Saturday, October 22, 2005

dormant desperation (an awakening)

There's a certain sadness and a whole host of moody offerings left on the table after his departure. It smoulders in his cigaret stubs crushed in the ashtray. It listlessly saunters round the coffee rings left on his paper placemat. It's crumpled up in the five he dug out of his trouser pocket for the tab. "Tell her she can keep the change," he said, shrugging into his coat. A quick calculation revealed that his sandwich and coffee came to $4.55 - before taxes. He always was a cheap bastard, though. But I didn't say anything. Why would I bother? He'll never change his game.

"You've lost your potential." This is how he chose to kick-start the conversation, by saying something provoking. No, wait, it wasn't even provoking - that's giving him too much credit. As though this shot was carefully planned, as though it required some modicum of thought. No, it was more inciting than provoking, and more instigating than inciting. And surely it was more taunting than instigating. Yes, taunting, that's what it was.

"I had potential? I do wish somebody would have told me this."

"You've plateaued too quickly," he laughed, "reached terminal velocity. You've stopped becoming, you said it yourself, and have now become - this is it, there will be no more growth, no going forward."

He couldn't get to me. It was impossible. "Well, I guess it's better to have had potential and wasted it," I said, "than to never have had potential at all."

It rides on the particles of cheap cologne still hanging in the air long after his exit. It's in the black scuffs beneath the table marked by the soles of bargain-basement shoes. It's desperation, and he's chalkfull of it. Desperate to discover some kind of personal potential. Desperate to find purpose. Just desperate. He wants, no, he needs to find evidence of that same desperation in others. He yearns to find that familiar misery in their eyes. He searches for it, tries to draw it out. Like Hansel and his breadcrumbs, he leaves bits of desperation everywhere he goes. Not so that he might find his way home, but so that potential might one day find him. But like the weak beacon of an aging lighthouse flashing out to a vast sea, seen through the fog by the bleary eyes of a drunken sailor, it could easily be missed. Missed by all, that is, but for those who know this sorry man.

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