Monday, March 3, 2008

Waking Hours

Seeking rest from bony cobblestones we sit on a bench, taking note of the clumped clouds in front of us. He says, “It’s going to rain.”

“Uh-huh,” I respond, on automatic. We both look at the passersby armed with umbrellas, not the type to throw caution to the wind.

“I talk to myself too,” he says suddenly, in a leap from nowhere, “maybe not so freely, but I do.”

Mmm…two people who talk to themselves but rarely to each other might not be the best of matches, I think, hoping not aloud – what could they possibly draw out of the other?

But I chew my words, gulping them to dislodge cavities. Why ruin it, he’s just…relating, not trying to chastise me, as others have done.

Soft pelts fall, we look at each other, grinning. It’s just our kind of weather, turbulance speaking for us both.

Just then, an unusually old, knotted face pops into view, jolting me. And I am taken back to an old man I met once that looked well over 200 years old: Old doubled, his decay bristling with a palpitating vitality generated by some mysterious momentum.

His trails cushioned with folds, flaps, pockets; his eyes glassed gray like the plate of my oven door, of a metallic brilliance hinting at a world I’ve glimpsed when woken from jittery dreams, by some urgent push, and stay up half the night, more lucid and hyperalive than ever in the waking hours.

Something essential always reveals itself then, a reminder or two, which I always promptly forget in the waking hours.

So many roads on that face, so many turns, exits, and not a few cul-de-sacs. The only map I ever need. Forget palm-reading, this is the real thing.

“Why don’t you come around for tea anymore? I’ve missed you,” he’d asked.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been busy. I will,” I said.

“Good. I’ll be expecting you. Say hello to your mother for me.”

“Okay. See you soon,” were our parting words.

Banal words, distilled.

For though I’d never met him before, I found myself questioning what had, in fact, kept me away.

“Tea it is, then,” he says, and looking at him, I see his young face, wet and here.

I had relayed the conversation to him, without intending it. So maybe our selves talk after all. Despite us.

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