Holden Caulfield walks into a bar. The bar is around the corner from his apartment in the trendy - but not too trendy -- Williamsburg part of Brooklyn. The pub's menu offers pages of quality whiskeys and pale ales from places so sophisticated that they simply cannot be pronounced. Descriptions to the in-house drinks offer adjectives like, "brewed" and "hoppy." There is a caricature lining the bottom of each page of a man who looks like one of those butler figures, with a towel draped over an arm, an over-sized serving tray in the other. You know, it's the kind they sell in one of those Sky Mall magazines that nobody ever buys. Phony butler's nose is pointed at the tiny text above, as if sniffing out the barley from the oats. Or perhaps, he is sniffing out the people inside of the bar itself. The bar is essentially pretentious -- but not too pretentious; just enough to pique Holden's interest. Hell, he wouldn't have stepped out if it wasn't for this Gatsby character he had arranged to meet with.
He didn't know this Gatsby fellow well or anything, he had only spoken to him a few times regarding the man's Craig's List ad. Holden had been searching for a red hunting hat for quite some time now; dating back to when he had lost his own hat on a trip to Times Square. Apparently, Gatsby liked liquor, because he also happened to own the bar. The bar was called, "Daisy." It said so in big green neon lights hanging over the awning out front.
Holden assumed that Gatsby was just another big time bourgeois phony, selling random shit on Craig's List; like somehow this meant that he played well with others, that he could pretend he was just like everybody else. Or maybe this Gatsby wanted someone to talk to, a friend? Holden knew the feeling. After all, who parts with a vintage fur-lined red hunting hat in the middle of December? Or maybe, the hunting hat wouldn't have gone well with his expensive suit; A suit perhaps, similar to the one that was walking toward him at that very moment.
Caulfield Vs. Gatsby
"Are you...?" Do people still wear flannel these days, thought Gatsby.
"Yes. I'm Holden, sir. Holden Caulfield." The man clearly used a lot of hair product.
"Well sport, I believe I have something of yours...for the right price, of course."
"Mr. Gatsby... Is that your real name, or is that some phony name that you've gone and made up for the internet or for your E-Harmony profile?"
"That's my god-given name, sport. It is the name of my father and his father before him. It is the name that is inscribed on my lacrosse trophies from prep school. Ah, prep school." He reminisced, his eyes closed, feigning deep concentration.
"Can I ask why you've chosen to part with your hunting hat, Mr. Gatsby?"
"When one wears a hunting hat, he is hidden away from the crowd. He disappears. I don't want to disappear, Mr. Caulfield; I want to be seen."
"Ah." Now Holden really got a kick out of that line. Gatsby's response, Holden thought, matched his bar. It was merely a façade; a way to distance himself from the others.
"But surely you are already a well-known gentleman, sir. The people who visit your bar; well, they must know you."
Gatsby frowned at this comment. "They don't know me AT ALL! The only reason they return is for our early-bird Thursdays!"
What a drama queen, Holden mused.
"I understand." He made sure to really look into Gatsby's soul.
"Do you? Do you understand, Mr. Caulfield?" One could never tell how old these hipster people were. Yet, young Caulfield seemed to possess an emotional intelligence beyond his years.
They were quite the odd couple, yet they were similar; the two of them together. They didn't allow others to get too close to them, for fear they would be left inept. They both maintained a steadfast love affair with child-like innocence. People either disappointed them or they died, and neither option was a good one. They both allowed others to take advantage of them; it was worth the aggravation if it meant having someone nearby. Yet, only if they wanted to be nearby, of course! If everyone had an agenda; if everyone was a "phony," there wouldn't be any pain when they were rejected. They retained their differences, yet one similarity was far too striking to neglect. Like Holden, Jay Gatsby lived deeply embedded in the past. More than money or fame, Gatsby longed for something invaluable; for something mystical that had remained concealed for far too long now; an abysmal concept charging within those green LED lights. They had both known love before; Holden worshiped his dead brother Allie, and Gatsby played dress-up for Daisy; an unrequited love that even the grandest of soirees failed to allure or persuade. Ultimately, they both wanted love and to be loved. Gatsby had never stopped believing in love, but Holden's ability to love had died with his brother.
"I'll give you 50 dollars." Holden knew it was a low offer, but his parents had cut him off a few months ago and all he had was freelance work.
Gatsby didn't seem to mind the lowball offer. "For 50 dollars, it's yours... and I'll even toss in a drink."
Holden thought he would never ask. "What you got?"
"Well, how about some good whiskey, sport?" Gatsby was proud of his expensive liquor.
"What the hell, I'll take it." If he died crossing the street leaving the place, he'd rather die with a little bit of booze in him.
Bros before Hoes
They drank until Gatsby slipped on his red hunting hat for one last adventure. With the hunting hat pulled over his forehead, one could barely differentiate one man from the other.
"You know, this whiskey isn't half bad, Mr. Gatsby. It's actually pretty goddamn good."
"Well sport, it's a classic; freshly brewed and made from the finest barley and rye."
"Rye, huh? You know Gatsby... that reminds me of a story; A story about the catcher in the rye..."
Gatsby was a part of him now and he was a part of Gatsby. Holden knew that he had misheard the lyrics to the old Robert Burns song and perhaps now he would be ready. "If a body meet a body, coming through the rye..." Holden could meet someone; he could fall in love.
The phonies weren't half bad once you gave them a chance. Maybe they were afraid like Holden was afraid; Gatsby was. Perhaps, a bit of dark and light were both necessary.
Holden danced his way home wearing Gatsby's red hunting hat; a mere shadow passing through the night. As Holden skipped home, he realized that he had acquired something far more valuable than the red hunting hat; Holden got hope.
That night, Holden dreamed he was in a field that sat on the edge of a cliff. The field's floor was brimming with rye. He was frolicking; the rye, a labyrinth of emotion. Bewildered he moved, like a fool in love, his feet teasing the edge of the cliff. He was no longer afraid he'd fall; he was caught in the rye. He was the catcher in the rye.