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In Elastic Company

 

“Yeah, I’d just never seen anyone do that before.”

“Do what? Take a book without asking?”

“Open it in the middle and just start to read.”

She closed the book and looked at him with the same, soft pressure she’d just been using to turn the pages. “But isn’t that how we meet each other? At a random page in the middle of our independent stories?”

She failed to acknowledge that any time you meet someone in the middle of their story, it was simultaneously new Page One: the birth child of two seperate paths, two individual and incomplete sums, converging into a budding origin story. She bit her tongue and bought him a coffee, choosing not to mention that she could one day tell their children how they began at this small odd table where she picked up his tattered, bound copy of essays by James Baldwin. How she’d begun to ruffle through it without asking, responding to his question of “You’re familiar with him?” by shrugging and smiling; how she just stood there reading until she suddenly sat down across from him, offering that when he arrived at page 161, he’d find himself at the foot at her new favorite passage.

“New favorite? Have you read all of him already?”

She laughed. “Do I need to read all of Baldwin to have a favorite?”

“I think I see what you’re getting at.”

“What’s your favorite ice cream.”

“I see what you’re getting at.”

“I’ll wait.”

He smiled and leaned forward slightly. “I’m a pistachio kinda guy.”

“So you like almond ice cream.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s got a surprising amount of almond flavoring.”

“Okay, but I like the green.”

“So you enjoy being tricked.”

He laughed and threw up his hands. “Who are you working for? Who sent you?”

“Do you know every ice cream in the world?”

“I’ve tried very, very many.”

“But every?”

“Many.”

“Not the same thing.”

“So you’re saying it can’t be my favorite.”

“On the contrary, I’m saying it can absolutely be your favorite. Favorite is a constant state of flux, and alters through experience expansion, mood shifts…”

“I enjoy tricks, you obviously enjoy tricking people–whatta pair.”

She leaned in. “People get ‘favorite’ wrong all the time. People interpret favorite as unchangeable, when really favorite means preference. Preference arrives wherever there is choice, and choice arrives wherever there are options.”

“Your point being…”

“For today, as of now, this page,” she looked down at the open book on the table, “is my favorite passage.” She smiled then added, “Did you know that you’re my favorite person in this place?”

“Besides the half-asleep barista, I’m the only one in this place.”

“Logic didn’t stop you from feeling flattered anyway.”

He was grinning, shaking his head.

“Logic doesn’t stop you from liking green, almond ice cream.”

He raised his hand, “Pistachio.”

“Gesundheit.”

She let the flirtation run away with itself, making no effort to return to our original conversation about why it is that no book actually starts at the beginning it introduces.

That stories don’t really follow the timelines they advertise. That the reader of this story only mildly questioned the tenses that shifted beneath them as the narrative wound on.

That the reader of this story may have already forgotten that they were dropped in the middle of dialogue, that the reader doesn’t even know if these two met in a library or a café or an airport. They don’t even know what time period this occurred. You, the reader, may not have yet developed the care to know whether or not these two get married.

The reader’s curiosity is so expansive, it allows anything at first. It’s only with time that we begin to resent the missing details.

Oh, to be so curious about people that you care about them without asking! To feel free having favorite parts of them without knowing all of them!

To make adjustments of character with experience. To allow ourselves to be tricked by lovely things, knowing the playwork of the constant, never-ending allusions at work.

Oh, to learn lessons from short passages, and quick people!

Let us learn something in five minutes without realizing we were thinking. Let us be tricked by lovely things to remember how beautifully curious and open we are.

———————–

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