100 Words – Never More Than Strange
Sometimes when sleep eludes me…
…I go for a drive so I can listen to music without disturbing others in the house. It soothes the buzz in my head. Last night, on such a drive, I stopped in at a little gas station/convenience store. The man behind the counter was youngish, possibly approaching 30, and he made no eye contact with me nor the woman (or man, I couldn’t tell) in line before me. He exchanged only the necessary words of, “anything else?” and “thank you”. His voice was flat, quiet, not friendly, but not rude either. He was simply disinterested. Uncharmed and unmoved by the night creatures who visited him under the fluorescent lights, interrupting his floor cleaning and restocking.
Admittedly, I was much more intensely interested in him than he was in me. I studied his soft-rounded profile, his pale skin, his overgrown beard and hair, his unfashionable and ill-fitting clothing. I imagined he still lived at home with his mother, secretly resentful of it, but this being favorable to lock-step conformity.
He had two freshly purchased books near the cash register. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and a tall thin children’s book whose title was covered by the other book sitting atop it. Evidence of what exactly I couldn’t be sure. A defiant self-taught intellect?
I took my purchases and left, walked to my car under the buzzing glow of the gas station lights, went home and slept at last thinking of the wondrous curiosities in life, and the people we intersect with briefly, sometimes catching a glint of inner gears and gadgetry.
Sometimes we intersect longer, but still perhaps never learn more than if we had only met briefly, as strangers. My pick from this last week weaves such a tale beautifully.
She always left them, those men with whom she felt the heft of being an accessory. The ones who needed dry-cleaning for their sharp, starched cuffs. Men with jaws held perpendicular to the horizon.
He’d been so pleased with himself for wrangling her. She let him stay pleased a while, making himself a guide through his family’s plaques downtown, taking her to the shelves of the library where the OED sat fat and erect with English language history, showing her the dock full of yachts where he raced Saturday mornings.
She left him with no idea what he’d done wrong.
The author is a dear friend of mine, a poet by trade, and an alma mater sister. I admire both her writing, and her deep, unwavering spirit.
In celebration of National Poetry Awareness Month, all prompts until the end of April will come from poetry. The first is from Mary Oliver’s The Journey which aired December 11, 2000. I was newly sprung from the prison of a hellish marriage and woke to Garrison Keiller’s soothing and haunting voice broadcasting this poem to the world, and I was dazed by it, burned by it. Such is the nature of poetry when it reaches our heart with the exact right words at the exact right moment.
The word is: