Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"It," "This," and "That"

 We have at least this much in common:  We all remind someone else of someone else.

You, for your part in this vast existential drama, remind a rather pleasant lady who frequents your favored place for getting coffee of her late father.  She has brought her husband to confirm the similarity, then her daughter.

Not that long past, you reminded a customer at another coffee venue of an actor.  More recent still, you reminded a man of a former victim.  He approached you in the rest room of the restaurant he manages, informing you that he completely understood why, moments earlier, you'd politely informed him he'd not known you from "back in New York."  It is not that you do not know people from New York, rather that you do not know so many from New York that you would not recognize one here,three thousand and some miles away.  With the exception of some family, whom you'd recognize with ease, and a few casual, non-publishing-related friends, say academics, who live in or Near New York, the only others are acquaintances from your days of formal connection with publishing.  This man, a bit more than your size, had about him a more intensely guarded and watchful demeanor than you are used to among your circle of friends and acquaintances.

"I just want you to know," the man persisted, "that I completely understand why you didn't let on out there."  He cocked his head towards the public interior of the restaurant, where you were with two others.

"I didn't let on because there was nothing for me to let on.  You really do have me confused with someone else."

"It couldn'ta,"  he insisted, "been pleasant for you."

You opened your hands, as though releasing pigeons.  "It wasn't me."

"Nothing personal, understand?  I had nothing personal going there.  I hardly knew you, except you were pointed out to me.  You get me?  It was something I was paid to do.  I'd get those jobs because I was, you know, good at it.  Fast and hard."

He saw he was getting nowhere with you.  Before you danced around him to leave the room, he said, "No offense, yeah?  And I don't do that work any more, okay."

There was a bit of a problem when it came time to get the check for the meal you and your friends had moderately enjoyed.  The waiter told you your money was no good here, indicating you could leave a tip for the service, if you wished, but that was entirely up to you.

Even should you choose the life of a hermit, the "it" or "that" of interpretation for your doing so is not entirely up to you; "they" will bring into the game interpretations of their own, adding adjectives and adverbs to you and your behavior you might never have considered much less employed.

"It" is a curious game; "it" could be called memoir, in which one of "them" could recall an incident with you.  But was it really you?  It could also be called history, and all you'd have to do to see the irony in that would be to read one of the many histories of the U.S. Civil War written by a scholar from the north and another from the south to give you a relative placement of the meaning of history.  "It" could also be a novel or short story.  How would "they" respond to that, and how would "they" see you?

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