I am at the bookstore the other day, sitting in the cafe area at one of those high tables, bar tables, whatever they’re called. I don’t really know. I only know my feet don’t touch the floor when I sit in the chair and yours probably wouldn’t either. I am minding my own business, because, as we all know, that is my life. Minding my own business. After a while, a woman with long silver hair and brown leather clogs sets up camp at the high table, too, with her notebook and a pen and a paperback called It’s So Hard To Love You. I decide she is New Agey, because apart from minding my own business, the only other thing that is my life, as we all know, is making snap judgments about other people. She has long silver hair and wears brown leather clogs so she is New Agey and her name is probably Gaia. After a few short moments, she quickly fills a page with splotchy dark blue notes. I am spying on her, because that, too, is my life. Minding my own business, making snap judgments, and spying. I’m also worrying about the quality of her pen because her notes look so gunky and messy, but this is none of my business. If Gaia wants to fill endless volumes with blotchy blue notes from a book called It’s So Hard To Love You, well, who am I to object? There are obviously larger issues at work for ol’ Gaia. She ignores me better than I ignore her and I try not to be offended that I am so uninteresting to her, but I also decide she is sensing my intrusive energy in her New Agey way and consciously trying to ignore me. Because I am a narcissist.
Notice me, Gaia!
Alas, I am a wellspring of hideous need which I sense she senses. Wisely, she continues to ignore me.
Along the wall, next to our bar table, is a line of bar chairs. Extras, I guess. An older man strolls up and perches on one of them, casually, cradling his coffee like a crooner with his mic, about to sing or banter with the audience. I pay attention to my work now, yes, I do, because I surely don’t want the Old Crooner to notice me noticing Gaia. His presence represses me and I resent him deeply. Oh, no. Here we go. He’s going to speak to me any minute, I sense it, in my non-New Agey way.
Suddenly he makes a weird sound deep in his throat, all rasping and choking. A likely medical emergency which I choose to ignore, as any compassionate person would do. He chokes and rasps again, overplaying it if you ask me, but that darn Jesus makes me speak to him.
“Oh! Yeah! Wow! I have lava throat from the coffee.”
We fall silent and I assume our lives will intersect no more.
I am wrong.
“Yeah. I don’t know what’s worse, lava throat from something hot or brain freeze from something cold.”
“Well, they’re both uncomfortable,” I say.
“That’s for sure.”
Silence again. Now I’m feeling some pressure to continue to chat with the Old Crooner, but not that much pressure, I guess, because I stay silent but simultaneously shift my position away from him, slyly rotating on the axis of my bum. Gaia remains serene and silver. She could help me out with the Old Crooner, you know, but she doesn’t and I just might be starting to really dislike her and her single-minded preoccupation with her So-Hard-To-Love person.
Help me, Gaia! Notice my distress!
You see, secretly, I always rely on the kindness of strangers and, therefore, I am usually disappointed. On the other hand, it’s fair to say that I sometimes have unreasonably high expectations of strangers and how they will help make my life easier.
But, lucky me, the Old Crooner tries to drag Gaia into the awkward social fray, all by himself. He gestures toward her book with his coffee/mic and says, “Oooh. I don’t even wanna know what that’s all about. Oooh-weee.”
Gaia just smiles at him. She just smiles. All unperturbed-like. What is going on? What is the deal here? Her serenity sickens me. Is she surrounded by invisible healing crystals? Does she have a perfect pink aura? Is she in tune with the global harmonic convergence, blahdie blah blah? Something is askew here. My inner Jesus narrows his eyes.
Still, unfazed by Gaia’s silence, the Old Crooner rambles on about her book. He seems determined to break her and, well, I’m not proud of it, but I now love him.
“Yeah. Wow. That thing there, that’s trouble, you know. It can’t be good.”
Finally, finally, Gaia’s healing crystal shield cracks a bit and she says, “Oh, well, stuff like this helps me with my work. I do energetic healing.”
BINGO! I take an inner bow, hitchin’ up my smartypants.
“Oh, yeah?” says the Old Crooner.
He seems suddenly uncomfortable with himself which seems only fair to me because I have been uncomfortable with him this entire time. He stands and shuffles a few feet to the comic book stand.
Again, silence. Gaia has retreated behind her healing crystal shield, drat her. Several seconds pass. Perhaps as many as thirty whole seconds pass in silence.
“Wow! Hahaha! Wow!” crows the Old Crooner.
I lower my head. Gaia does not move. He turns back to our high table, waving a Wonder Woman comic book in our direction, pointing to the cover image of Wonder Woman in her red-white-and-blue molded-breastplate glory.
“See this? This isn’t the Wonder Woman from when I was a kid! Look at that six-pack! Oh, brother!”
He’s standing closer to me, unfortunately, so that darn Gaia leaves me to schlep the growing social burden alone.
Gaia! What about the sisterhood of man, Gaia?
“Well, it looks like a breastplate,” I say.
“Well, maybe, but …. look at those biceps! Ohh, brother!”
“Mm-hm. She’s pretty buff.”
“Yeah! ‘Hey! Look at me, I don’t need a man!'”
She’s Wonder Woman, dude.
Not getting what he needs from me, he steps toward Gaia, who, I notice, has now obscured her silveriness in her book.
“Yeah. That’s trouble, that book.”
“Hey, I bet it’s about those people … uh, whaddya call ’em … uhm …. oh, they’re not enablers; they’re –”
“Co-de-pen-dent?” Gaia breaks in, every syllable a bullet, her tone a deathly desert. Her very voice has changed the temperature in the room. I am agog.
“Yeaah ….. co-dependent!”
Gaia stares at him, a perfect blank. The Old Crooner wavers a moment, cowed in the fixed plane of her gaze, then turns to tippytoe back toward the comic books. I decide that without invisible healing crystals or a perfect pink aura or oneness with the harmonic convergence, I must be nothing but a fickle wench because in that instant, I am deeply in love with Gaia. Turns out, nothing about the Old Crooner has escaped Gaia’s silvery notice. Maybe she noticed my distress, after all. Wanted to help. Sensed what would make the perfect moment. You know, for me. Because if it’s not all about me, then darned if I know who it IS all about.
Gaia glances at me. I can only see her eyes, their corners crinkling. I smile back, my best friendly-and-not-at-all-needy smile. Who knows what that even looks like? Who cares?
Gaia noticed me!
Uh, yes, Trace. You just keep practicing that not-at-all-needy smile.
Moment over, Gaia goes back to her book, I go back to my work, and the Old Crooner peruses a Batman comic book in silence.
And our lives intersect no more.