On a brisk October morning in Brookline, a graduate student announced that he was an expert at something, to the total indifference of his friends, peers and vague associates.
The student was reported to Chronicle.SU by a local informant and subsequently identified by spiteful classmates as first year Benjamin Berkey. Berkey, an enthusiast of the dark witch house music scene, tacitly agreed to make a phone statement to me by making dozens of unsolicited calls to the office of The Soviet Chronicle.
“I’ve read many thick tomes so, like Prodicus, I’ve become adept at choosing words. Often I finish sentences for other people in more exact ways than they ever could have expressed themselves. So, I’ve decided to go on a mission for total exactitude in language. Any time anyone strays from the Oxford Dictionary definition of a word, I will correct them in public in an elitist fashion. This will have innumerable social benefits.”
Berkey then invited me to watch him do his work across town to his sparsely furnished Allston apartment. I spent the next eight hours watching him gruel over a footnote, intermittently taking breaks to masturbate and troll the Internet with obscure semantic and grammatical criticisms.
“Work is hard, but I spend every second of every day knowing that I’m making a difference and growing intellectually. I’ve got a bright future and will surely finish my program with a good job. Not many people can say that these days.”
He then agreed to show me his favorite local coffee shop, where he ordered us espressos only to reject them several times due to “the quality of the crema.”
The barista eventually gave up and told us to fuck ourselves. We took a seat in the back of the checker-floored bar, next to a group of bicycle messengers playing bones.
As we sat down, one of the dudes among them, a pierced courier wearing a Brooklyn cycling cap, put the finishing touches on a lengthy monologue.
“…and that just begs the question, ‘Is McInnes libertard or not?'”
“Excuse me, sir,” interjected Berkey, “but I believe that you’ve made a mistake. The expression ‘begs the question’ does not in fact designate something that raises questions, but instead refers to an instance of circular reasoning. Be warned.”
The messenger looked over at him and his septum piercing flicked a little spark of a glint in the light. A pug-faced drunken crusty messenger appeared from among the group.
“Why you gotta be a bitch, man? Nobody asked you, faggot. Nobody spoke to you.”
The altercation deeply shocked Berkey, who became horribly insulted. He began to shake and then suddenly walked out of the coffee bar and refused to answer subsequent calls to his cellphone.
I never heard from him again.
Update: Several weeks after our encounter, The Boston Globe reported that Berkey had disappeared without a trace. Even more strangely, authorities declined to open an investigation into his disappearance. His family’s attempts to sue the Boston Police Department were bizarrely dismissed in a similar fashion. And in a final twist, my dumbfounded reading of the report to The Chronicle office occasioned a smile in our editor, Kilgore Trout.
“Yeah, the sergeant at Boston PD actually clued me in weeks ago. Benjamin Berkey was administratively arrested as part of a law enforcement operation targeting known gang members and associates.”