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Small Talk

I flipped through “The Travel Book.” Beautiful pictures of elegant places and stunning people filled the pages. The people were mostly children, caught with some variety of intense emotion in their eyes. Isn’t that the point of a picture, to create a feeling. Isn’t that the point of life? There were pictures of adults as well. They were the mothers and fathers to these children or children similar to them. They had felt. They know those emotion filled eyes and what they mean. Their job is no longer to chase those feelings of delight and amazement and survive those of devastation and disgust and just plain sadness. Their children have become their priorities. They must guide them. Guide them to endure the negative and run towards the good as fast as they can and, further, teach them to discern the two.


I stood in REI feeling like an imposter amongst those gearing up for rock climbs and kayak trips and I allowed myself to be transported into the worlds this book depicted. Worlds that are different but in many ways similar to the one I know. Those where nature dictates lives rather than the internet and where animals are used as tools, rather than owned and turned into part of the family. Where architecture is a form of art rather than convenience. Or Where there is no architecture at all.   Where the landscape has at least 10 different colours in it because of the way the sun hits the green trees or the pink flowers or the blue ocean. Where there is only one stark white snow filling the entire picture, that is impressive in itself. It takes work to be so pure.


These worlds I visit but will never consider my own.


Later that day I found myself in a swivel chair with a cape to keep my clothes free of hair. The woman had a razor in her hand. It was set to 6 and was taking my hair away one stripe at a time. She had blue hair and the Fantastic Sam’s was overly air conditioned.  We made small talk, a skill I have never been good at.


My new job would demand it daily.


“You form a persona. You can’t be a real person in this job. Its necessary to be somebody else. Eventually that confident persona becomes your true self. When that happens. When you truly feel as though you are who you want to be, not who other people want you to be, but who you want you to be. That feeling is the best feeling. You have to find your own kind of insanity and go with it.”


He has been doing this for 6 years. He is attractive and confident and completely full of himself. But what he told me made sense. There was no small talk with him. He dove in. He was cocky, but he was real, and more importantly I could be real with him.  


We sat around the campfire. We spoke about physics and the theory of everything. I wondered how this man could study how everything works. He told us that when he sees things he sees equations. I wondered if he enjoyed it. What would happen if the mystery was taken away? Replacing swaying trees in the wind or rainbows, or natural beauties at grand scales with theories of light and movement seems to make life mundane. But not to him. He loved it, These same equations that make my life boring make his thrilling.


I sat in the front seat of the yellow taxi. I was surprised that the pants of the taxi driver stayed on. His round belly protruding, forcing them around his hips created a challenge for the pants that once sat snuggly around his waist. He had a gray mustache and a thick accent and his first words were “Sweetie what happened to your lip?!” I sat there with a glow in the dark wand curved into a crown or a halo, depending on the moment, resting on my head. I created an elaborate story about a fight in a bathroom. I ended with “You should have seen her.” This lie sparked a conversation about his troubled childhood, bass fishing, the navy, and his love for his state, Texas. As he drove us up to our cluster of green tents, home, I handed him money and he looked into my eyes and said, too genuinely, “It was lovely meeting you Sweetie.”


Small talk came easy that night.


We passed the New Mexico state line. As though knowing the change, the landscape became red and hilly with streaks of green. There was silence in the back seat. Heads were tilted back because of the lack of head rests. Silence was mine. Listening to new music watching my world change.


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