The Laughter of Strangers by Michael Seidlinger
‘The Laughter of Strangers’ is the person as a spectacle, the man as the MEME. Unable to change the discussion the narrator becomes trapped. Society does this to the narrator. Accustomed to literal fights, the blows to the head, the narrator can’t handle blows to his ego. Despite the narrator’s tough exterior (tattoos, scars, and broken bones) he retreats deep into his mind. By being inside his mind he allows single words to morph into terrible things, hurtful things. Over-analysis from the narrator destroys his fragile mind. Left alone to his own devices (the TV as his companion) he breaks down from the jabs of news media, various headlines, false stories, etc.
Media is his ultimate foe. The narrator (who speaks to himself, has conversations with himself, and shows signs of instability) cannot handle the things that come so easily for others. Silence is his backup plan. Letting others speak for him makes the interactions easier. His few words to the media fail miserably. Unable to articulate the many thoughts racing in his head he hides. While the rest of the world spins his fabricated and real stories he no longer controls his destiny. Audiences jeer him. Oddly their intense dislike for him gives him what he needs to continue, to forge past the physical and go for the corporal. Even his supposed friends send him down the wrong path more excited to speak for him than to speak to him.
His physique deteriorates. No longer relying on the basic rules he uses head games on his opponents. They hate him. What he says on TV ruins them, ruins their reputations and threatens their livelihoods. Unfortunately the narrator is incapable of determining where he is or what he’s supposed to do. He loses time. Fights he shows up late to do not even care. Age makes him weak yet the younger ones appear willing to placate him in a desire to have his past pristine and their futures assured. More than anything his body wants to simply wait out the clock. Rest is what he does best. He fights against younger versions of himself hoping to defeat them, to get them away.
Whatever happens to the narrator makes him think of the past. He wonders what people will think of him, of a league that he helped found. New fighters come in and he recognizes himself in their faces, their determination. Towards the end the novel the narrator loses his mind. Nobody speaks to him. He is his own audience. By alienating those few individuals close to him he ensures that he can never have a graceful retirement. Yet his silence, originally a burden by letting others force their narratives onto him, becomes a blessing. Failing to feed the media anymore means he can effectively fade out to blackout one last time.