I said Hey to a stranger. It’s what Louisiana people do. She hey-ed me back.
Our brains, they just know – FAST – whether a stranger is local or elsewhere. I said, “Where ya from?”
“New York.” That’s fairly elsewhere.
This was a good hey. Within moments she’s serving me a meal of insight.
We start with the how-you-came-to-be-here question. Short answer: youth, and adventure. Whether the 706’s was her destination, or just a place on the route, she didn’t say, but now she’s found a boyfriend, so her adventure has paused.
Here’s my second question. “What’s your impression of Louisiana people?” I expect to hear the word “friendly.”
She obliges. “People down here are so friendly, but…”
There’s a jewel coming after that But. You can strike up a conversation with 999 strangers to finally find a jewel on the 1000th. Hers is the gift of insight, coming from a place of difference and distance.
She’s speaking in metaphor. She’s not talking house, she’s talking heart.
And she’s speaking the truth.
I cannot count the number of people that I would introduce as “my friend”, when in fact we’re barely acquaintances. We smile, may even hug, we make talk, we stay on surface. Instead of learning something new about each other we’ll loop around to the old connection, until it’s time to part, and then we’ll say, “So good to see you again. We need to catch up soon.”
There’s a whole lotta that, going on down here. Bless its heart, that’s my Louisiana.
…so maybe you’re thinking, ‘What’s a New Yorker know about relationships?’ The stereotype of New Yorkers is that they aren’t friendly, that people don’t make eye contact, much less make small talk. I think it would be very lonely, to walk invisible, in a city of millions, and nobody acknowledge you.
She confirms this. “In New York, it’s hard to get on people’s front porch. We’re very wary.” Here comes the but… “But we don’t keep you on the porch. Once you’re in, you’re all the way in.” Past the front porch, into the house, seated at the kitchen table. Few relationships, but more to them.
Bullseye For Me
You decide what applies to you. As for me, she’s dead center. I am rich in acquaintances, and in arms-length friendships. But. I don’t know what to do about it.
First of all, I tend towards introvert. I’m rarely bored – to the point of never – when alone. As for loneliness: nothing out-lonely’s feeling alone in a crowd. (That sound, was that you, reacting to this paragraph?)
I know all the supposed-to-think stuff, that people are what matters, that if you had one day to live, you’d surely spend it with loved ones, on ‘n on… but right here, right now, I want conversations that spark, like I have within my mind when I’m writing. There is honor in all boats, but my boat wasn’t built for shallow water.
People Who Collect People
I think her point is valid, even for people more people-y than I am. I’ve been in settings, with people who collect people – I felt part of their collection – who know so many people, but know so little about them. As quantity is the enemy of quality, shallow is the enemy of depth. We only have so much time, for giving ourselves in conversation, in the being there, especially in the bad times, to prove ourselves as true friends.
…but you start thinking back, when younger, the friendships you had, that sense of connection, friends who ate at your table, and watched TV on your couch, and then you wake up decades later, and everything went cold. It didn’t get replaced. It just went.
You can go decades, with your little tight circle, and the worst that happens, is to get mad at somebody. But they’re still there. It’ll get patched. And then comes death… When I visit the family cemetery, I don’t just see headstones, I see Nobody Will Ever Love Me Like My Mother, there’s The Best Listener I’ll Ever Know, there’s The Keeper Of Secrets, there’s Mr. Rock Solid, and Mrs. Salt Of The Earth, even My Favorite Bad Laugh…
So, yeah, I guess we’ve all got our own kind of hungry.
Her insight is now between my ears. I’m not sure what to do with it, but I can’t pretend to have not heard.
Tis the classic dilemma: without change, nothing changes. Even in this, look what I’m doing, keeping change on the front porch…
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is dedicated to the sacred few, and the kitchen tables in heaven. May the chairs be filled, the coffee just right, and nobody talks about the weather…
People wishing to give Uncle P a piece of their mind, or to put him in their will, or to order a copy of his book, may reach him at email@example.com.