I met Victor when I lost my hat.
I met Robert the Original when I gave up my search for a bagel shop.
I saw the sky through my eyelids as the warm, late November sun burned down on them as I laid in the grass.
From the back, Robert is a woman. Big white perm, perfectly fluffed and spun. From the front, well that’s a bit different. He’s a woman with a mustache. Or a man with a perm. The broad insensitive categories our minds jump to in trying to quickly analyze our surroundings.
His mustache is white. The color of his perm. The color of 80 year old hair, no matter who it adorns. He complimented my hair. I returned the favor sincerely.
Robert moves his lips alot before every word. There’s a good 4 to 12 flaps of the mouth before a sentence can start. It takes a bit of patience. Not too much, just a little.
He has an earing. He was a beautician by trade. He talked of grand parties with classic entertainers I know nothing about. He talked about his old love for New Orleans, and then said “but I’m leaving.” I asked him how come. He blamed it on the kids.
I prepared for a typical angry old man rant, and tried to remember that these things are often post rationalizations to help ease the reality, in his case, of being too old to handle his estate. But I listened, as we stood outside holding our groceries.
“People these days are all the same, all want to be the same. Everyone is wearing the same clothes, looking the same way, and saying the same things. Everyone says the same words. ‘How are you?’ ‘I’m great!’ Really? Is everyone really fucking great? Everyone can sum themselves up in the same word? In the same dress? In the same attitude? I just don’t undertand it.”
I don’t understand it either. It doesn’t make me angry though, at least not anymore. Maybe it will again once I get older.
The man with the perm, the woman with the mustache, the original incarnation of beautiful Robert spoke like the heat flapping through an old laundry vent. I thought of reminding him to try not to generalize, but in a generalized way, he is right (though I don’t see it as anything new). I don’t much care to temper an old man’s flame. He is the source, the original hand-written Robert document before it got scanned. Supposedly, some genetic evolution is enviable to those of sexing species, and makes one desirable. A touch too much genetic variation and one is shunned from the same breeding pattern. I don’t think Robert ever had any need to hide between those blurred lines.
It made me think of what transgressions I’ve made in the past, and currently, to be more normal, even slightly, to fit into some kind of generally understandable box. And I have made concessions. Not large ones. But they’re there. I’m glad I ran into Robert. He was a reminder.
I don’t have much to say about Victor, except that connection comes in all forms, even from the not-so-variants. My hat blew away and landed next to his foot over a block away. He said “You never know who you’ll meet when you lose your hat” and then asked for my number. He wasn’t like Robert. He’s just regular and plain, from first appearances at least. There isn’t an obvious fire. He’s just an open book in the road, middle aged. A casual read. So I gave it to him, as, why not? That’s the nature of New Orleans and the nature of losing hats it seems. He calls me to talk about his dentist visits. I listen. It’s alright. It’s something different.
But as for the sky. The one that I can see even with my lids closed from the presence of the sun. It reminds me. My back flat against the earth, I can feel it rotating. Spinning in space, with me just stuck onto it like a squished cartoon coyote sprawled terrified against the front of a train (reference image attached), except I’m no longer terrified. Just watching the surroundings spin by, casually, like glancing at a dive bar’s TV.
Sometimes with each rotation there’s someone standing there in front of me. Old lovers, old friends. People I miss. We’ll be face to face for a moment. Spinning together. Our features the only frame of stable reference with the wildly blurring backdrop behind us.
We may not be together, nor ever see each other again, but in those moments we exist in the same space. As present as ever. It’s when we’re separated that we can be truly silent with a person. When we can just stare into each other and watch without words, follow up, or even a blink. We exist on one axis. And then we open our eyes.
Thanks for listening.