“. . .sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that?”
“Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.” ― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
In the early summer of 2004, I went on a trip with my parents. My parents took each of us four kids on a vacation of our choice before we were married. My oldest sister went to England. The next one went to Hawaii. The last to Spain. I don’t fly. I chose to visit baseball stadiums that I had never seen before. I know I wanted to visit Fenway, first and foremost, so, we naturally toured the East Coast.
This post isn’t about baseball. It’s not really even about the trip. This one is about a moment in the first city we visited. Baltimore, MD. The hotel we stayed at was in a seedy area to say the least. Had I known that, I am sure I would have had a panic attack. It was close to the stadium, but inside the hotel it felt safe.
We checked in and I promptly told my parents that I would be downstairs and I was going to call Laura and have a few drinks at the bar. I called Laura. This was the second time in our short relationship that we had been apart. We spoke for a while and then I pulled a chair up to the bar. At this time, there were two other people at the bar.
The bar was a typical horse shoe shape. I was at the apex, with a patron on each side. I don’t recall going outside at any point, so this bar must have been smoking. Back in 2004, that was an available option from time to time. I looked at the barkeep, she looked at me. She asked for ID, I obliged. I asked for a Jameson on the rocks. Not a typical order back then. But I wanted to feel fancy I suppose. She poured. I sipped.
For those of you that know me, I am mostly reserved and internal. For those of you who know alcohol, that seems to have the opposite effect. I generally have a balance of the two while imbibing. I sipped. I dragged. I scanned. I sipped. I dragged. I scanned. Only if I had an iPhone then. Though, if I did, this wouldn’t have happened.
With the aforementioned seediness of the area we were in, this hotel bar was not filled with vacationers. This bar was filled with salespeople. “Individuals” representing their company to make their boss a bigger profit and securing their legacy as a leader among the herd. There was an African-American gentlemen to my right now. We’ll call him “Sheldon.” His colleague, “Ann” was there with him. She was mid-40s with store-bought red hair. To the right of them was a late 20s midwest salesman. Think Jim from the office. Less charming, of course. And looked nothing like him. To my left was a saleswoman, probably 30, 31? She was obviously hired to sell because of her big eyes. We’ll call her “Jessica.” To the left of her was two middle-aged men. The strategically picked their place to hear Jessica had to sell.
The barkeep emptied my ashtray and restocked my Jameson. I was beginning to feel relaxed. As relaxed as a 23 year-old on vacation can relax. And then it happened. It’s what will always happen when you are surrounded by sales people. Small talk. You may recall from previous posts how I feel about small talk. Sales people don’t care, though.
“Hey, how are you doing?” I’m sure Sheldon asked. I’m sure my answer was short. At the same time I was starting to loosen. I sipped. I dragged. I scanned. I sipped. I dragged. I scanned. The where are you froms and what are you doing here’s came next. Again, short and to the point. Ann was surprised to learn that I was engaged. Surely, I must have been too young. I had to have been too young. What do you even know what you want to do at that age the middle-aged men, thought.
I wanted to be a writer. I want to write. Books. Poetry. Movies. Anything. I want to write and be poignant. Jim, by now, had had quite a few beers. I had switched also. Dude, when he was my age he wanted to do shit too. He wanted to be a lawyer. He had come from a family of lawyers. That sounded familiar to me. But, he lost faith. He lost faith in humanity. Somewhere along the line he lost his faith in humanity and divinity. The human and the divine are something divinely human.
The small talk had turned into something that I could participate in. I told them on why there has to be a higher power. Simply, human brains can’t fathom negative infinity. They can try to explain. But they would be using man-made science and theory to explain something that was absolutely unexplainable. For humans, things cannot exist always. There is a finite beginning. There is a finite ending. We created time and we are now slaves to time.
We learn early on in our lives that time is the supreme commander of our lives. You can do that in 15 minutes. You have to go to bed at 8:00. Next week. Tomorrow. You’re 5 years old. You have to go to school for 13 years before college. One semester. Time of my life. Seven second orgasm. Due in nine months. Live for 75 years. Time consumes us. We are a slave to time.
Jessica thought that was über depressing. Then I told them that is why we need to choose to live in the moment. It may be selfish to some. It may rude to some. But it would be rude to deny yourself any possible enjoyment or experience with the predetermined miniscule timeframe that we are alloted on this planet. Live for happiness and desire. Otherwise time will consume you and make you miserable. You will curse man and count the days down until you swallow your last breath.
For some reason, when I spent the time with these strangers we engaged in a conversation that allowed these people to see me for who I am. They told me that I had touched them. I smiled and didn’t respond. I sipped. I dragged. I scanned. I sipped. I dragged. I scanned. Sheldon gave me his card. He told me that he didn’t think a 50-year-old black man would learn shit from a 23-year-old white kid from the Chicago suburbs. He gave a hearty laugh. We all left. I evacuated my dinner into the lobby toilet. I went upstairs and embraced the darkness that would allow me to see Laura faster. I had missed her.
Please to enjoy.