His eyes jolted about the room, as if something in this room would somehow jar the memory, that either wasn’t there, or had been let go long enough ago to seem like it never was. The memory he searched for never registered so he responded to my question with.
“Isn’t it weird how moles look like ketchup spots when you see them up close and out of the corner of your eye.”
I was perturbed, but now thinking of what ketchup spots look like and at what angle they began to look like moles.
In our brief swath of time together he did always know how to get me thinking. Even about the seemingly benign. He would fill the emptiness left in the time we shared with these un-evocative questions that when dripped from his tongue, somehow, evoked! They would fill your mind like a cancer engulfing a liver or lung. Then eat away at your day until the moment would come, it always would, after different amounts of time dependant on where you were that day and what strange question he offered you to ponder, when you became soberingly aware of how much time was just spent thinking of things never worth what you just paid.
I was briefly addicted to these conversations, as I am sure many were before. Now it was growing feigned. I was tired of this. I was also beginning to care, to no fault of either of us. It was the type of caring that grew out of becoming familiar. I had learned a long time ago to be careful for whom I cared for. So when that familiar feeling crept itself into my consciousness, it was decision time.
The ketchup mole asseveration was still hanging there. Above our table like a deep dense fog that fills the fall valleys of my hometown. A dizzying haze that pulls from you any sense of direction you ever possessed. Using any light achieved only making visibility worse. Like high beams in a highway fog, it just made the fog more aware of you. To which it puffed its chest and showed its teeth to remind you of who was superior.
I came from an unassuming farm town that long ago had given up most of its farms to briar bushes that continue to dominate the landscape, like a slow moving cancer. The tractor chemo would drive the patches into remission once a year or so. They would always show again with a seemingly feverish disdain for the farmer’s feeble attempts at treatment.
I have lived many places and seen many fall eves, but nowhere else have I observed the same haze that engulfs my childhood autumns at dusk.
He had a sort of conversational narcolepsy! He would fall into these garbled statements, seemingly, to no fault of his own. This recognition of possible truth was making me feel guilt for what I was trying to do in this conversation. This, the conversation that was actively fighting its own purpose! I could relate to that idea. I too have at times fought against my own stated purpose. I’ll admit though that this was not making me any more sympathetic to this conversation’s plight.
Throughout our time together the idea would sometimes arise that he was perhaps slightly brilliant, or at least possessed a drive that exhibited the same idea. Like the time he began to quote the love song of J. Alfred Prufrock while we are at dinner. The only reason he stopped was because the waiter had arrived to take our order. I have no idea what inspired it’s beginning. If it were indeed brilliance it would be a drunken hazy brilliance that would peak out at times, usually when it’s existence was in question.
My eyes drew themselves up and adhered to his face. His were scanning the room, still. I assumed searching for that answer. Or maybe he was drawing letters in his eye movements. Penning in cursive something only he knew how to understand.
We had become familiar through time spent. Almost everything about him was a wonder to me still. We had experienced the greater part of four months together and I knew, basically, nothing about him. At least, nothing offered by him. All that I know, or thought I know, I had drawn myself, through sessions much like the one happening now. The times where an inappropriate silence had fallen onto our shoulders and I was left to try and figure why.
These silences did seem to bother him as well. At least, the frantic words being scribed with his eyes were leading me to that conclusion. I figure that he was not at the reigns of his own life. I felt like he left others to the directing. Let others weave them selves in, and then out of, his tapestry. This seemed heroic and cowardly at once.
Heroic that he walked through his days, years, allowing others to do what they will. A martyr with no defined governing idea. I was never a fan of the martyr. Cowardice cemented itself in the fact that he never took the initiative to ensure his own happiness. Also- he passively insisted on having others initiate conversations like the one we find ourselves in the middle of now. Was he happy? At this juncture I was inclined not to care. Or at least ignore the fact that I did. Deeply.
I was beginning to see that I wasn’t pushing against him. I was pushing against myself. A battle destined to end in an anti-climactic fizzle and collapse as you and you simultaneously run out of steam.
A word rose up from his lungs but got caught either in the back of his throat or bashed against the backs of this teeth. Either way, it never escaped his lips.
This drew nothing except more frustration from me. I was running out of places to direct it. Frustration was giving way to anger.
The coffee had gone cold, the eggs stale, but the waitress was yet to offer any reparation. She was generally a good server. Attentive. Always a warm smile offered as she topped off your cup or took your plate. The problem today was that dense fog. It was palpable to everyone around. No one dare disrupt it. That was ours to burn off.
The absurdity of this all hit me like a cold drink in the face. I was left soggy and offended. I would have welcomed an actual drink in the face over this unabashed silence! This screaming, deafening silence! Maddening in its full emptiness!