Alina Stefanescu

Letter To An Unknowing Pissant Vonnegut describes a “pissant”:"somebody who thinks he’s sodamn smart, he can neverkeep his mouth shut”. I saw the way you arguedwith your daughter-in-lawabout the war in Iraq.She said it was sad thatlittle children were dying.You got all red and threwthat abortion in her face. She said she liked traveling.You encouraged her to travelto hell or another galaxy. She worried about sexism, soyou put her on trial forreverse racism. I know you did your very bestto make her feel like an idiotat every opportunity. Everything she said amountedto something you knew better.You are the penultimate pissant.The next time you piss on her,you will turn into a tiny ant. Soddy Daisy, TN We’ve been driving since the sunrose neon as Vegas.Respite shares two letterswith Soddy Daisy, and twois enough for us. I tell you everything exceptright nowyou add air to the well-worn tires andthere is no breath long enough toexplain my hope:an able hand teasing melody from a painted dulcimer. A young man smiles a wide set of teeth,spits, tips his hat, insinuates a sunset.Tells me there’s music at the VFW down the road.Tells me there’s one guy- a recovering poetturned acoustic guitarist- that’s really something.Plucks a dandelion from the curb andputs it between his teeth, tunes itlike a toothpick, and I think onlyhow reckless my drive for good music. Stag Hunt It’s too late for anythingbesides game theory. All that’s left is a coordination game.Let’s apply a stag hunt dilemma, you say,to the rigors of modern dating. I tell you, I’m a dating dilettantefor whom even the word feels slippery,a slip of the tongue into commitment.But I’m willing to listen. Then you mention Rousseau.I tell you, I’m allergic to that man.But you insist he was a humanist, a deep thinker,a formulator of deep thoughts, like theone in A Discourse on Inequality I tell you it’s too late for anything,but you tell me the story anyway: "If it was a matter of hunting a deer, everyone well realizedthat he must remain faithful to his post; but if a hare happenedto pass within reach of one of them, we cannot doubt that hewould have gone off in pursuit of it without scruple..." The unmowed lawn of black hair atop your headneeds trimming, but you want to talk about scruplesand when they restrain us from making bad choices.I tell you bad choices are never unmade.But you say bad choices are clearly defined as thosehaving the least desirable social outcomes. I tell you it’s too muchthis 21st century dating divide,but you look like ripe cherries when parsing the tensionbetween unscrupulous action and its preemption.There is mutual suspicion, a limbo, you say, andit prevents us from absorbing the cost of our actionsby guaranteeing that suspicion will lead one partyfrom merely suspecting to finally defecting. I tell you it’s too late for these ideal outcomeswhich you define as mutual cooperation- neitherdéfection or unscrupled action. Fingers twitchinglike hausfraus, you remind me to play by the rules. A nuclear family mobilizes, a parade of distendedjolly rancher patterns, sour apple renumerations. I tell you it’s a bust, this mutual cooperationamounts to a Nash equilibrium- a dead end,a situation where players can’t do any better,can do only worse, depending on the defection of others. Ah, but the temptation to defect connects fear and actionwhen there is reason to disbelieve the "rationality" of theother player, you say, as if disbelieving your own. Doesn't he see that this is advantageous for both of us?That it couldn't get better? Wait a minute-- what if he doesn't see?Then he might decide to defect because he doesn't know any better.I can't wait around for him to defect because my opportunity costs will increase... I tell you it’s too late for anythingbut you seem very nonchalant about our dilemma’s solution,both players must shoot off one of their legs so they can’t chasethe hare, you say, as if legs are just words to throw around in a game. Think only how clean and cauterizing, this solution,the only fair solution to the dating dilemma beingvoluntary, mutual self-mutilation.You look happy for once.We go from Rousseau's story to playing a gamewhere winning involves accepting a known loss. The sun sets as the couples in apartment above fastentheir thong-style chastity belts.Anything for love, I say,or just anything to keep the loved onefrom amassing a more impressivestag collection. Alina was born in Romania, raised in Alabama, and reared by the spirit of Hannah Arendt. She lives in Tuscaloosa with her partner, three unschooled children, and the ghost of an indignant philosopher goat. More at