‘You know, you’re alright. I think you’ll be alright.’ The stranger told me. In an hour, he could see through me. ‘You see, like, I think you’d be great. You’re nice, you’re calm. You’ve got a great personality.’ He grinned at me, teeth bright against his dark skin. ‘There’s nothing to stop you.’
I could feel my self shrinking. Why would this stranger compliment me? What was I, really? I was nothing. I’d chugged my way through university, a champion at drinking and I couldn’t even place at actually learning. Surely he was wrong. He certainly couldn’t be right. No, clearly he is talking about the barmaid. She’s much more on top of things than me. I am just choking down the bitter taste of a job that I don’t enjoy.
‘See, we’re just on a path. We’ve all got to go through the problem periods to become who we are.’ He doesn’t speak like a hippy, though I could see his words being misconstrued as some New Age bullshit. But it wasn’t. He believed it. He was happy in himself and all he wanted to do was see that happiness in others.
‘See, you say that you’re punching above your weight.’ The barmaid places a glass down on the dark wood of the bar. I feel myself getting swept up in their words, caught in the maelstrom of good feeling that emanates from this conversation with two strangers. How is it that in an hour of conversation with people I have just met, they seem to understand, to connect? How can a stranger see me better than my family?
That’s when it hits me. They see the person I am. They have no preconceptions. They haven’t seen me running around in a nappy. They haven’t seen me falling asleep in my spaghetti bolognese. All they can see is the me I am. There is no persona to project. There is just a man, sitting at a bar in a hotel while on work business, conversing with strangers. These strangers see me. I have had no time to lie. I have had no time to create an image. They just see me, another human being schlepping his way through life. The man, another traveller, is older than me. He speaks from experience, but not in the condescending way of the old. It is all from the heart, things that he believes from his very soul. All he wants is to help people.
The barmaid, as much as her job is to keep the drinks coming, joins in. We are the only people in the bar, except for the occasional person travelling to the restaurant below. We talk. We talk some more. There is no attraction between any of us, none of the usual reasons of conversation. Fate has rolled her dice and brought us all to this point.
The barmaid has been talking. I have caught glimpses of words through the shadow, ‘you’re not’ and ‘something to offer’. What could I possibly have to offer? She’s smarter, she’s more attractive, she’s more than likely going to earn more. What can I bring to this relationship?
‘Your personality! Clearly you have one.’ The other guest tells me, his hand connecting solidly with my shoulder blade. ‘We’ve all got something to give. The person that we are, not who we think we are.’
So, this is based on a genuine conversation that took place while I was away with work. An hour and a half flashed by, simply because I was enjoying the joy of conversation. Go, anyone who reads this blog. Go and talk to a stranger. They may have more insight than you know.
The Idiot in Tin Foil