A Glimpse of One Life
He (not his real name) was sitting in the kitchen. The closest chair to the door was turned around facing out into the courtyard.
He had a king pose going on, arms folded, knees apart, feet crossed, shadowed by the darkness of the room behind him.
And sunnies; those typical fail proof, close-knit eye hiders.
He made himself the kingpin of attention as everyone else went about their business.
It wouldn’t be until later that I realised I would be his target.
It’s a nice place, tourist town accommodation, could be anywhere in a country of coastlines; it’s a sunny day, late afternoon, the day’s winding down and I had just parked myself on a bench seat in the courtyard. Not with my back to kitchen, though – is that a man thing or was it just me, or was it just that place, at that time. For some reason I felt better with a wall behind my back.
I was busy with my stuff, so when he got up and moved, he was just another pair of knees going past. But not so much when he came back a short time later.
I like the large bottles of beer. It’s a good excuse to use a glass rather than drink from the bottle. Me, I was just looking for a story, not realising I’d already hooked a schnapper when he sauntered past in front of me and dropped a 15 pack on the next table in a deliberate big-boy fashion.
He’d probably be late thirties early forties at the most, good bit of upper body muscle, but not scruffy, and his casual attire wasn’t out of place as a young tourist sat down opposite him. Their conversation was complex. They’d obviously spoken before and were continuing where they left off.
I was busy with my stuff, but still, I had that feeling I was in his peripheral vision, while I was maintaining an awareness of what was next to me.
The one beer long conservation sounded somewhat, political, ideological, loud here, quiet there, hard to make sense of as he swapped between standing and sitting. Then, leaving the 15 pack to look after itself the pair disappeared around the end of the buildings.
He came back, the tourist didn’t; interesting?
A homegrown song from a nearby guitar was a sweet distraction. Young talent that says this is my song easily catches my attention.
It was an excuse to move tables, and I did. I felt a powerful grip that more than matched his physical build as we shook hands and exchanged names but I never met the man behind those sunnies.
He wasn’t much for small talk or perhaps inclined to avoid the detail. R and B was as much as he had to say about music. He’d never heard of Leonard Cohen, so when our guitar man drifted off I introduced him to Dance me to the end of love courtesy of You Tube.
A product of the slums of South Auckland; reticent about his humble beginnings, resilient perhaps from his escape into work and industry – I didn’t doubt his familiarity with hard work and his temporary downtime.
Another beer was put in my hand and my empty bottle whisked away from the table to the rubbish before I’d even emptied my glass. He sauntered off to the toilet in a robotic staunch fashion; you know the one – this is not deliberately compensating for my recent consumption of alcohol on an empty stomach.
On his return the conversation got somewhat strange. Bursts of international conspiracy and political intrigue, then another beer was shoved in my hand and off he went to the toilet again in an even more deliberate fashion. “I’m often asked that.” He said. And you might have been wondering too, but he didn’t lay claim to fatherhood.
Then it got really strange. He may not have been just going to the toilet for a piss. He started mumbling his way through his inventory, with words like magic mushrooms, dropped into his quiet mumblings, and the small talk was over. Any attempt at conversation was answered with a conversation to himself.
When you’re sitting opposite this, questions of sanity and presence of mind don’t take long to surface and the idea of even one more social beer with this character went off the table real quick.
No sale and purchase of that shit, thank you. You’re welcome to it. I had better things to do.
I didn’t see him again until the next morning and to my surprise without his sunnies. Asked, how he was this morning, he replied with a chuckle and a brimming smile, but he was still struggling through his breakfast, fulfilling his need to eat when I left the table, which was obviously closer to the truth.
Where does a guy like that end up?