Between Places

An old man who can’t control his interjections–sometimes the weight of silence becomes so oppressive that something cracks, and silence is no longer possible.

“Jesus christ, what’s this lineup? It must be lunchtime.” (We’re at McDonald’s.)

“You’d think we were waiting for fine dining or something.” (His words are aggressive, more aggressive than they seem on paper. He’s chuckling. There is a hint of violence to his pseudo-joviality. What’s worse than anything, he’s already clutching an empty fountain drink.)

“Don’t they have enough people working back there?” (Didn’t they know he was coming?)

“Hey–they need people. You could get a job here pretty easily.” (At this point, beyond uncomfortable, I don’t even give the man the barest indication that I’ve heard him. From silence he’s found a voice, and then on to a different kind of silence.)

We didn’t wait longer than three minutes, if that.

***

I have a history of making a home out of between-places: stairwells, halls, closets. Of sitting on the dusty floor, with my legs stretched out, trying to convince myself, and my timid friends, that we’re somewhere. There are endless reminders (principally people stepping over my long legs) that we’re in a thoroughfare, part of the thoroughfare: only minute obstacles. Something to be stepped around. The conversation goes across the hall, between swinging legs, arms, books.

When sitting alone, it’s an effort not to look at the lone passerbyer approaching first by distant footsteps, then bodily eclipsing the entire hallway. To look would be too awkward, because it feels natural to confront those passing you, and those you pass, so we’d both look, and yet usually neither party feels comfortable acknowledging the other, so we would only look.

Tonight, in one of these halls, I wait for the class I’ll later discover is cancelled. I have a silent partner sitting across from me, obscured by a stone corner–I can see her studious in the black mirror of the door window, and every now and then, I can hear her turn a page.

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