being eligible therefore are neither jeopardized nor exasperated.
With Great Trust,
The Trusting Agency
With an unprecedented gnashing of teeth Mr. Lieberman re-wrote his character biography to resemble the less fatuous parts of The Recognitions by William Gaddis and explained that he didn’t have the time or the equipment to photograph his own apartment and emailed his response to The Trusting Agency. He walked out into the rain.
It was a shame Vilfredo Pareto didn’t accompany Mr. Lieberman to the city for his investigations into residues would have been exceptionally helpful as the heavy rainfall collected in soggy blotches all along Mr. Lieberman’s body turning him into an aggregate of residues. He was totally soaked by the time he reached the property. He also was worried by the manner in which he’d managed to undertake the viewing of House B at all, that is, by taking the day off work which lifted his boss Mr. Coquillion to even greater levels of rancour.
Couched between two moderate buildings on the peak of an incline was a patch of grass all to itself on which House B sat like a treefrog in a desert. It had tiny windows, a tiny slate roof, in the middle of the building were tiny steps leading up to a tiny door. “Adorable!” Mr. Lieberman announced despite his wetness. “I feel so much better now!” for, the rivulets of hope had begun to run down his body both metaphorically and literally. He stood for a time like Aenesidemus with ataraxia’s serene peace of mind and epochē’s suspension of judgement. It would have bettered Mr. Lieberman if he had been a little more sceptical, alas…
A car bearing The Trusting Agency’s logo parked itself in the tiny driveway. The door did not open for a long time, then an estate agent stepped out with her umbrella. Her name was Ms. Knox, she gave Mr. Lieberman a look of contempt, hatred, and low opinion. She moved closer to Mr. Lieberman, so Mr. Lieberman moved closer to her. This alarmed her and she stepped backward slightly, and Mr. Lieberman was upset and confused as she began to reverse altogether and move to get back in the car. Mr. Lieberman called after her: She was looking for Tully Lieberman, surely? Indeed, she was, but it had become apparent that Mr. Lieberman was an untrustworthy man who more importantly did not trust Ms. Knox. Except he did trust her, didn’t he? He’d walked all that way and welcomed the car with The Trusting Agency logo. Ms. Knox was having none of this; if he didn’t trust her then they would not be able to proceed with Mr. Lieberman’s application.
More to the point, Ms. Knox had been “charged with informing” Mr. Lieberman that the landlord for House B had been unsettled, made anxious, put on edge by his character biography and regarded the lack of photography with disgust and found Mr. Lieberman to be a “repellent worm”.
The landlord for House B was a wealthy man, a man of rank qualities, august intention, acclaimed, famed, and admired throughout the city for his generosity and goodwill to mankind, a man who was pleased always by satisfied criteria and displeased always by unsatisfied criteria, yet here in the form of Mr. Lieberman was a pinhead determined to demean The Trusting Agency’s belief in trust as well as all proofs of trust, for these were things they took very seriously—“Do you take The Trusting Agency seriously?”
Mr. Lieberman responded by saying he wanted to resolve this dispute inside House B as it was raining even heavier and he might catch flu if some intervention wasn’t made. Oh, so there was a disagreement, then? He did not deny there was a disagreement between himself, Ms. Knox, and The Trusting Agency as a whole. Except what had transpired was a misunderstanding and not a disagreement—“That is the same thing, Mr. Lieberman,” he was assured.
Mr. Lieberman, our middle-aged, physically fit, and balding hero, demanded he be let into House B. It was claimed that this was a terrible idea, for it would suggest that Ms. Knox trusted Mr. Lieberman when she felt nothing of the sort. Could you pin down trust as you could good, evil, lust, and love? Could you feel it? Trust was not a case for ataraxia as trust didn’t offer peace of mind so much as it offered insurance, and the insurance business is a ghastly one. And trust wasn’t a case for epochē either since suspending your judgement was positively the last thing you wanted to do if you were determined to ascertain whether you trusted someone. Oh, this was getting more and more confusing and irritating!—“What could I do to make you trust me?”
“What you need to do so that I can trust you has already been outlined, you need to supply photographs of your current property and write a plausible character biography so as to aid the landlord of House B in his determining whether you are eligible for House B, except the time to remedy these things has passed.”
