(originally posted 5/2/2012)
So I met him at the mall. At the food court. You always feel weird when someone comes up and asks if you mind if they sit at your table when there are other tables with no one sitting there. A quick look at his tray revealed bourbon chicken, rice and corn with a bottled lemonade. How bad could he be right?
He doesn’t even lift his spork before he says “What if we are the ghosts?”
Do I pretend to not hear him? He continued. “Just think about it”.
“No thanks” I politely answered.
“Who amongst us hasn’t rattled some chains?”
“Or somehow slipped off his” I thought to myself. I began to open a CD I had just purchased in an attempt to get at the lyrics sheet and, hopefully, a way to let him know I was too busy to chat.
“If you don’t know about doors we are all walking through walls you know”.
Damn these CDs. I can never get that stupid tape of the top and bottom without a ridiculous amount of effort.
He began to eat his bourbon chicken and I breathed a sigh of relief, feeling the danger of a conversation had passed.
“Well I feel haunted enough to cause other people goosebumps sometimes” he said through a mouthful of bourbon chicken.
I gave up on opening the CD and looked at him for the first time. I guess disheveled would be the best word to describe him. Not quite homeless-looking but he didn’t seem to care much about his appearance. He was one of those guys that could have been anywhere from an unhealthy 40 to a fit 80. What I like about words is that you already have him pictured in your head. That’s all I need to type about him and there he is in your head. You pictured razor stubble didn’t you? Perhaps graying a little? You may have already met him once.
“Aren’t you going to ask my about my pin?” he said through significantly less bourbon chicken.
“Should I?” I inquired.
“I wish you would” he said and he looked down slowly at the pin clinging to his jacket which you can already picture in your head. The pin, which hopefully you haven’t already imagined and will let me describe to you (I mean, I hope you will allow me at least that, otherwise why don’t you just stop reading and finish this little tale in your own head), was grey and pink with a dash of every other color in the spectrum and looked like it was something that a cat had coughed up.
“What does the pin stand for?”
“It’s to celebrate ‘adopt a greyhound with breast cancer’ awareness.”
“Let me guess. You don’t like people who wear pins for causes.”
“Bingo” and he smiled for the first time and turned his full attention to his corn.
My meal was almost finished and I found myself actually dragging my feet about the last swallow of soda. I wanted more of this guy. And then he delivered.
“Do you think that in the future when they learn to mix DNA from animals into our own that the Olympics will allow a swimmer with a beaver tail?”
Now it was my turn to smile. If this guy wanted an odd-off then game on.
“Actually I think human evolution will incorporate technology rather than animal mutations. I find it far more likely that after the swimmer dives in a small outboard motor will pop out of his ass.”
He didn’t hesitate. “My money would still be on the guy with a beaver tail. Ever see those little guys swim?”
He fixed his eyes on me.
“Do you think that things other than your voice can echo?”
I had no reply. I wanted one badly but nothing came to me. I had this flashback of the three characters in Garden State yelling into the ‘infinite abyss’. What else could echo?
“Do you want some advice?” he asked me.
“You know, you should never offer something that is rarely taken” I said and felt like I had really returned serve there but I hadn’t. The glibness must have drained from my face as I realized it.
He leaned in a little. Almost imperceptibly. Maybe not all.
“If you want to be happy find a girl that is a balloon shaped like a kite.”
He stood up and went to leave, his meal half eaten. I wasn’t ready to be alone again and quickly threw my CD into its bag and tried to hurriedly collect my napkins and such on my tray but when I looked up again he was gone.
Like gone gone
I had goosebumps.
Maybe we are the ghosts.
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