Ezra took her to a bar on Shady Street. It was surprisingly quiet, but then again, it was a Wednesday night and one would expect the night scene on a Wednesday night to be pretty dead and unencumbered. They placed themselves in a corner booth for two, instead of at the bar, because there was a couple there quarrelling; the woman was crying profusely, tears running down her face, streaking mascara across her cheeks, cursing the man for getting her pregnant, and then demanding that he leave his wife; and another couple were squeezed onto a single stool, groping each other frantically as they played tonsil hockey.
“Get a room!” Ezra shouted at them, but they were oblivious to their surroundings. Anka giggled like a teenager.The booth was quiet and not too dark, so they could still see each other’s faces. A guy was playing the guitar and singing a Nirvana song real badly.
Ezra ordered beers for the both of them. Now the singer had stopped playing Nirvana and was singing some old Neil Diamond song.
“So….” she began. “ You come here a lot?” The bar was rather empty. No one was even showing their stuff at the pool table and the darts-corner.
“Sometimes. Usually alone.”
“For peace and quiet. If you want to head for really noisy places, you go to Geraldo’s. We call it the Junkie Zone. That’s where I usually am. I have friends there. But then again, I’m a junkie.”
“You don’t have to be nice. I used to be a junkie. I’m not anymore, but I have the junkie friends.” He gave her a grin. “But I’m a nice ex-junkie. You don’t get too many serious junkies. I’m a serious guy. Really.”
A man came up to them. “Hi. May I steal a few minutes of your time?” He was a pleasant-looking man in a brown suit, with hair slicked back in neat waves and bright eyes. He carried a briefcase.
“Sure,” Ezra shrugged. “You wanna sit?”
“No, thanks. I’ll stand, if you please. I really want to talk to this young lady, actually…” He turned to Anka, who looked rather surprised but pleased and flattered, nevertheless. “Now, lady…I must ask you….why would a beautiful young woman as yourself, I’m sure you must also be quite intelligent, judging by the confident way you carry yourself, I’m a good judge of character…why should a lovely lady like yourself be seen with….” Here, he paused and nodded towards Ezra. “Someone like that?”
Here, Anka gaped and her eyes widened as she stared, first at the man, then at Ezra. Surprisingly, Ezra looked calm and composed. “Lady, may I suggest that you and I make some magic happen,” he said and sat down beside her. She wanted to laugh in amusement. This was some joke. “I want to give myself to you.”
“Sorry,” she said cheerfully, moving away from him, edging closer into the booth against the wall. “I try not to accept free gifts.”
“Oh, ouch. But seriously, perhaps you would consider…..”
“Er…….Hey, look, I don’t know how to break this to you, but me and him…” Here, she broke off and nodded her head towards Ezra. At this point, Ezra had to laugh and she joined him.
“Okay, okay, I see….But you know….”
“Oh, please do leave us in peace! How do you expect us to carry on an affair with you bugging us this way…His wife is home and watching TV, and the both of us…” She lowered her voice appropriately. “We’re just starting to heat things up….” She leaned forward to grab Ezra’s open hand, and the man gasped, oblivious to the little wink she gave Ezra. There was a playful smile on her lips. Ezra made as if to get up, at which point the man gave a dreadful start and scrambled off the booth.
“Look, I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” he said quickly. “I can explain, I’m a sociologist, well, I’m doing my graduate studies in sociology, and I was just experimenting to see how people react in certain situations, I meant no harm at all, sorry I don’t have a card to give you, but I’m into research and that can get pretty tedious at times, you know, so…..I’ll be on my way now, thanks for your time.” He hurried off and the two of them burst out laughing.
“So he’s a sociologist…..God, why do they do things like that?” Anka said as soon as they had stopped laughing. She finished her drink and waved to the bartender, holding up the empty beer mug. She turned to Ezra, who slouched back in his seat and played with the moisture rings on his mug. “You didn’t seem very surprised,” she noted.
“What can I say? I’m indifferent to most things.”
“And why’s that? The way you’re going on- it’s as if life is totally meaningless. Are you an existentialist?”
“No, I’m not. I have a religion, thank you.”
“Do you go to church every week?”
“No.” Here, he looked into his mug. “I haven’t talked to God for a long time. I haven’t talked to anyone for a long time.” There was a long pause of silence between them. She did not dare prompt him. “But then…” Ezra breathed. “That’s not what I wanted to talk about.”
“Some other time, maybe.”
“Then what do you want to talk about?”
“What about him?” There was an amused smile on her face.
“I was just wondering…..do you think sociologists should concern themselves with the use to which their knowledge is put?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never given that much thought. Actually, I’ve never given that any thought.”
