The Insipid Man

Sophie Breuleux
on May 31, 2016

Everyone knows it is hard to recover from a bad first impression. That’s why people smile, shake hands… try their best at remembering other people’s names. There are entire classes dedicated to the art of making a good first impression. None of this, however, applies to Jean Joseph Beaulieu, who has a rare talent: each impression he makes is equal to the first, and just as quickly forgotten. He is like a ghost. A really, really boring ghost.

There’s nothing noteworthy about him, nothing that stands out. He is neither small nor tall, neither big, nor thin. Neither amusing, nor sad. Not even his nose gives him character. It is said that his mother, a meek woman, once forgot him at the gas station: he had recently stopped crying when left alone, which, as it turned out, was the only way his mother remembered his existence. He had to find his way back, like the stray dog in the only book she had ever read to him (perhaps presciently).

He spent most of his childhood being ignored, but to his credit, his utter lack of presence also spared him from being bullied: he graduated the only boy in his class never to get hit by Fat Frank, an almost memorable feat. But this boring childhood didn’t bore this boring man, who was too busy assembling a puzzle—a daunting task, for it had more than a thousand pieces! When he finally finished, he glued the pieces together and hung his un-estimable work of art in his parents’ garage.

Then he graduated to painting by numbers. Every Saturday he would seat himself in the living room and put himself to work. He would meticulously paint every 1 in a lovely shade of blue, “Saxon Cobalt”, before doing the same with every 2, and so on, which made for a rather bland end result, but who are we to judge?

But at the venerable age of thirty-eight, Jean Joseph ran into a surprising plot twist: his gallon of paint was empty and the color was discontinued. What to do? The time was ripe for our Champion of Mediocrity to find a new hobby.

He didn’t know where to start, and so he didn’t. But three Saturdays later, boredom caught up with him—he was only human after all. He decided to go for a walk around the block, but being of weak constitution, he had to stop halfway to sit on a bench. And right there in front of him (where else would he look?), it hit him. The library.

With just a hint of spontaneity, he decided to enter the building. So many books! Where to begin? he asked himself. He grabbed the first book of the first shelf of the first row: a fitting place to start. “The Electric Lawn Mower” by Sasha Aackard. Five hundred and thirty-three pages. He’d never painted by that many numbers!

He flipped through the book, mesmerised, and realised that each page also contained a serious amount of words. He was daunted and humbled, but he still rose to the challenge. Was he finally growing a personality? He then spent the next few hours letting people skip him in line.

After finally getting noticed by a clerk and given a membership card, he went home and started reading. His boredom left him immediately, and for the first time in his mediocre life, he found meaning. He was thoroughly impressed at his own audacity: this was a quite adequate pastime. When came next Saturday, he found himself at the library again, because when you choose a new pastime, you have to stick to it, and he had decided that he would read every book of every shelf in every row. He went and found the second book of the first shelf of the first row:

“The Electric Lawn Mower” by Sasha Aackard.

Well, he thought, I’ll like it as much as I did the first time.

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