He was a fine young man, who was given a pretentious first name. He could have used his middle name, I suppose, but that would have been just too ridiculous. He’d have sounded just like an old fellow. Now that I am thinking of it though, I come to understand that’d have been bizarrely appropriate. He had this sober and calm aura, even when we discussed the spunkiest, silliest things. Talking to him in these instances always made me feel like I was chatting with a charming boy who was speaking in a perfectly obsolete Yorkshire English and was wearing his grand-grandfather’s clothes. The monocle, the top hat, the stiff brown jacket, even his smoking pipe. Everything. And they all seemed outrageously over-sized in contrast with his tiny self. And with a deadly serious voice, and uninterruptedly puffing on heavy-smelling tobacco, he’d share all kinds of stories about dragons, tin toys, cotton candy, or puddle loving puppies.
His looks were very neat and his gestures elegant, but nothing about him pointed to stiffness, in spite the above mentioned gravity. He seemed somehow aloof, or at least slightly lost in a place that was hidden from the rest. We talked for a couple of good hours, or better said, I did most of the talking and he impressed me with his listening abilities. Seen from the outside, the scene might have looked hilarious, as I am not very chatty myself either, but somehow our silences met on a common territory where they made perfect sense and we effortlessly understood exactly what the other meant. Of course, the mesmerizing eye contact helped a lot; it was like we’re both too shy to actually touch each other, but our retinas shamelessly soaked the other in, and we were both happily giving in to this visual smothering. He was lanky and seemed very fragile, yet he was very masculine at the same time. That kind of timeless masculinity that is, ironically, rather outdated these days, in the sense that he had a way of being a man that was very salient in today’s context of blurred gender roles and frighten boys who always seem to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions and, more strikingly, for their desires. I even noticed him because he was wearing a pair of classic indigo jeans that were standing out in an ocean of thin, spider-like man legs, squeezed in the tightest pants. The funny thing is that his legs were probably the skinniest in the room, but then again his steps were more confident than anyone else’s there.
I was very comfortable around him and I felt safe, but I had also been drinking that night one too many vodka tonics and this allowed me to open up more easily. Not that I wouldn’t have freely talked to him had my alcohol intake been less significant, but on that particular night I was a world apart from the present moment and this world I was actually in seemed to be holding still from where I stood. It’s not that it had frozen, it was more that I moved too much, too fast, wanting too many things, all at a time. However, by the second drink I was already able to shift the focus from the torment inside of me to this unexpected encounter and to notice that there was a cord in me that he stroke in a such a soothing way, and the beauty of it all rested in that there was nothing done intentionally: we were merely two strangers who auspiciously happened upon each other in a mutual space where I, for one, felt less estranged.
We do start out as strangers all of us, don’t we?