My Photo
Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Speed Dating

One September afternoon I was sitting at a green metal table outside a coffee shop waiting for a friend. She was late and I passed the time sketching a woman's face in the back of a notebook. A man -- he looked like a college student, wore one of those many-zippered and many-flapped backpacks -- stopped at my table and said, "Wow, that's a nice drawing." I frowned up at him. It wasn't a nice drawing; it was barely a drawing at all. He pulled a chair from a nearby table, sat down and started talking.

He told me the story of his life, that he worked in the software industry besides being a student, and that he wanted to open his own business one day. He said he liked poetry, asked me if I liked poetry too -- no, I lied -- and made the usual moronic (and okay, okay, well-intentioned) comment about how well I spoke English. I was puzzled and frustrated but couldn't help being polite. I didn't know what he was after. I'm not the kind of woman who has moves put on her; I don't even know what the "moves" are, practically speaking.

Well, he was putting the moves on me. That became clear soon enough. To shake him off I told him I had to go grocery shopping. There was a Trader Joe's across from the coffee shop. He said he'd come with me because he had to buy bread. He loved soup in a bread bowl. In the grocery store I darted from one shelf to another, plunged into a group of people to lose him. But he followed me, grinning and hitching up the straps of his backpack. In the vegetable section he asked me to dinner. I'm married, I said. He backed up and lifted his hands, palms towards me. "Oh, well," he said, forcing a smile, and turned on his heels and walked away.

I lingered in the store for a few more minutes to put some distance between me and the guy. I wandered about and turned absent-mindedly on the canned vegetables isle. And there the guy was, talking up another young woman who was trying to pick up a jar of olives of the shelf. "I really like soup in a bread bowl," I overheard him say as I walked by. I waved at him and tried to swallow a peal of laughter. The man lost no time. He must have read some book about how to find love in half an hour or less.

He annoyed me; he was presumptuous and prying, his breath smelled stale, he had no understanding of personal space. But he was also earnest; he mentioned Walt Whitman; he was doing his best. Very few people fit clear-cut categories; very few have simple lives. It's very discomfiting to get a glimpse like that into someone else's messy inner life. But it reminds me that my own inner life is messy too, though in a different way. Willy-nilly, I share in this great strangeness of being human.


Blogger rabfish said...

You are an incredible writer. What a beautiful last paragraph.

December 30, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home