“Then think about it.”
“Yes now. Because I want to know what you think.”
She took a deep breath and a waiter brought her drink. She took a quick swig, made a face and put the glass down. “You ask me funny things,” she said to him. “This isn’t the kind of stuff you ask a girl when you take her out for a drink.”
“It’s because you’re not just any girl,” he replied, smiling, to which she flushed. “Just tell me the first thing that comes into your head.”
“Well, then I would say yes, they should not ignore the uses of their knowledge.”
“Isn’t it obvious, Ezra? They shouldn’t ignore the community and people, they should always be responsible even if they themselves are involved in the way their knowledge is used. And this does not mean their research cannot be objective. I’m sure it could be. Take a doctor. He’s committed to health and its sciences in general, but it doesn’t have to interfere with his work as a doctor, and his patients. Objectivity is not just a question of attitude, I believe; it’s the ability to prove something empirically.”
“On the other hand,” he cut in, “If a sociologist has to be concerned with what he produces, even when he’s already choosing a topic for research, he would be influenced by his interests. It’s not possible to be value-free from the very beginning. Topics and issues are inseparable from historical, political and social contexts therefore there is no point in conducting a research for something which is being productively used.”
“You can’t possibly mean that.” She gave a laugh and took another swig. “Come on, you can’t possibly say that.”
“Why not? I think there is something called ethics?” She sighed in exasperation. “Look, knowledge happens to be a moral issue and sociologists should therefore be concerned with its uses. They should be honest about their beliefs rather than reveal deceit, otherwise I’m sure there’d be negative effects if they were to neglect the social and moral problems. Take propogandas, for example. Things should not be hidden, but in fact, must be clearly stated so that allowance can be made for their own commitments. We see it all the time, Ezra. Social consequences are always controlled by the powerful. If this happens, they will always continue to exploit others. Look, knowledge is saleable, therefore sociologists should also be. Who will benefit from their research? Us.”
“No, not really. I don’t think it’s up to the sociologist to evaluate that knowledge and use it. It’s mostly what they discover, you know. It’s for the social policy-makers, those guys up there who make all the rules and regulations for us citizens, as you say….why should they bother themselves with this and go through all the trouble? There is a need for this dichotomy if we are to improve society.”
“Okay, I agree on that, but don’t you think that as a citizen, we’d be able to differentiate those different types of objectivity and thus, so should a sociologist? Look, sociologists will remain pretentious and a mockery if there is no use to their knowledge and no clear-cut contemplation on its effects; you have to pay your way to get accepted ways to improve society, so to speak? No way.” She made a gesture with her hands and finished her drink. Ezra was smiling at her.
“So you’re saying that the sociologists’ interest influences the kind of theories he makes, and that if he wants to his intellectual values and integrity to live on, he must remain value-free at all stages and care as to the use of his knowledge. Am I correct?”
“Quite accurately, yes. Why should there even be a contradiction? Sociologists should be committed simply because they are citizens. And that’s it. It’s that simple.” She gave him a winning smile. He didn’t say anything for a long while but focused his eyes on her. She turned away, suddenly embarrassed at the intent way he was staring at her, his eyes boring deep into her heart. There was some connection here that she was beginning to understand; he was a great one to talk to. She could go on talking with him the entire night, if there was an entire night to spare……
“You’re very smart,” he said to her at last. “I didn’t think you’d carry on so passionately about it.” He smiled ruefully.
“You ask some tough questions. I have to pretend to be smart,” she retorted with a playful swipe at his hair.
“Wanna dance?” he asked then.
“Dance? Here?” An incredulous look came over her face. “I’m not into the whole dancing thing.”
“Come on, it’ll be fun.” He got up, finished his drink and left some money on the table, grabbing her hand. To her surprise, he did not lead her out to the dance area, but outside, where the stars were blinking in the sky and the night was peaceful and quiet. On that street, he pulled her close to him, she came right up to his shoulder, and he hummed a song she could not recognize. And moved her along in his arms. Her heart beat quietly in her chest. She should’ve been excited, pulse running and all, but she felt a strange sense of peace. Like she was going home. Being in his arms made her feel like she was home.
“I have to get back to the hotel, Ezra,” she said regretfully after a long while.
“Why? We have the whole night.”
“Tomorrow, then.” He released her and stared straight into her eyes. “Tomorrow I’ll take you someplace again.” There was something about him that made the little hairs on the back of her neck stand up. There was something about him that commanded her attention. There was something about him that made her want to see him again.
“Okay,” she said at last.
It was that simple.