Friday, February 8, 2013

The Appearance of Secrets in Story

This morning, as you have for many Friday mornings, you arrived at Peet's Coffee Shop on upper State Street at about seven, hopeful of securing on of the larger tables, where a group of friends customarily meet for breakfast and socializing.

In anticipation of being first, you, of equal custom, bring things to read, book reviews, magazines, perhaps a book or your newly acquired Kindle Fire digital reader.  Coffee and oatmeal ordered, you spread out a London Review of Books, then settled in to read.  Before long, you were aware of a lanky, middle-aged woman with a taut oval face and longish hair, standing before you.  "I just wanted to say,"  she told you, "that I think it a shame you've stopped making pictures.  I resent this cult of youth that seems to have cropped up in the movie industry."

You sent a sympathetic smile at the woman, then you told her that if you were the person she thought you were, you'd have died four years ago, almost to the day.  Today was not the first time you have been mistaken for this individual.  Probably has something to do with the eyebrows.

Some time last week, an individual who in all probability has never set eyes on you sent you a text message informing you that "We're waiting dinner on you."  The message was signed, if you can call an initial a signature, L.  You spent some time trying to deduce who L. could be and who the we might be and why "they" would be waiting dinner on me.  You would not be who you are if you wrote everything down in your 2013 Day Minder, although since this is early enough in 2013, with a good ninety percent of the year left, you are at the point where you still note appointments in it (because it has not yet gone missing in the blizzard of things on your desk).

Either singularly or as the result of a group vote, L. opted to play the impatient card by sending you another text.  "Most inconsiderate."  This came as you were pecking out a disclaimer, in which you expressed the sincere belief that L. had the wrong cyber number.  You deleted that, then rose a notch on the moral high ground by answering, "None of us is who or what we seem to be, least of all me, who does not know you and suggests you sent your text to the wrong person."  You signed your text S., which gave you great satisfaction because a former girlfriend used to refer to you as S. on her blog posts.

Some time later, L. texted you an apology.  You were never able to learn if the apology was the result of the person who was not you making his appearance or the full meaning of your text becoming clear or a combination of the two.  You were able to achieve and provide closure by asking what the main dish was and hoping it was enjoyed, after being informed it was beef Stroganoff.

You've had enough experience with being mistaken for someone you are not to have become fascinated with the ongoing sense of disconnect that appears to be a part of human behavior.  In one of your notebooks, a short story is under way in which an individual you're trying to make as unlike you as possible is mistaken at a coffee shop for a man his wife is having an affair with.  The consequences are that the more the man tries to assure his accuser that he does not know the wife in question, much less have an intimate relationship with her, the more the husband becomes convinced the man is indeed his wife's lover.

You also have experiences (note:  more than one) wherein you are not the person you thought or hoped yourself to be, a judgement arising from some moment of fecklessness, indecision, sudden gruffness, naivete, or, by your lights, a complete inability to explain to yourself why you behaved as you did (or did not behave as you in fact did not) in a certain collision of events, choices, and responses.

Mysteries have fascinated you from your early teens, taking you through the Edgar Allen Poe and Sherlock Holmes mysteries into the Ellery Queen mysteries, the Nero Wolfe, and beyond, into the seemingly mystical worlds of adult entanglements where personal relationships were more exciting than unraveling the motivations of who or what force could have driven the characters to behave as they did.

Some detective or other would eventually solve the riddle, but you were left with the impression of the rest of the dramatis personae, the cast, the troupe, the ensemble, having that one problem brought to closure but by no means any of the others.

As one by one the Friday regulars either show up to sit at the table you've saved or stop by for a hug, a touch, and some brief exchange, you wonder all over again how accurate your vision of them or theirs of you.  Perhaps you should say "them," for particularly among those who stop by for a hug or the verbal equivalent of a personal Post-It note, you see some of them in other, fleeting glimpses of relationships and mysteries.  You watch them and wonder if you are attracted to them for the potentials of friendship or your imagined scenarios of their secrets, and of course theirs of and about you.



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