Good morning, gang-
Toss your coat over on the chair, there. Got some Emeril’s Big Easy Intense fresh-brewed. Hey—did you bring bagels?
I knew it was just a matter of time. I’d done this a thousand times before. Maybe 1500 times. Not my first rodeo.
No. “Fool me once, shame on you.” You know the drill. I knew if I were to simply lean back in my scarred, comfortable leather office chair, learned reflexes would kick in and I’d instinctively know how to handle this challenge. Enlightened, lightning-like responses would lead and I’d know exactly what to do. They did. I did.
I poured another cup. There’s something inimical about tepid coffee.
I leaned back some more. Now, where would I be most likely to store that recharger cord? And if they wanted it to be easily found, why call it a NOOK? Something nefarious flitted at the edges of my thoughts like a moth to a camplight. If I were camping. I wasn’t.
A-HAH! Reaching over, I opened a drawer, moved a bulk package of extra AA batteries, and doorbell.
Yeah. That’s how intrusive it was. Ever notice that things like doorbells and phones and knocks on your cubicle never are lanquid? Even Sticky-Notes that get POUNDED on your desk or filing cabinet like the bearer is Gabriel’s understudy. There’s no spirit of ‘take-your-time, enjoy-the-day, have-another-bagel (hint-hint) with any of them. They are ALWAYS inyaface, geddouddatown, ayowyadoincmonlesgetwiddit. Right? The only place doorbells are considerate is in syndicated reruns of The Donna Reed Show, Leave It To Beaver or Sky King.
Ju-u-ust seeing if you’re paying attention. I figured I lost a couple of you back there mooning about those bagels from Panera. And the reason I never use contemporary shows for these examples is that they don’t know what manners are. Or doorbells.
I hadn’t intended to actually get up to open the door; however my finer gentlemanly bearing kicked in. So did that Emeril’s Big Easy Bold. Who-ho-ho, BABY, that’s some— I was across the room before rational thought caught up with me. Odd when that happens. No, I meant getting up to . . . no, not rational thought. No, wait, what I meant was—-
“Hey, come on in.” I was speaking to an empty airspace. He’d leaked in the door the minute I had it partially cracked. Someday I need to figure out how he does that.
I stood there, head over shoulder, with that sardonic, half-lidded “Really?” look on my face. I knew it was good. I’d been practicing it in the mirror. I waited. Silence can be very intimidating. I knew the rising background music was driving him to
“I’m taking Geek as a second language.”
Unsure exactly what to do with that, I acted wise by saying more of nothing. When you’re on a roll . . .
“Do you know all the oxygen from Creation is still here? You could be breathing the same molecules as Spartacus or Ms. Lucy the lunchroom monitor. Or a congressman.”
I managed to withstand the sudden and violent desire to gargle. Ms. Lucy had that big wart thing on her neck with whiskers on it. Hey, can I help it if it was right about where one of Franky’s bolts would be? I caught myself, like Mary, wondering what manner of tidings these should be. That is to say, I was curious if he’d been shorted some meds. While I was pondering thus, he jogged on in his continuing trek through what had to be an intensely strange mental landscape.
“I’m not even on drugs, man. I’m just weird.”
Couldn’t help myself. “I’m, ah, certainly supportive.”
“Hey, I was reading this article online about a young single mom who was juggling two jobs, taking care of a baby and finishing her college degree all at the same time . . . ” I was almost afraid to breathe at this point… “It’s so cool, because with the help of an espresso machine somebody gave her, she, like, graduated summa cum latte.”
He never slowed down to see me shaking my head. Kurt Vonnegut would’ve been proud. Okay, no, he wouldn’t.
“One guy says, ‘So, when did you first really meet your wife?’
The other one says, ‘The day after the wedding!’
You know, a bad joke is bothersome enough, but it somehow creates a bilious cloud of toxic dust when they laugh at their own punch line.
At this point I just stood there, hunch-headed and with shoulders rounded, like you do when you’re caught in an absolute downpour wearing your best guayabera shirt and no umbrella. Man up and take one for the team. Except the rest of the team’s in the dugout. Dry. Laughing at—– Mm-hmm.
Oh, no. No-no-no. He wasn’t done. “I did NOT fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a VEGETARIAN!”
“I am in NO MOOD for YOUR ‘TUDE, DUDE! Don’t need your rotten/cynical/critical/judgmental/crotchety/snooty/negative/killjoy/fill-in-the-blank attitude to RUIN MY REALLY GOOD DAY!!!”
Ah. The glimmer of a theme shown slightly in the flickering shadows of each thought as it swished past like a carnival ride at just-under-governor speed. True to my compassionate nature I asked a deeply caring diagnostic question: “Let me guess—you’ve shared these literary jewels for the last week on Facebook, haven’t you? Most people don’t realize this, but you can do many things without telling Facebook about it.”
I took Sarcasm as a second language. At risk of breaking his oddly-connected concentration, I asked if, perchance, he might have something memorable, even thoughtful to add beyond the goofy silliness in which he seemed to have immersed himself. I found myself replaying his final comments long after he left.
Before I pass them along, here is this week’s challenge: be aware how many hurting, lonely, wounded people use humor, even unkind and sharp humor, to deflect where they really are. They’ve been hurt once too often and though wishing for openness and healing, there’s real fear of having their soul lacerated again. Learn to observe and listen. You’ll be surprised how much you come to know—and whom.
Okay—here’s his final jab: “It’s not hard to shine in the midst of gloom, man.” It wasn’t like the others so I waited for his explanation, which wasn’t long in coming . . .
“You know how Paul used ‘men’ and ‘deh’ a lot? ‘On the one hand/On the other hand’? I nodded. Well, ‘men’ When the surrounding spiritual climate is dull and medocre, just LOOKING & SOUNDING ‘Christian’ can elevate you to sainthood. An eyebrow twitch was all it took this time. ‘Okay, so, ‘deh’ spending time around the real thing will immediately show you up as a spiritual minnow puddle and seriously immature.”
I was still pausing in both midstand and midthought as I heard the door softly close behind him.
It brought to mind something I’d been writing around . . . “At first glance she looked serene and well put together. Up close, once you got to know her, her personality seemed like it was missing something, vacant, like an aging motor court along a forgotten state road somewhere with only three rooms rented. Her face, carefully made up, was attractive from out there. Close in, her eyes, her gaze had a vacuous sense to them, kind of like a car dashboard with half the lights burned out.
“What brought me up short is I realized I’d seen that look before. I’d seen it in others. I’d seen it in my mirror.”
What caused it? Maybe you’ll be willing to open up enough to share that with me. ‘Cause you’ve seen it in your mirror, too. Haven’t you?
(Don’t you just hate it when one of these is raucously funny and comes to a screeching, rubber-searing, serious halt? Writers . . .)