Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finding a Moment Among Conversation Gaps

I sit across from a familiar face at a familiar table and have a familiar conversation – a commentary on shoes and late night television programming and a strategy discussion on awkward social encounters (exchanging tactics and horror stories).  The conversation is buoyed by jokes and words that are more fun to pronounce than useful to the discussion, and I watch the gaps in conversation fill and wonder when my moment should be, wonder if there's a not-awkward way to steer the conversation, because her not asking isn't necessarily a product of her not caring.

I'd like to tell her everything even though she probably doesn't want to hear it because telling everything is the only way this will all make sense.  I have previously given bits and pieces and walked away feeling misunderstood, and this is too important for her to misunderstand.

I want to tell her it rained on a Friday night in October. I want to tell her that I begrudgingly left a blanket-nest in my apartment to find a substitute comfort in cheap beer and conversations with near strangers, and that my watch refused to lie and let me believe I could leave without questions, so I paced and rotated through the people I knew until a conversation became a little bit interesting, but before the conversations grew distracting enough, my reason to leave walked through the door: a reminder of everything I hadn't figured out, everything I wasn't doing right.

I want to tell her how I didn't leave.  How I froze.  How I sought sanctuary in the fading crown molding and how I buried my head in the shoulder of the only person in attendance who understood, but that beer had made that person distract-able, and the story was stale and not keeping her focus, so she passed me off onto the next person. I want to tell her how I let a stranger be my sounding board.

I want her to know that it took me a few minutes to make eye contact, that I don't actually remember what it was he said that made me turn my head toward him except that it was a challenge in some way, it was something I wouldn't expect a stranger on a couch to say, and it wasn't the familiar empty house-party banter that leads to more drinking and less talking. I want her to know that at some point in what had evolved from my rant to our conversation, the stranger and I made the kind of eye contact you have to recover from and that after a few twists and turns of the evening, we found ourselves on the front porch with uncertain smiles and sideways glances.  She already knows that the empty street once had meaning to me, standing as I was across from a house filled with a bumbling series of mistakes, but I want her to understand that as the stranger disappeared into that same street, I lost my thoughts and my balance.

She knows he's not a stranger anymore, but I want her to know that his kisses separate me from reality and his arms keep me from losing my mind, and that even when phone calls get tripped up by awkward pauses or we unintentionally hurt each other, it feels like we've figured it out, like we're doing it right. I want her to know that it's not the familiar story to tell at the familiar table amongst familiar jokes and familiar conversations, but I'm in a world with a whole new concept of familiar, and I'd kind of like her to be part of it.

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