By Gordon Polatnick
So there was this guy. To look at him once, at a distance – passing him by on 8th Ave, where his shop was, was to know instantly that he was not feeling the truth. Ever. To look him briefly in the face you knew he never told himself anything but lies. But to his credit, you knew he was the type that always let that bother him on a really deep level. At least that's what looking at him did for me.
I saw him along 8th Ave. as I walked the street in those days when I was so directionless I would go in any direction but sometimes not even making it to the end of the block before turning around and going the other way. Of all the familiar characters, and come to think of it, I probably qualified as one back then, this guy intrigued me the most. But I never sought him out for contact of any kind past eye contact.
Until one day last June, when he showed up at this meeting I attended. We were both seated on separate sides of an aisle, pretty far apart but in the same row with me to his right. He looked as displeased as ever and I wondered if I was going to hear his voice and if it was going to sound as black and white movie as I used to imagine it would. At this meeting he didn’t talk, but I did, and it was the beginning of a lot of talking on my part, in front of crowds, that night.
I started out by telling the group of mostly total strangers, except for the guy and one other girl I sometimes hung out with – I started out by telling this group that I admired their honesty and I was looking for some of that myself from myself and really for myself. I thought I could be a kind of sad stand-up comic and commit to no laughs before I found this meeting, but I told them that this was more my speed. I could really try to work some things out in a place like that and I thanked them for their attention and it turned out to be considerable.
I got asked to come back and I made plans to come back every night I could. That girl that I knew there was really smiling at me that night. It was a new look that I never saw from anyone before and wasn’t sure it existed before that. I really liked it, and I went over and told her that without hesitation as soon as I could get past a couple of pretty nice guys that were shaking my hand and smiling at me too.
That girl had a very quick open mind and she heard me loud and clear. I’m used to girls and mostly everyone not hearing me when I speak. But I’m not going to change, so it’s kind of a turn on when a girl with such nice hair and smile and eyes picks up on my words and intentions as soon as I finish talking and faster in her case. We went for a walk after that and we are still together now. But back in June, I was thinking only of myself and what I needed to be doing for myself. That’s when I found out about the meeting and now that I was accepted and made to feel so welcome and even special and I trusted it was real, and so now I was on my way.
But the only thing I kept thinking about other than myself was this guy, and now that we shared something by accident – being at the same meeting – we were better connected now. So I made a choice to draw this guy out and get him to talk to me. I wasn’t comfortable enough being honest and direct with strange guys I didn’t know but were already hung up on. Most of my interactions have been either forcefully lighthearted or intentionally sarcastic and often self-deprecating in an unaware insecure way either way. So I decided to try to just be direct. It was good practice. I needed the practice.
“Hey, how you doing? I pass by here a lot and see you a lot in your shop here most times. You always look like you need someone to clear up some things for you. I don’t know if I’m the guy who can do that for you but if you want me to try I will. Do you know what I’m talking about? Even a little bit.?” I said it all in one breath and made sure that the look I was giving off was sincere and that my body was really toe to toe with his so he could have as much reinforcement from me as I could muster being just one guy and not a team.
He got me straight off. It was shocking to me at first, but I soon acknowledged it up to my inexperience with simple authentic moments. The guy did have some problems and he was willing to trust me with them without any further persuading from me. I was feeling solid by what was happening and so it was easy to just stay silent and focus on his eyes and his words. By the time he finished talking I was really aware of the sharp differences between what I thought was obviously going on with him – his voice in his head talking to him about nothing but lies -- and what was really going on with him which was a sad and fascinating struggle with himself for a meaningful outlet for his talent and passion.
My talent and passion is for live spontaneous music, his is for creating religious sayings to try to control everyone to behave in a way he would spontaneously approve. One of his sayings which was the one that stuck out for me was, “If you went to two gods, I’d go to two too.” I immediately saw in my mind that he used three different ways in a row for the sound “tu” at the end of his saying. Realizing that, it did kind of control me a little when he said that and not in a bad way. So I was won over and we remain friends and I am on my way to bridging the gap in my heart between what I feel and what I say.
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