Remind me why I’m talking with you? Still. Here. Talking with you?

Ren Faire 033 The Queen can speak with whoever she wishes.

Most people (except the Dalai Lama, the king of England, George Clooney and various other dignitaries and celebrities) have thought this at one time or other. We’re at a party, we’re leaving work, we’re on a train and someone is talking to us and we want to walk away.

Civilization is defined by its hesitations. Well trained monkeys that we are, we do not leave. We choose to stay with the conversation over and over. Sometimes the courtesy of staying and listening seems obligatory. We cannot simply walk away from a human engaged in the act of speech. Sometimes we do. Most of us in big cities have walked away from a street person.

We usually feel we cannot walk away from our boss; even walking away from co-workers is tricky. But why do we want to walk away? Well, lots of different reasons: We get bored. We want to see if there is anyone more exciting in the room. We are scared. We feel we are being talked down to and no one likes that. The other person is showing off.

But the main reason in my opinion is wrapped in all of the above. Many people are just not that good at conversation. They may be okay and throwing out words into the air, but conversation is a dance. And that dance requires listening. Oddly, the chance in any room, in any time and space of meeting one person who you are absolutely on a level with and love having a conversation with so much that you can’t bear to tear yourself away, that’s very slim. That means, in a room of crowded humans you’ve met someone you are comfortable with, you can slide into conversation with, you can share secrets and not be judged or act like you’re trying to impress them.
You: I never got a tattoo. I was too chicken. There was this one time in Mexico when everyone got a bird flying between their thighs and then lay around on the beach afterward with all those birds staring up at the sky and tequila burning a hole in our heads and all that sunlight, but even then, knowing that no one in public would ever see the bird, I couldn’t do it.
Him: I know, sometimes he who hesitates is lost. Other times, he who hesitates doesn’t end up with the clap or in jail in a foreign country or with whiplash or with a Mohawk, and Mohawks are so great, or were so great in the Eighties when they were sometimes silver or purple or better yet both, but eventually, a Mohawk has got to be very hard to maintain, not to mention that the name, “Mohawk,” probably violates a lot of current speech laws about how to appropriately refer to Native Americans.

Conversations that are both salient and smart, wet and delicious, invigorating and tumbling, are few and far between. If you meet someone with whom you can have the big conversation about the big things and later when you retreat to the crawlspace of the mind, you’re still thinking, do what you can to keep that conversation going. Our lives in language are what we have.


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