Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Silent, Waiting for the Signal

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
I wondered if my parents felt like that on their first date. If my mom looked at my dad's eyes and saw lines too deep to connect with. If she felt the waiter make judgements. If the eight years meant too much. Then I remembered they're still together. Sitting watching soccer together downstairs. They've been married 25 years and had three kids and bought houses together and went to concerts together and grew deep lines around their eyes together. They did a lot of things. Together. And I looked into the lines around the eyes of this boy. This man. The eight years were too many.

We met near the dried beans. He dragged the last syllables of his words and I wanted to grab them and push them back. Make them short again. Make them right. His first anecdote was a judgement. About canned beans and curse words. We tried to exit the entrance and failed.  His legs were like a puppet's legs. His knees bent weird and his feet slapped against the street. There was snow that day. He talked about his shoes and I never looked. He didn't know which way was north so I told him, turn left. I'd never eaten Indian food. I didn't order right. I spilled sauce and little foods whose names I didn't know. The eight years showed and I smiled to make up for them. He was smug. He was smug about cucumber and spinach and animal products. He was smug about shoes and I still didn't look. I never looked. I wondered about his friends. I wondered about his job. I didn't ask. I never asked. I didn't care about asking. But I liked sitting across the table from him. Occasionally looking at the lines around his eyes. His eyes were blue and he was nice. To me. He wasn't nice about cucumber and spinach. He forgave my messes. I kept wishing he'd button another button on his shirt. He paid for my meal. He paid for the animal meat I ate in front of him (I don't remember if I did it on purpose) and he paid for the food I spilled on the table. He said they should provide crayons since they papered the tablecloth and he forgave the messes I made. I didn't forgive his judgements or the hair on his chest.

He didn't know which way was east. I told him the lake is east and he made a nervous laugh. I remembered a boy whose laugh made me laugh. I'm finding it harder and harder to smile when I don't feel like smiling. He didn't know what Lake Michigan looked like in winter. I described it instead of suggesting we go. The wind froze our faces in place. It could have been the cold or because of my growing inability to smile or listen when I don't want to smile or listen, but he told a story about licorice and I wish I could remember. But only for the purpose of regaining faith in my memory. Or retention. I don't listen when I don't want to listen. Not anymore. I told him the skyline looked nice from where we were walking. The strings pulled his knees. He looked. He agreed with me. People always agree with me. We were silent, waiting for the signal.

I get weird. I pay for my own tickets before there's question. This isn't a date. This can't be a date. The eight years felt heavy and I paid my own way. The woman gave him my student discount. Despite the eight years. Despite the deep lines. She wasn't listening. He talked about checking his coat. He talked about his coat. The plainness of his coat. I made a joke about a caterpillar and he laughed and checked his coat for $3. Or $6. He checked his coat either way and I held mine. I needed something to hold. I needed something to do with my hands. I needed something to hide my face. I needed that $3 or $6 for donuts.

I told him why the dinosaur bones in the entryway were special and he looked and made comments. I wondered about other things. I wondered about what I'd get for dinner and I wondered about a boy who made me laugh and who made me nervous. This boy, this man, didn't make me nervous. I made him nervous and it made me feel good. But I still wondered about dinner. We looked for insects. I like to talk about centipedes but I didn't care about telling him my centipede stories. He was smug. He'd say centipedes weren't insects. He'd tell me things I already knew and I would stop listening. I wondered about when I'd come back and look at the insects by myself. I wondered whether this boy, this man, would want to do anything after the museum closed in 90 minutes. I made a comment about a large mammal's butt and he laughed. He told me I was funny. He had genuine eyes. I coughed a lot. We wondered who worked there. Who did the taxidermy. We wondered who made the models. That was the only time we wondered the same things.

I'm glad he got my sense of humor. I'm glad he listened closely. He wanted to listen, I think. He wanted to hear what I said. He didn't ask me to repeat myself. I liked that. I didn't ask him to repeat himself either. But for different reasons. We looked at large cats, stuffed wrong. Seams spilling. I told him I disliked cats. I told him that one looked like it smelled like corn chips. I told him I wanted to hug a sun bear. I put my forehead against the glass like a child. I remembered standing close to a boy, looking at fish on a different day. Stayed put when he moved closer. But then, looking at bears, I moved away when our shirts touched. We looked at a lot of birds. He was interested in all the wrong ones. He found all the wrong names funny. Spent little time at the dodo. I love the dodo. He told stories about sports and I listened, I think. But I don't remember which he played. I told him I got hit in the face a lot when I was younger and he didn't stare at the robins for as long as he should have. He wanted coffee and maybe I rolled my eyes. He touched my elbow. It was a gesture. I never touched his elbow. I never even looked.

We looked at the masks. The masks were my favorite part of the museum and he picked the wrong masks. I wished I didn't take him there. Those masks meant something. I remembered picking out masks with a girl. She picked the right masks and I listened to her. We looked at figurines with funny faces and he picked the wrong faces. I thought for a second he was cute and I forgave him. I remembered him telling me I was pretty. We were by the dried beans and he thought I didn't hear him. I heard him. I was listening then. My hips were wider than his. He said certain words in weird ways. Not in ways that made me smile like the way a boy said a three-letter word walking west on Illinois before Thanksgiving. The eight years burned.

I asked if I should wait with him to get his checked coat. I wondered about what route I'd take to the train. What music I'd listen to while I stared at people. He said yes. He seemed offended. He wanted drinks. It was 5 o'clock. I tried. He wanted me to go west but I weaseled my way out like I tend to do. But I didn't instantly regret it. Like that time a boy asked me out for drinks and I went to the train instead and texted Amber immediately and felt stupid. I remember apologizing to that boy. He shushed me and I smiled on the train. But I didn't regret not going west. Not then.

We sat across from each other. The table was small. I kept the chair back so our knees wouldn't touch. Not like my knees touched a boy's in a cramped theater in Wrigleyville. It wasn't like that at all. I didn't want my knees to touch. I wondered about how cold the walk to Harrison would be. I wondered about getting a seat on the train, about finding a car that didn't smell like phantom chili. Our knees never touched. I had my first martini that night and I spilled it. I smiled to make up for it and he forgave me. He told me I was funny. He liked me, I think. He was rude about whiskey. He laughed at the waiter. I wanted to hug the waiter but instead I gave him faces that said something. I think he understood. I watched dogs on a hill and that sounds like a lie. They were running after a girl who was sledding and I was distracted. I was distracted because I love dogs and I was distracted because I wasn't listening. On the walk to the bar I told him I knew I didn't ask a lot of questions. He said I was interesting and that that made me more interesting. He didn't find it rude. Just interesting. I liked that. I don't like asking boring questions. I want a person to show me who they are on their own. He did. I liked that but I didn't want our knees to touch.

He said I was charming. I don't reciprocate feelings I don't feel anymore. I don't listen if I don't want to listen anymore. I don't laugh if I don't want to laugh anymore. I laughed at the dogs. I laughed at the couple holding hands and staring longingly into each other's eyes. I laughed later, on the train, when a boy made me laugh. He always makes me laugh.

I don't know how to say goodbye to people. To some. I hug Alice very tight. I touch hands with Amber and Kristine and make weird faces. I tell my mom not to cry. I give my dogs pats on the head but I didn't know how to say goodbye outside the hotel bar. I said something about lizards. I lied and said Harrison was closer than Roosevelt and then I walked north. I know which way is north. I froze and I wondered about dinner.

1 comment:

  1. This was really really great. I love your writing.

    Happy new year, hope you had some great Holidays :)