GCSPrank Is Here

For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Me and the Mrss.

One of the advantages that English has over Spanish is the distinction between “solitude” and “loneliness.” Solitude is a good thing, a reaching inward that connects you with yourself. Loneliness is pain, expressed or concealed. Spanish has only one word—soledad—with a heavier weight towards loneliness in its meaning, painting what could be a marvelous experience repeated throughout life into a murky corner best avoided.

Before I set foot in Oxford, I called my life one of solitude. I made it a point to revel in my isolation, to see the few interruptions as highlights in a journey, instead of oases. The sense of isolation increased in college, for though I found people I could truly share with, there was an entire world I wanted to explore: me.

My method was simple, but odd: I’d talk with older women. Much older, married women. It started with the white-haired woman I’ve called “Dorm Mother,” and continued with several other women. Three were bookstore employees, women in their late 40s-early 50s who espoused the bookish personality of librarians with the eager curiousity of avid readers. I visited these 2-for-1 bookstores as a way of exploring new authors, styles and genres, but I went just as often for the conversation. On occasion, I even helped stack or sort books, a great way to discover hidden gems.

Another of the conversation companions was Mrs. Smith, the Storage Room Supervisor of the AFROTC program. Her son was also in the program, and as her counter was at the end of a little-used hallway, we could talk with few interruptions. With her, the conversations ended as she became afraid that my lengthy stays could harm her evaluation. Unsaid was that it could harm her reputation.

For you see, I spent hours in these conversations. It wasn’t a rare thing to have me arrive at 10 AM and leave at 4 PM, having spent the six intervening hours talking about any subject that caught our fancy. To me the whole conversation was an expedition into minds, mine and hers. Unlike other conversations, for example, those of people who weren’t really my friends, I made no attempt to impress these women except in one way: I wanted to make them laugh. I succeeded often.

In the bookstores, clients would come in, browse slowly, make their purchases and leave. If the lady had to attend a customer or visitor, I’d wait patiently, read a book or go off to find something for me to amuse myself with. There were times when I felt the lady’s discomfort, impatience or unease at my continued presence. I pretended not to notice and made an effort to use my charm to get over the moment, to find another connection that would revitalize the conversation and make it special again. I always succeeded. The lengthy talks ended when I was done, when the energy of my exploration had ebbed to a tolerable dimming.

How much time, how many hours did I invest in these ladies, these vessels of my self-proclaimed exploration? I’ll never know, but it was certainly days.

From the deepest part of me, I can tell you I felt safe with them. My only requests were attention and appreciation, and that they gave me freely. I like to think I was a gift of time, energy and good humor in their lives and that they remember me fondly as a quirky character that passed through their lives. But somehow I can’t help but feel that maybe I left them with a touch of sadness, a remnant shadow of the melancholy I tried so desperately to hide.


Post a Comment

<< Home