“It’s not worth it. I’m bored with the little indulgences. They’re fun for a while, but when they end, I feel empty inside. It’s nothing but meaningless pleasure.”
A distraught look came over Verge’s face. He looked down at the photographs and pushed them about on the table with his hands. “Pleasure is the only meaning we have left. It is both foolish and dangerous to believe you need more.”
“I need to have some meaning in my life,” Béla said in exasperation.
“You want meaning? Delude yourself into believing you are working to make the world a better place. Work toward social justice or battle against oppression or join the struggle to save the environment or some other such nonsense,” Verge said stifling a yawn.
“That’s not what I meant,” Béla said. He paused and stared out of the window for a moment, then added, “You want to hear something strange? I was happier when I was with Suzy! I felt like I had a purpose then. Life seemed fuller. I don’t know why. Maybe because I loved her.”
“Ah, that blasted love again. I told you to refrain from using such profanity in my presence.”
“Say what you will. When I was with her, I felt whole. Complete. Sometimes I wish we were still together,” Béla said, sadly. “You know, she came up to my room one night a while back and told me she wanted to get back together. She told me she still loved me. I turned her away. Maybe I shouldn’t have? Maybe I still love her?”
Verge’s hands started to tremble. “Love! And what did that love bring you? That woman made an ass of you! Off to the doctor with you – the clap is seeping into your brain!”
But Béla was riled up and refused to be quiet. “And there are times I feel the same way about the work we do. When I wrote, I created meaningful work. But these videos and magazines we make? They’re all meaningless. None of it will last. They provide vulgar pleasure – that’s it. When I started in this business I wanted to create art, capture beauty, but there is nothing artistic or beautiful in what we’re doing now. On the contrary, our stuff becomes uglier all the time.”
“You must give the people what they demand. What they demand is what they deserve. Ugly, vulgar pleasures is what they demand – that is what we must provide!”
“What about the girls?”
“What about them?”
“We exploit them! Defile them!”
“No one put a gun to their heads.”
Béla scowled. “If pleasure is all we have left then what’s the point of it all?”
“That’s precisely it! There is no point to it all!” Verge stepped out from behind the table and pointed his finger at Béla in an accusatory fashion. “Pleasure is all we have because pleasure is all we deserve. Pleasure is meaning. Death is lack of meaning. There is nothing else in-between.”
“If pleasure is the only meaning, then we are not fully human.”
“Exactly! For centuries we wholeheartedly believed we were part of divine creation. We based our entire existence around the core of this belief. Well, I have news for you, dear chap – that belief is no longer valid. It has been stolen from us by the same people who fight for social justice and struggle against the tyranny of oppression. It is they who have reduced us to the level of animals. We are objects – commodities to be bought and sold. The quicker you accept that imposed truth, the happier you’ll be!”
Béla was aghast. He stared at his friend in disbelief. “These women we film and photograph are more than just objects.”
“Are they? Do you remember the names of the girls we were with last night?”
The only answer Béla could provide was a blank stare.
“Precisely!” Verge snickered. “And you have the audacity to lecture me about objectification!”
“You can’t believe the women who work for us are just objects.”
“I do,” Verge said firmly. “I must.”
“I don’t hate, my good man, but I don’t delude myself with love either. When it comes to people, I merely tolerate or enjoy.” He lowered his finger and took a moment to catch his breath and compose himself. In a quieter tone of voice, he said, “Get thee to a doctor. Thou art ill. Thou hast need of medicine . . .