Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yes, This is a Look of Extreme Disinterest On My Face

A couple of years ago I read a very interesting book - The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. A rather warped but wonderful take on the afterlife, certainly as plausible as any other ideas floating around. I highly recommend it.

The central character, central because every other character in the book existed solely because she did, is the very last person alive on earth. Certainly not a character the reader would envy. Definitely a frightening and lonely existence.

Today I say give me frightening and lonely please. I actually do envy the lucky fuck at the center of this novel.

Some people have the ability to project this air of caring compassion, even though they are incredibly self-centered and anything you say to them goes in one ear and out the other. While you are talking they are maintaining eye contact, nodding their head at the right moment and wincing sympathetically whenever you pause. You are certain they are taking to heart every word you say.

What they are actually doing is deciding what they want to eat for lunch, what book they are planning to read next, if their butt looks big in their slacks, and when will this jack-ass ever shut up? To them your voice sounds just like Charlie Brown's teacher in the animated cartoons. No matter how profound your comments, your listener hears "Waah-waah-wah-wa-wa waaha."

Almost all the time, I am that listener. Except minus the ability to project an air of caring compassion. Most the time I have trouble drumming up even an air of mild disinterest.

And yet, some days it seems like the whole world lines up to air their grievances and bare their souls to me. It happens so consistently and in large enough numbers that I am pretty sure there is a concentrated effort by the rest of the world to force me to focus on every one's thoughts but my own.

Maybe an email goes out calling for volunteers. Maybe there is a phone tree. "Hi. Just reminding you that you're scheduled to annoy Lulu for 30 minutes next Tuesday by talking about the boil that has popped up on your butt, your marginally intelligent son's futile quest to get accepted at Harvard, your endless list of sins attributable to your ex husband, the bastard, and why your grocery store quit selling your favorite brand of peanut butter. Oh, an don't forget to call the 10 people on your list and tell them they are scheduled to bug her that day too."

People ... people. Take a closer look at my face. That blank stare you get when you start prattling on is there for a reason. It is saying "I don't care." It is screeching "Go away-leave me alone." When I look disinterested, shockingly, it's because I am.

I say this not just in the hope of getting people to leave me the hell alone. I say it for the rest of the world's benefit. People tell me things, concerns, worries, partly because they think I can help them, or fix what is broken. I can't. It takes everything I've got some days just to remember to feed the cat, wear shoes that match and open the garage door before I start the car. Don't count on me. I sure don't.

Thank you. I feel much better now.

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