The night began with my waiting for him to finish work, sitting in the courtyard under coloured lights. He had asked me to go and get a drink with him, probably out of intoxication (he’d been on le vino since 4pm) and my curiosity just couldn’t resist.
He finished at around 9.40 and changed his shirt before leading me through the restaurant and out into the bustling Saturday night. He walked fast, with purpose and an obvious knowledge of the streets, turning abruptly, his strides long and keen. I ran to keep up and smiled quietly at how easy our conversation was; it was based on observation, on people watching, on neighbourhood gardens, the roses we paused to smell and the cacti we stopped to steal providing effortless talking points. In those moments we didn’t struggle as we did later in the crowded, far-too-hip-for-dweeby-me bar he had selected.
There was little seating space, inside or out, but he insisted on buying drinks, “two Jameson whiskeys please”. We stood on high alert, too busy watching for a free table to sip from the icy glasses. Eventually he scared off a few patrons with his eagerness, and we took a triumphant seat across from one another. It was there, trapped between two couples and engulfed in a tobacco cloud, that our conversation began to stagger.
“So what have you been doing?” he asked, his eyes alive and expectant. I just ummed and ahhed and felt small, before turning the question back on him. He was happy to cooperate with my obvious inability to talk about myself, telling a number of amusing and presumably exaggerated tales of girlfriends past, his childhood, and a stint as a cool skateboarding punk (“to get all the girls”) which ended when his older brother snapped his board in half (“get him to tell you about it! He’ll love it!”) As enjoyable as it was sitting and nodding and listening to these animated stories, all nostalgic laughs and wild gesticulations, I couldn’t help but feel out of place, my discomfort stemming from a shyness reborn.
Was it shyness? Or was it just modesty? Generally, I felt at ease in social situations and with him, giggling along, adding my confident opinion to the topic of the hour, yet, as soon as that topic became me- my past, my interests, my plans- I would shut down completely, fearful of boring my peers. This sense of inadequacy made and still makes no sense. He had asked me to drinks to get to know me beyond the bedroom, to establish a connection as friends or perhaps as more. He obviously liked me and would probably like what I had to say, so why be afraid to answer his questions, to reveal a little more of myself as he had done, so naturally, for me? Why assume that the non-events of his day- breakfast with a friend, a walk along the creek, an afternoon spent painting the view from his bedroom- be any more interesting or valuable than my reading in the park, writing a story, and heading to the art gallery?
From now on I am going to focus on accepting that the stories woven together to create my life are just as worthy as those of the people around me. They deserve to be told, to be enjoyed, and to be a part of a comfortable conversation between new friends.
All the love,