Thunderstorms tonight. The world all compressed and shivering. The atmosphere throwing a fit. And the rain slashing the air and the lightning like electrical exclamation points. Livid punctuation. And Rodney called to check up on me when the lights went out. He’s sweet. Rodney. You remember him, he works at the University. In the library. The stacks. He’s the argyle one, but he wears it too earnestly. So it’s not really the same. Anyway, we talk from time to time when I’m in there, and we’ve done a few lunches and one or two faculty show things. So he called to check and I felt like company, so I invited him over to share the storm and figure out how to make coffee over the fire. So he came, dear man, through driving rain and cracking thunder, and was graciously received with kerosene and candlelight. He dried out and we burned the coffee and some of my potholders, and we played scrabble and I made one of those junior high thingies with deep questions in them and we tried to talk about faith, but he said he didn’t want to speculate on that, so we tried the space-time continuum, and he was good for that for a while- Physics degree. And then we ran out of wood and the fire died down and I got out some blankets and we wrapped up. And he decorously leaned against me. And it was very friendly and companionable. But as hard as I tried to pry some kind of … something from him; tried to lift the lid and let out whatever was trapped underneath… I think what was underneath was pretty much more of the same. And so sometimes you just have to accept that. And it’s funny. I always thought he was older. But do you know he graduated the same year as Andy. This life is a strange thing. The way we all grow up individually, becoming something that is ours alone. Made of all the same materials. Like children in preschool, we all start out with the same collection of blocks, but each child’s creation is something individual and distinct.
Anyway, it was a nice evening. Pleasant. And he was courtly and intelligent. And made a few jokes which were appreciated if not for their particular brand of humor, then at least for their existence in our evening. And he told me I was inspiring and that I made him feel so new… sigh. But if that was him all open and shiny and new… well, then there isn’t really any place to go is there? And he held my hand at the door when he left. And I smiled. And he isn’t you, Simon. And when he dropped the hot pad in the fire and we had to fish it out with the poker, he was grimly serious, and overly apologetic. And there wasn’t one comment to remember. And I couldn’t help thinking that if it had been you, that silly potholder would have become some private joke between us, and I would have kept it somewhere under the sink where I could see it and remember and laugh again. Instead of just tossing it into the wastebasket after soaking it thoroughly in the sink to get rid of the singed smell. And there was no hint of boldness in him. His eyes didn’t do any of the things that yours do. They didn’t burn and devour the way yours do when you’re on a topic that you love. They didn’t laugh or even grin when I tried to feign seriousness about my space-time questions. There wasn’t any twinkle of challenge, or lifted eyebrow of daring. They didn’t slow down and swirl with … well, they weren’t your eyes, and the hand he offered as zenith of the night was cold and though he smiled as he took mine, his smile was just a smile. With nothing behind it but smiling. And perhaps some hoping. But what are his hopes? How big are they? Big enough? Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. Maybe I’m not being fair. He likes Tolstoy. That has to earn him points or something. If he can find something in there that twitches in him, familiar. And there’s nothing wrong with people being simply what they are.
I just… he’s just not enough. And really… his name is Rodney. He needs some nice, quiet, bright, timid Rebecca or something. I’d end up freaking him out. And I missed you tonight. And did my very best to not think about what you were doing. I’d say I was 77% successful.