Wordsligner • Dissident • Webwright

Saturday Night Sluice

Published 16 December 2007

The world seems more silent tonight, more full of echoes. Perhaps its because I just saw No Country of Old Men. Perhaps because I haven’t touched another human being—apart from a handshake—in almost three weeks. Maybe I’m getting too old to be immune to dinner and a movie for one. Regardless, the night feels off.

The cat is staring at me. She’s sitting at the desk trying to get my attention. Maybe she can smell the imbalance in my brain chemicals. Cats are more observant than most give them credit.

People are generally predictable, I guess. At least you can count on a few things. Greed. Fear. And the desire to be helpful and kind, baring the precedence of the first two. I’m not sure I can chalk that up to a positive or a negative. Maybe I’ll be able to in the morning.

I’m not sure why I don’t trust people. Why I think the teaman miscalibrated his scale before showing me the measure. Why I tell myself it’s illogical and unreasonable to cringe when people of different hues pass me in the dark, but that doesn’t stop me from cringing.

Every once in a while I’m possessed with the desire to join the military. Lately it’s been more of a lamentation that I didn’t when I was young enough; it’s terrifying to feel like you are too old for things, even if they are trivial. The desire to join or to have joined the military or the police or whatever must come from some desire to be brainwashed. Or maybe just to have a set of procedures to handle most situations determined by someone else. It’s like walking across into a pitch-dark room. You have a general idea of the direction you have to go, but did you leave something on the floor in your path? Did you miscalculate the angle to the door. Is there someone waiting in the darkness?

The last flight I took, the girl next to me slept on my arm after two hours of jostling the entire aisle trying to get comfortable. I spent the first hour annoyed and the second hour trying to figure out how to offer my shoulder to her without sounding creepy. She fell asleep instantly, allowing me to do so as well. When the plane landed, we both went different ways—I don’t even know her name. I was left with this odd feeling like I had done something wrong, like those mornings in college when you’d peer through the hangover and try to piece together the night before sorting out to whom you owe apologies.

In Hotel Rwanda, the main character repeats that “family is the most important thing.” He’s right, although I’ve been trying to sort out exactly why and I can’t. Perhaps it’s an instinctual thing, like how mice with genetically altered noses don’t fear cats. I’m 2000 miles away from my family. For a job. And for some reason that’s a thing acceptable in our culture.

Back to shaking hands. It’s such a strange cultural norm. When it started, it was a sign of peace: “Look, here’s my empty sword hand. You can trust me because I cannot stab you with it extended so.” Yet today, I think it serves the opposite function. A perfunctory handshake is a way of saying, “we’ve touched, that’s close enough.”

And now that I’ve extended my hand, I believe I’ll retreat again. Make my self a cup of tea and follow that up with a glass of wine. Were I addicted to cigarettes, that would probably follow. Sleep will come, dreamless, and lead to another day of waiting a bus stop for a line to an uncertain destination which might not come and I’ve no fare in my pocket if it does.