The following was published in Georgia and Henry Replogle’s journal Egoism (1890). Volume 4, number 1 was published in September, 1897. Henry wrote a follow up on “Females” in the next issue, to be published on this blog next week.
Probably the strongest weakness of man is his shameless lonesomeness. What of energy and pain does it not cost. What of continuous pleasure might absence of its overpowering not bring. To contemplate the point of the first question completely would be to spread to the consciousness about the whole of human endeavor, suffering, waste and failure past and present. To so contemplate the second would be to comparatively measure the capacity of human future to enjoy, a matter which might readily surpass imagination and easily defy any defining analysis born of present experience. But the latter will take care of itself in its time; it is the first which is or rationally should be the crying concern of our day.
Beginning with that period of potency when the male newly from the sustaining parental hand, possesses a full pressure of all the intestine energy he is ever going to have, he might with a dispassionate eye facing his environment camera to himself the data to strike a course amid the weaknesses and follies of men, which would bring to him a generous competency and all the knowledge and pleasure of mortals while his powers still retained their integrity. But what does he do. Why, in marrow obedience to that seedy gregarious instinct born of the mental wave which heaved brain in evolution’s surf from the worm state to that of the fishes, he gets a granite lonesome on and proceeds to rub up against the species like a. purring cat against men’s shanks. If he be vegetated in the city, he will seek presence in whichto warm his monotony-carbuncle either at the theater or in the dive. In the former case he imbibes a lot of cerebellar gush that charges the great aphrodisiac main like the trolley wire of an electric car-line, developing in his eye an X-ray on female attire which leads as ravenously as the scent of other fresh meat does the wolf into the trap; though in this instance with the unfortunate variation of being worse caught than by the feet. If the dive be the catch, he gets a snap from the trap without the relentless spring which holds him there, and has a season for reflection while the bite chews up his red blood and charges his system with the seeds of scrofula to rasp his viscus sympathies through torture of innocent offspring. But all the reflection is after all upon the virus of the bite, and if he only had the toothless jaws without the virus, the spring on them would only help him to keep so good a thing and he would be all right. So he mounts the turf with he of the X-ray, and the common quest is for a white and doughy putty poultice for the great carbunculous lonesome.
Now it is a matter of polished surface, to which putty catches most readily, and books, bedding, underwear, and even wholesome food must be curtailed and all energy directed to the surface and to parade. The tailor shop, the barber shop and the cosmetic counter become the prime contemporaneous institutions of existence, and the polish alone of the mirror saves it from bursting out in uncontrollable mirth at the serious monkey antics in its front as he pinches up this hollow feature and presses down that bony protrusion or pastes one porcupinish filamental quill in one direction and another centrifugal ray in another direction, the while torn by pantomimic convulsions as success and failure chase each other through the enthusiastic review. But these are indeed, only surface trifles after all ; there are other crosses one of which his employer wears over the eyes as sleepy Lonesome botches his work or falls short on quantity.
Nevertheless, there must be no retaliation by Lonesome, for he knows he is blameworthy and that resistance might easily result in discharge and consequent loss of funds with which to dress and polish and ice-cream and excursion, besides that of pecuniary prospect which for a reason cuts so important a figure in the putty chase. He must drag through days of hours that lengthen into delirious flights of time and horror waiting for rest that brings a soreness to overwrought nerves which magnifies his delinquencies and some real or fancied irreciprocity on the part of the putty, to temptation of the suicidal impulse. But more rest and a little assurance from the pane-cement dis-perses all this into a glow of anticipation, and sooner or later, usually too unutterably later for his can’t wait, a verbal, or more properly perhaps, a vowbal adhesion is accomplished, and the tension is in a way relaxed.
For the first time in months and possibly years, he is in a manner at ease; he has attained both assurance and a familiarity made pleasant by not too much wear and no responsibility, and so lives almost rationally happy for a time. Now he must gather money to get furniture with which to line the nest, and then, when there is enough, then the last lurking lonesome shall come out through his breastbone. He sleeps more and sounder; the mirror gets only a hurried glance at him; the tailor has not had an order from him in six months, while the barber sees him no more than once a week, and cosmetics are altogether forgotten. His employer notes cheerful care and a satisfactory quantity of work, and gratefully relaxes some of his own responsibility to the steady man along with an encouraging raise of salary and a more courteous and respectful demeanor. And all goes well and might with a little variation in the association of our man and his pulp statuary, continue to do so indefinitely. But that variation is not inaugurated, it is only suggested and mutely aggravated till the nest-money has accumulated, when his ultimate want is to be assuaged at a bound.
