In my older age, after a stint as an E on the Myers-Briggs continuum for a few years, I’ve found my way right back to my erstwhile tendencies, this time as an INFJ.
As is the case with most I’s, prolonged exposure to social interaction feels draining. But unlike most I’s, I derive a twisted enjoyment from awkward social situations because they demand to be savored. Indeed, their very existence hinges on chance factors colliding perfectly into each other: the right people, the right mix of conflicting motivations, the right blend of unmet expectations.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in the middle seat on a flight to New York, sandwiched between a morbidly obese fellow to my right and a tiny Asian woman to my left. There were also two flatulent passengers–or one really talented gasmaster–who smelled alternately of rancid potato chips and, frankly, shit. To the best of what I could tell, my immediate neighbors weren’t the perpetrators, but then again, such Venn diagrams are unknowable.
The fat dude on my right spilled into a quarter of my seat, but to his credit, there was a grim acknowledgement of the situation before he sat. Surely he had gone through the motions on prior flights, and when he stood in the aisle, answered my “Is this your seat?” question with a stoic nod and a sigh, I respected it.
The Asian woman asked for help with her bag, which I quickly rendered, believing the social contract limited to the placement and removal of luggage. I put in my earbuds, activated my fan as a kind of makeshift air curtain, since I was tired of hoping for the rancid chip farts instead of the standard brand, and just as I started to drift off into a fake nap, the social contract expanded.
She could see that I was pressed for space and motioned to scoot over, which I had no intention of doing. Fortunately, I had already began to drift into my pretend sleep, so when she attempted to lift the armrest up, I stretched a bit and brought it right back down with my arm, effectively rebuffing the offer.
It was something I had to do, because I saw the probable arc: an act of kindness, yes, but informed by an undercurrent of “It’s us vs. these fat Americans,” followed by prolonged conversation for the duration of the flight, starting with where my parents came from originally.
That was the road not taken, anyhow, and shortly thereafter, I noticed she was asking my portly neighbor about the overhead fans. She felt cold, I gathered, and was looking for solutions. I wasn’t about to give up my air curtain, however, so yet again, we found ourselves at a stalemate. I sunk deeper into my deceitful sleep.
But the fake sleep turned honest at some point, and when I finally woke up, I saw the woman had draped a blanket over her entire body, like a corpse in the morgue, to ward off my air curtain. It was the perfect visual bookend for this carnival of misery, and you simply had to appreciate the grotesquery–you can’t make up copy like this.
It’s not entirely lost on me that holding you captive here to recount this story is awkward, in and of itself, but consider our social contract fulfilled. Now, it’s back to wedding planning for me. I proposed to Doc on the 9th of August, in front of a distillery in Dublin–there’s your context in the form of a mental horse pill, I suppose. She has suggested we elope, for the sake of logistics and incredible savings, but we have have chosen to endure the pageantry, the construction of which can try a man’s soul.
“It’s basically a double homicide,” I told Doc as we left the theater, “with four hitchhikers.” I was talking about The Wizard of Oz, in case you hadn’t guessed already. Now, it may be because I have yet to attain the level of culture needed to appreciate the narrative’s deeper, more succulent subtext, but I had to retreat to my happy place repeatedly during the performance. We’re talking about, like, mentally drafting quarterly self-assessments for work while the Munchkin Mayor went fucking crazy on stage.
But you didn’t come here for amateur Broadway critiques, and if you did, then something went horribly wrong with your Googles. I suppose when a website shambles back from the dead, with no assurances that it will sustain its newfound life for any appreciable amount of time, griping about Oz is as good a way to start as any other.
Prior to the griping, of course, was a brief moment of exultation when I typed the correct username into WordPress. Then, there was that old, familiar mix of thrill and despair upon seeing the blank page. Now that page is filled, and here we are.
I am here because I must write. For whom is clearly a moot point, because I have a fairly accurate guess of how many visitors still frequent this site, after more than a year of silence. I am here because of the toll this silence exacts: average proofreading speed, shrinking word choice, the same goddamned boring sentence structures, and above all, a keen sense of all of this deterioration happening. Well, I need to reverse course, so welcome! Welcome back to the house of cobweb and words.
I bought jackets tonight. Odd phrasing, to be sure, but when you’re opposed to the very idea of jackets, how the tyranny of thread oppresses mobility, then procuring even a single coat is a seismic shift. So, I bought two. You’d think this change of heart was driven by the frigid weather yesterday, when I slid across the parking lot on foot to Firehouse Subs for lunch, in a sequence of words no man should ever suffer to form.
I’ve stubbornly braved the elements before without outerwear, though, so why change now? I think there’s something special about the cold in Dallas. Practically speaking, the entire city grinds to a halt, with empty schools and sepulchral storefronts, and it’s no wonder people sequester themselves. With the exception of freeways, everything–everything, from streets to sidewalks to parking lots–is free of salt. It’s like a healthy snack nut’s dream, really, with 100% less sodium–and 200% more peril in every step, and it isn’t until much later in the day when sunlight and some begrudging handfuls of salt make safe the paths of man.
But the brief spell of cold also brings with it a kind of reboot, and that’s how my jacket binge materialized, frankly. I have this space in my mind that’s a huge, white expanse, not unlike the loading program in The Matrix. Here, in this space, I write turns of phrase, agonize over the angles for a given situation, and project conversations to different ends. Here, I pictured myself in a specific coat yesterday, and then set about finding this coat today, perusing different online stores until I found JPGs that matched what I saw in my mind.
Out of the ice, too, came a harebrained idea from the Professor to write and then attempt to sell a screenplay, if only for the experience itself. I’ll be content if we even make it to the selling part, but we shall see. I’ve also started reading in earnest again, something that hasn’t happened in the better half of a decade, and it’s wholly because of her. Don’t want to jinx it, but what does it mean if you’re the only two fools in the botanical gardens on a cold Sunday afternoon, single ratty umbrella poised defiantly at the freezing rain, and you’re still happy? It means you just have to try that much harder to not have expectations.