Just shy of 3am, it was clear that there was only one option left on the table. After a solid three hours of arguing, my buddy Gavin and I both knew that further discussions weren’t going to do a damn bit of good, and that with this being the case, we were going to have to terminate our friendship.
This may sound extreme now, but it really didn’t seem so at the time. We had, after all, had a pretty good run of things for the past 12 years. He was probably my first friend at Cornell. We met as freshmen on the men’s soccer team, later joined the same fraternity, and shortly thereafter, both quit the soccer team together. We had worked together at the Clubhouse, slinging drinks to three hundred 21 year-old students a night, with a combined fifty valid IDs – but hey, ID was last post…now we’re talking about the dangers of poetry and I don’t want to get off topic. After college, Gav moved out to Jackson, Wyoming and I moved to New York. Even though these two places are a lot further apart than the 3,000 miles separating them would suggest, we remained close and it seemed like this was a friendship that was built to withstand the tests of time and geography. That is, it seemed that way until 3am last Saturday night. So, as we shook hands and prepared to move on with our separate lives, there were no hard feelings and no plans of reconciliation. There was only the cold unarguable knowledge that some wrongs can’t be righted, and some Haikus have too many syllables.
It had all started about 7 hours earlier that night. We were at a wedding reception at Cornell, sitting perhaps no further than 300 yards from the place where Gav and I first met. Nina and I were at one table. Gav was at another. With the mood being just right, the wine flowing, and everyone hunkering down for what all expected to be a great night, I decided to do a very normal, rational thing. I decided to challenge Gav’s table to a Haiku war. And blame it on another table.
The rules seemed fairly self-evident; (i) bring your ‘A’ game, and (ii) no tears. So, after getting the waitress (she was barely old enough to drink in the Clubhouse, which meant she probably didn’t have a driver’s license yet) to bring us a couple of pens and some paper, Nina, Wise (aka Filth Munchem), Tracy, Wittink, Long Island Lou, CC and I set to the task of crafting our opening volley. After a little debate, some syllable counting on fingers, a wax seal and a determination of which table to blame it on (table 18 suckers), we flagged our waitress and briefed her on the plan. We explained the importance of the fact that upon delivery, our identity must remain a secret, and that she should make it clear that table 18 was the aggressor. She took in our instructions, took a deep breath, and began a circuitous route to her destination carrying the following sealed message:
You table eight punks
Worthless brown nosing anti-hunks
Unknown tables watch
- Table 18
Now, astute readers may already see the writing on the wall for the coming tragedy, but as sorry as I am now to admit it, we (and in particular I) were oblivious. But, let me get back to the story. A few minutes later, our purposely casual glances around the room could easily see the waitress handing the declaration of war to Gav, and much to our surprise, pointing directly at us! There was nowhere to hide – the battle was on. We sat back, ordered another round of drinks and prepared for what we expected would be a 20-30 minute creative process, followed by the delivery of some laughably weak response. Then, we would declare ourselves victors, clink glasses in celebration of the syllabic steamrolling we had just delivered, and target another unsuspecting table.
However, even before our new drinks had arrived, the waitress was back with a response. It hadn’t even been two minutes. Something seemed off, and we all knew it. Didn’t table eight have any pride? Anything slapped together in that short a time didn’t stand a chance against our masterpiece. I tore open the folded note and prepared to read the retort. After a little theatrical throat clearing, I began:
Second line seven
Not eight bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch
Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch.
Silence. It was crushing. Somehow, in all of the excitement of the battle, we (read: I) had mistaken “anti” for a one syllable word. Worse yet, they had caught this oversight in about 5 seconds, further highlighting the obviousness of our blunder. And worst of all, before we had time to come up with a reply, I looked up and there was Gav bearing down on our table with a grin from ear to ear.
There it was. I had a few seconds to come up with a response. I quickly thought through my options. Could I argue that classical Haiku was actually a more flexible form of poetry and specifically left room for the occasional 8 syllable second stanza? What about some sort of relativistic contraction of syllables, like space and time in a gravitational field, in this case strangely caused by the mass of the passing Cayuga Waiters? Neither of these options seemed sufficient, so instead I blurted, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s seven syllables.”
Gav, you got me. Maybe someday I’ll see you around.