Before he is half as prepared as he is ready, he bounds, binds, and finds that between the imagination of a bloodful young man and the real inclinations of a waxen-faced, pulp-bodied young woman there is a difference. Just how much difference, his pressure of conjured dreams does not allow him to see. He can feel the doubt, but he impulses and acts somewhat after the manner of a certain old sow who tried to steal into a corn-patch through a crooked hollow log that the rail fence was built twice across thus landing her ever on the same side, whet eupon with a shake of the head and a disconsolate squeal she would try it again. So he, shuts his eyes and tries again to make himself believe, only to find himself ever on the same side of the fence. The reciprocity of wild, wanton passion which he imagined asked removal of conventional bars only for ecstatic romp, has not, some way, appeared with the drop of the bars. And even later a weak and spiritless, manipulated imitation, half duty, is its best. However, he is no longer alone. Is there not a person in his house and even in his bed besides himself, and could he thus be alone and lonesome.
In due time there comes amid the uttered at, hut unutterable suffering of a helpless and pitied companion, a child. The expenses are now higher; personal comforts dwindle till he goes to work on a patched-up breakfast, chokes down an unsavory lunch, and comes from his work wearier than of yore only to walk the floor, baby in arms, the middle half of the night in a frigid temperature and tropical attire, with the doubtful compensation that it prevents the baby keeping him awake in bed. But he used to be lonesome, though otherwise a comfortable cat, now he is at such times at least, neither. Yet, at other times both he and she are lonesome in a way; not for each other, for both are there, nor definitely for anybody, but still for something. With some felt outlay of cash, much sewing, starching, ironing, and momentary delight by the wife, the youngster is rigged for a day, and they try the parks or an excursion. The baby attracts them some attention from those gushy glass-eyed passengers who can never attend to their own business, and it also falls down and rolls in the dirt, inflicting seven pangs of exasperation upon the mother for every thrill of delight previously experienced at the trimness of the rig. They go over the same grounds, see the same sights, breathe the same air, but some way nothing seems the same as during the comparatively placid engagement to this anticipated delight. Again, they try the theater or call upon friends, but still there is little entertainment except absorption in hardship and need, and this does not amuse.
There come. still other children ; the waxen person of the luscious company has long been sharp and shown evidences of bones in it, a thing none but the dispassionate eye of experience would have dreamed of at the time he sought soothe for his lonesome. The expenses are much greater but the income has not kept up. The children grow in length ; it costs more and more to cover and feed them, and their indifference to the same keeps pace. They must compete in appearance with other’s children; the mother has interest in this. The once lonesome man has now like a slave, no more attire than will barely keep him producing, and has no recreation at all. He looks pulled out all around and seems but the shell of the former self. His powers have about all gone into labor,—into bodies of big buffalo-countenanced girls with no ambition and no appreciation except of having things : clothes, furniture, vehicles, and the whole line of appearing accouterments—girls, with no function except the foregoing and the not intestinely interesting one to the father, of protestingly furnishing service for other men’s venerous appetites. But the labor waste is not limited to a limit of girls : there are yet boys—savage-mannered, cigarette-pumping, loud-mouthed boys, with no consideration for the present, and nothing in the future but the remorseful path the father is treading. The girls, with the bodies and necessarily not too much wisdom, are environed by males with instincts and without the interests of the parents. This must be lived and hoped and feared through. Then there are the boys with their propensities and the dives and trifling of all kinds for them to engage their energy in and endanger their future with, for if the shell father has anything left it is solicitude, as little else has he been enabled to cultivate except endurance.
Finally, if all has happened to go regularly, they are all, boys and girls, with such expense as he could meet, disposed round about, and the wife, who may never have had a definite ambition, does not conceal the fact that her chief if not sole interest is in the welfare of the brood that circumstances forced upon her. So at last, after a life of toil and privation, solicitude and disappointment, Mr. Lonesome is as spiritually alone as he was physically alone in his youth, and finds every possibility except desire and death drawn from him.
How much worse off would he be if he had accumulated forty years of discipline in self-entertaining and saved himself the greater part of the toil and all the solicitude lavished upon others without even the slim reciprocity of gratitude. But he was lonesome and found company at least.
Reader look about you; can you not discover some such emasculated old leathers.—Perhaps a glance in the mirror would help.—It was once Self-Entertainless Self—Male.
H. P. REPLOGLE.