Sunday, 22 September 2013

Spoken Word Piece

Unknown Names

I never told you my name, you never told me yours,
or maybe you did and I didn't think hard enough to remember
and maybe I told you mine after all and you never
thought to mention it again, as it didn't need
to be said any time except for once.

You had your blue coat with the wooden baubles instead
of buttons, that's how I remembered to look for you,
the girl in the blue coat with the odd fasteners
in two of my psychology classes who was the
only person I'd really talk to in either of them.

We'd talk about little things, nothing really:
the weather, the heat of the room, a bit of biography.
You learned it was my first time in Europe, explaining
the wandering accent, the half-amazement at daily lives,
the looking everywhere at everything.

I learned you had done a semester abroad in French,
explaining the cool poise of your boots and posture,
and that you could read the half of my anti-poverty
button that most other people couldn't; we'd
always take our seats in separate rows.

I noticed you always sat at the end of chair row,
closest to walkway and the exit, I wondered whether
it was because you were busy, it seemed like it
might be that because you always looked like you
were thinking about something, or you just liked to sit there.

Sometimes I'd catch a glance at you from the
side of my vision when I'd stretch in reaction to
the cat-nap-ready warmth of the lecture hall
or the professor rambling off the point with some
personal anecdote, and I'd notice your ambiguities,

or another word like that, I can't really think of
which at the moment, but how rather different you
looked depending on the mood of the light, beautiful
in all directions, mind, just different, a bit like
a Parisian screen star one time, a Galwegian trad singer the next.

It was in those moments I'd muse about asking
you to go for a coffee or a pint or a pint of
coffee, the thing itself didn't matter all that much,
I don't really like coffee or pints all that much,
and I guess I never knew to ask if you did either,

but that's the sort of thing people are supposed
to say to each other, isn't it? It's remarkable
how much of our social interactions are just these
ingrained patterns we pick up from TV or the cinema
or the radio or somewhere like that, isn't it?

I'd think on it for a second but I'd always come
back to the fact that I didn't know if you
had a girlfriend, or a boyfriend or both, or you
were somehow the only person in the world who doesn't like Canadians,
or you just found me a mediocre-to-okay conversation partner.

I'd also think about my mirror's reflection in the morning,
about how greasy my hair was or how I was wearing
the same shirt as I was yesterday and though I was
pretty sure you wouldn't notice, if you did, I didn't
want you to think I was sort of person who

wore the same shirt two days at a time even though
I evidently am the sort of person who would do that,
mainly because something told me that guys who wear
the same shirt two days at a time don't get to go out
for coffee or pints or pints of coffee with girls like you.

But, then, I'd think, sure, I should ask, why not?
There's not a harm to be had in asking, after all,
and the worst you could say would be no and you'd
probably be as polite as possible about it, given that
it was someone you barely know asking to be your exclusive

company for at most a couple of hours.
And maybe we'd have a fun time and you'd laugh
in the way you sometimes did when the professor made
a mildly off-colour remark, and maybe I'd learn
more about you and why you always looked busy and

sat on the far end of the row, and maybe
you'd want to know more about me too, though
I'm sure I had little to tell you hadn't heard before,
but maybe I'd somehow manage to be charming in
my provincial Ontarian manner about it.

And maybe we'd have one of those Before Sunrise nights,
where we'd reveal way too much about each other to
someone we barely know and we'd meet nine years later
by coincidence and learn we loved each other all along,
and maybe, and maybe, and maybe . . .

Well, by the time I was finished running the whole
absurd scenario through my head, and thinking how it
might make a really interesting spoken word piece,
you'd already left with your blue coat with the
odd fastners and your busy and your beautiful ambiguity.

I remained a second watery still, collecting
thoughts and books to bag, swinging shoes to look
cheerful, and considering how it's almost certainly
best to leave things like this the way they
began, and that your coat wasn't even that blue,

But maybe . . . next time.

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