A brief encounter

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sitting directly across from me, I couldn’t help but make observations, so I mentally catalogued the view.

His graying hair lay flat, save for the receding hairlines opposite each other mimicking invading armies. His only defense was a style designed to hide their capture of new territories. But it was apparent that in few short years, there would be less hair available for cover-up. Nonetheless, it revealed the gentleman’s awareness of others perception of himself. One wonders how complete baldness will affect his self-perception.

His brown wrinkle-free trousers meshed well with the tan cardigan sweater. Perhaps chosen by his wife? And if so, what other decisions has she made for him? His meek temperament implied a strong figure in the background.

Someone has once said that much can be learned by observing a man at the dinner table. If so, here was someone well-trained in the art. His hunger did not override his attention to etiquette. Back straight. Fork held correctly. No elbows on table. Food chewed and swallowed before speaking. And yet done so effortlessly, as if trained in such manners at a young age (his mother?)

His conversation started broken and low-key. His answers were in short sentences. Guarded and wary, he eventually loosened as the conversation progressed, with more use of the hands and animated eye movement. His body relaxed a bit, revealing his incremental acceptance of me, his lone audience.

A curvaceous female strolled past mid-conversation and I detected a subtle break in the words. He had noticed. It told me his appetites were alive and well and made me wonder of his private life, perhaps held in constraint by the same self control exhibited at the table.

His hands revealed no calluses and looked soft to the touch. Likewise, though mid-summer, there were no tan lines, indicating a job out of the sun that probably used the mind more than the back.

Though articulate, his words were predictable and littered with clichés.

Humor, that great revealer of the human heart, was no less at work here. At what would he laugh? Puns and word plays seemed of little interest to him. Witty sentences were not observed. Even stories with punch lines brought but a smile to his face. It wasn’t until he himself referred to someone we both knew in such a way as to make us both laugh that I realized his humor was mostly at the expense of others. At this I was disappointed, though, I must confess, I also had laughed.

His intellect was above average and his recall exceptional. My guess was his artistic excursions had been limited, feeling more comfortable within the bounds of predictability.

At the appointed time, he departed, his punctuality evident, and assumed his role amongst the world.

Now tell me reader: suppose you were you to give me one half-hour of your life. What would I write?