“But surely if I had supplied photographs and written a plausible character biography—not that I know what constitutes such a thing—if I’d done those things, all it would have proven was that I could follow orders. That’s not a definition of trust any more than an affirmation of the correct time is an affirmation of trust, for, surely, trust is wrought over time, a long period of time, months, or years of deliberation. To say you can determine whether you trust someone by making them follow a few instructions is worse than ludicrous, it’s illogical! What type of person would propose such a definition, apart from some computer, some machine? And my saying that that person can’t be trusted is as ill-informed and as stupid as your saying I can’t be trusted!” Ms. Knox had had enough and said that that was the difference between them and got back in her car and pulled out of the driveway. The end of March was approaching.
As much as I’m accustomed to applying Pascal’s Wager to the art of fiction and therefore commentating that if the author really existed, he or she would be incomprehensible to fictional characters, who, in turn, would be incapable of calculating whether the author existed in the first place, I should probably just tell the truth. Mr. Lieberman sent me an email the following day explaining what happened after his viewing of House B:
To my friend, Blaise,
How useless it would be to say I can’t fathom what mood I’m in, yet I think it’s the best description I can come up with. I shant be dishonest. This afternoon I returned from yet another disastrous viewing (House B) to my home on the edge of the city. What a kind house it is, with bay windows, verdant back garden, country-style kitchen, and quaint bedroom in the northeast quadrant of the building which sits alone in the wooden harbour of the Dark Forest. Outside there are poinsettias, red poppies, rosemary bushes and lilies, and tall oak and birch trees. How wonderful it is to be alive! Here, I think, I’m beginning to find what mood I’m in!
So, I returned from House B in a state of agitation and wetness as the weather turned from ceaseless precipitation to bitter cold. I ran into my home, took off my clothes, then stood naked by the radiator warming my bits and pieces. Rubbing my hands together I looked at the centre of the room to find my landlady hanging from the central beam by her neck. I immediately rushed over and grabbed her legs trying to shake her back to life, but this was useless because she’d fouled herself and was already dead. I stood back, folded my arms, with an expression of disbelief I spotted a paper note on the dining table. Picking up it, it said: Tully, I’ve never had any interest in enlarging my house and despise my husband greatly because he’s wasted my life. Before hanging myself, I amended my will so that in the event of my death (which, by the way, has occurred) this house would be transferred to your name with immediate effect. You have a spiritual right to this property, and I shall endeavour to facilitate that spiritual right.
And the rope affixing Ms. Tangerine’s neck to the central beam starting creaking like it belonged in a ship. Where the wind came from, I’ve no idea. Then, adding insult to injury it seemed, my phone rang. Mr. Coquillion was on the other end and he was fuming as usual and probably on the verge of a heart attack when he said that he’d been deliberating over this decision for some time now and had decided to inform me on my day off to avoid any undue humiliation in the office as I cleared off my desk. He called to say he was letting me go because he’d observed a change in my spirit as opposed to my character, a change in my gait as opposed to my mood, a change in me that had brought the morale of the office down to the bottom of the spiritual barrel.
I asked if in keeping with the beliefs of Grotius and Pufendorf I had a right to be told the truth. But Mr. Coquillion soon cut me off saying he loathed Benjamin Constant on the sunniest of days and this was no time to interject points of theological interest. I had, regrettably, been melancholy, allegedly. And Mr. Coquillion couldn’t have that seeping into the starched collars and blouses of my esteemed colleagues. Doubtless, he believed that I would understand, except I couldn’t for the life of me understand and said simply that such a dismissal was unfair!
Unfair!? Unfair!? How could Mr. Coquillion be unfair, the man raved for a good while. I split my time between looking at the deceased Ms. Tangerine and listening to the deranged Mr. Coquillion. Then he said to me: “I haven’t been unfair a day in my life, and you don’t get to where I am by being unfair!” Then he hung up and I looked out my window and it had started snowing.
I think especially now I’m drawn to stories of the absurd. Thus, today I intend to document how the middle-aged, physically fit and balding Tully Lieberman lived in a house on the very edge of the city. It goes without saying that such a description could befall a hundred other citizens, except Tully Lieberman was, perhaps, the greatest example of a detached citizen I ever came across. Yes, there was a terrific sense of anomie with Mr. Lieberman which pervaded throughout his long life and caused a great many problems to arise…