A Long Story

I left the apartment in the afternoon and trudged, blinking at the clouds, toward Bauhaus. I ran into an aquaintance at the stoplight on Broadway. She was hiding under a black hooded-sweatshirt and we chatted about unemployment and retread our recurring, “Have you seen Sara lately?” conversation. We said good-bye outside Bauhaus and, not knowing what else to do I guess she held out her freckled hand to shake.

It was unusually crowded, so I wedged myself into the unclaimed counter seat between two little groups and cracked open the collection of John Buchan short stories that I’ve been almost finished with for weeks. After her friend left, the girl to my right got chatty. She was approaching the end of her second cup of coffee and was probably considering a third.

She explained that, “There was supposed to be a storm today. I came down here to get some things done, but decided to sit here to avoid the rain. I guess the storm missed Seattle though.” She gestured at the not-storm-riddled outside world.

I said, “Well storm or no storm, the sky is definitely dramatic today.” We stared at the break in the clouds over the sound and the orange sunlight saturating parts of the sky. Though not quite setting, the sun was too close to the horizon for this time of the afternoon.

She expressed how much she’d enjoyed the weather of the couple of Seattle winters she’d experienced. I was shocked, and explained that she must have just missed the dreary winter of a few years ago, during which we lived under a dark grey sky and an almost constant drizzle. The sun made no appearances and there was algae growing on my driveway. Except, somehow it didn’t come out right, and she was more confused by my story than amused.

I asked her about her book, The Way of the Artist, one that I’ve seen on friends’ bookshelves a lot, but that I knew nothing about. Then she showed me a book she’d bought to cheer up patients at the dialysis clinic where she works. It was a little book about being depressed, illustrated with photographs of animals. The photos were of the genre that are used to illustrate the type of posters that decorate the walls of middle school classrooms, the cubicles of coworkers, and, I guess, dialysis clinics.

She told me that her friend had backed out of plans to see Am&eacut;lie and that she didn’t want to see it by herself. I encouraged her to go, “It’s a great movie. It really made my day when I saw it.”

She waved when I stood up saying, “I’m going to get some more hot water.” When I came back she was back into her book, “I thought you were leaving.”

She started talking about the lack of a night life in West Seattle and explained that she was always trying to get friends to go out and play pool with her. But that no one else really played.

We agreed that we were both good pool players and decided to play a couple of games.

Up the hill – she rejected Linda’s: “There’s only one table, so you always have to share.” We made our way to The Comet, got some quarters and beers, and staked out a table.

Frustrated over two of the more mediocre games of pool that you’d ever witness, we sat down. Since we didn’t know each other’s names, we decided to figure out using the medium of hangman. We used somewhat conflicting versions of the game and this exchange didn’t end up being as playful as one might expect.

We quizzed each other, starting out in a twenty questions format (twenty questions with no final solution, just twenty questions about anything). She voiced displeasure about her hat-hair.

At one point, I had to correct her misconception that oolong is a black tea. I would usually let this pass, but the context in which it was brought up would have otherwise required me to agree with that false fact. It’s hard to explain, anyway . . .

The twenty questions format degenerated, which is surely fine. But our questions and answers were neither creative nor challenging. We asked each other questions that we wanted to answer ourselves. And we both left out some basic, potentially fruitful subjects.

When I came back from the restroom, she explained that she’d thought I was leaving again. A miscommunication.

Things were winding up and her movie was coming up, I decided I’d like to see it again, so we walked over to the theater. Every time we interacted with someone else, the ticket seller, ticket taker, the people we shared an aisle with, one of us made some awkward slip – getting in someone’s way, tripping. We had to switch seats a couple of times, so that her view wouldn’t be blocked by a tall person.

I reacted to a familiar name listed in the credits of one of the previews. It was Charles, the guy from San Francisco that my friend Marjoree and I had ran into on Broadway in the middle of the night, oh six years ago. To make a long story short, we had dinner with him at Caffe Minnie’s, drove down to the waterfront to wander around at four in the morning, and he crashed on my floor (catching my roommate Joe and fellow floor-crasher Glenn by surprise the next morning). His film, about a lesbian wedding with the lead roles played by men in drag, was playing in a tiny theater on Pike for two nights. The Stranger was the only paper with a review (they panned it) and I’m ashamed to say that even Joe and I didn’t go. So anyway, back to the situation at hand, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to explain any coherent kernal of this story in the time allotted. I explained it away to her, “It’s a long story.”

After the movie, she said she’d walk a little in my direction and catch a bus. We traded numbers and parted after a block and that was pretty much it.

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