I am beside a pool alone with a pen, a notebook, sunglasses, lotion and a Minute Maid lemonade spiked with too much vodka the bartender added for me. My wife is in her conference hall conferencing. There's some kind of music on my iPod and there's a copy of the Rough Guide To Cult Fiction down by my feet just in case there's nothing in this pen after all.
I was here like this yesterday and I'll be here like this tomorrow until the evenings when MrsRW will be done with her stuff and we can go to dinner. She knows, better than anyone else, that I am doing exactly the one thing I long for during get-aways. Poolside pen and paper. And lemonade. Cough.
The fact is that even with all the other options around there is basically nothing else I'd rather be doing right at this moment.*** I suppose I could go to the amusement parks around. It's Florida, after all. I could strike up a conversation with some of my fellow conference widows and widowers. I could go see people I know - even family in a couple places fairly close by. But I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing right at this moment. I find I am capable of being equally happy being alone as anything else.
I mentioned to my wife on the way down here on the plane that after careful observation it occurs to me that I can't be insulted. I mean to say you can certainly try, and I'm certain you can find a bunch of things I should be embarrassed about or weaknesses I have that make me very vulnerable. Anything can be said and I am one person who is very far from perfect and bullets are easy to find for me. But the point is you won't get the desired effect. Your shots would certainly hit meat but I'd probably just sit there. I think I've come to the point where the days of taking offense about challenged honor and feeling required to mete out punishment to my detractors are pretty much a thing of the past. It seems to me that before a person can be so sullied as to fight back he'd have to actually care what other people think about him. And there ya go.
Anyway we start from there.
But as I look around the pool there are all the usual suspects. All the types you might imagine at a pool at a hotel at a vacation destination. Kids are jumping and splashing and their parents are making believe they're reading and talking but everybody knows one eye is on the kids. There's people sunning, smiling, making like they're not secretly checking each other out. The women do that the best. Nobody's writing anything but me though. And what I think I see are people who mostly don't like the idea of being alone for any length of time. Whereas for myself I find that I like people very much and I do need contact and interaction from time to time, the thought of protracted periods of time in complete solitude leave me completely untroubled. In fact it sounds like pure bliss.
Oh and just so you know - I am writing this with a pen on actual paper. And so far I haven't stopped or edited one word or phrase since the first word up there (and I'm fighting hard to resist it now as I type it up here.)
Now if you don't know any better you might be someone reading this right now thinking "I'd like to go hang out by the pool with you there RW" but - like I said - if you didn't know any better. Because, really, I'm exceptionally dull. Very dull, in person anyway to be sure. I've always felt I'm a hundred times better a communicator using the written word than with actual verbal interaction. I think too slow for people. Everybody wants to go vaseline machine gun when they talk and I'm careful and slow. So what happens is that I end up being just very willing to let you or whoever else is with us just go ahead and fill all the dead space they want. I'll just listen.
And yet - even though I try to be careful with what I say - I somehow always (and I mean always) find a way to say something that can easily be taken the wrong way. Not because I'm being purposely insolent or callous or trying to be hurtful, but because I haven't gotten out enough of the background subtext to fully explain what I'm doing and you just ran off with what was out there and now you're all mad at me. You never waited for the footnotes. And now I'll never get the chance to explain it well enough, and so I let you have your ball of shit if that's what you want to go kick around.
I'm sure this comes from living in my head for so long. Not as an enforced condition of some kind but by pure choice. Somewhere along the way I decided that what's going on inside my head is stuff I'd rather be messing with than the stuff going on around me. That's not to exclude important dates; kid's birthdays, anniversaries, my wife's accomplishments or family celebrations. I enjoy all of that. But even then I can't stop being 50% in my head during all that. It's just the way they built me.
It's probably a tactic of self-preservation or just insecurity. I've screwed up enough interactions with people to know that I need to watch myself a little closer than most. I'm usually not in the flow. I'll usually blurt something that doesn't make sense without a thousand word explanation. I've already come to a different conclusion than you've just stated. So the quiet and the fortress inside my head is just a sad little strategy.
I can be standing next to you talking about something totally unimportant and have this image of your head exploding all over my shirt. Or wonder what it would be like if you got crazy mad at me and started punching and kicking the shit out of me. No reason. It just happens in there.
I can watch someone right now dive off the side of the pool and imagine what their head would look like split open on the concrete because they missed. Like something vivid is always just around the corner. And my stomach is even a little tight in anticipation that something is about to happen. Something wild or odd or bad. Exploding chests. Ugly emotional outbursts. Heroic sharts.
So, no, you probably really don't want to be here. And, to be honest, you'd probably keep me from writing. So maybe this is good just like it is.
(NEXT: "I'm probably the opposite of whatever you're thinking I am")
*** This was written long hand Wednesday April 6