He was a good man – like all dead men. And women. But Talbot was good before he died. A part-time editor-at-large and full-time social media user, his friends nicknamed him ‘Tweeto’ as a token of their adulation.
Talbot earned a living and a place in the social bureaucracy through the part-time stint, which was at an English language daily called Bad News. But it was what he ‘twote’, not what he wrote, that kept him afloat. His soul and attention often wandered beyond the walls of his office, through wireless airwaves and the streets of the old quarter. Asylum, like all good men of his city, believed that the glue that bound all life was connections (and connectivity). And like most good men, he learnt otherwise. Life was a lesson.
Asylum revelled in the simple material pleasures his decaying city offered. Sitting on his balcony. Green Tea. Roadside snacks. Walking the old part of town. And in letting his followers know about these. He almost turned this into an art that could be termed ‘Asylum-esque.’ It entailed the presentation of local disorderliness as quaint, in the same veneer whereby light little articles in international dailies viewed the filth of the East as part and parcel of its cultural charm. ‘Flavour,’ proclaimed the good men of the West – academics – soft on encroachments in burgeoning Asian cities. ‘Hippies,’ retorted a local entrepreneur dismissively, for he was well-versed in the ways of the world and the value of gentrification.
When Talbot did up one of his bachelor pads located in a rustic neighbourhood, he invited the ire of his colleagues (under the guise of a smile, no less). They too wanted to do up their places, especially after feasting their eyes on some nice pieces of furniture at a local dealership. But for reasons best not mentioned here, they were unable to do so.
Asylum’s traits and background enabled him to easily fit in with the good people of his city. And like them, he prized reputation over honour. The smile and nod were his friends. They could mean many things and at the same time, nothing. More importantly, they kept him anchored in a sea of mediocrity. Never rock the boat was the mantra.
Talbot began his career at a publication called Gerald, where according to former colleagues, he quickly displayed a knack for politics. “He seemed to prioritise social connections over plain hard work,” recalled one colleague. “He sold us down the river,” complained another, referring to a dispute that arose within the organisation, in which Asylum had a manipulative hand in provoking the editor’s resignation. Early tell tale signs of a good man.
But good men often fail. Later, in the twilight of his career, Talbot’s tactics would come back and bite him in his meagre behind. As editor-at-large of Bad News, he is largely credited with the publication’s demise, from a once-bearable paper to a rag. “If only he had spent less time tweeting and more time editing,” said one misguided piece of work. Others accused the paper of inventing its own language.
Ever-resourceful, Asylum assembled a job description that would maximise his ability to dodge bullets and responsibility alike. ‘Editor-at-large.’ Every time a reader would report a fatal blunder, Talbot would quickly absolve himself of any blame by saying he had nothing to do with that section of the paper.
In this manner, many an item went unvetted, including the carving on his gravestone, which contained so many editorial errors that his relatives were unable to find his grave (or so they say).
To say that Asylum’s tomb became a shrine would be to romanticise. For the reality, as always, was far more interesting. His friends had placed on and around the burial spot, trinkets, as odes to his eccentricities. These included the kind of gadgetry that holds little practical value. Neatly designed tea flasks and jars of a smooth stainless sheen that Talbot had picked up at a Chinese-branded shop during one of his forays into the old quarter. Attempts had been made to move his newly upholstered sofas – testaments to his taste for minimalist décor – to the graveyard. But it is alleged that the existentialist gravediggers expressed disapproval at this: “It’s not like he’ll be using them.”
Other congregants at the gravesite included sleeping dogs, misunderstood crows and the weight of certain truths.
Connections, however, were nowhere in site.
To be continued.