‘Oh, sweet talk,’ he thinks.
There is someone, who knows him, smiles at him and comes over to talk.
This is the kind of talk people have to do here in fakeville,
because it just so happens that they saw each other and their eyes met,
and that is the ritual,
that is why they have to do it,
if only one of them had spotted the another just a micro second earlier..
they could have spared each other the banality,
they could have kept their eyes lower and pretended as though they were very busy measuring the length of the corridor,
or, they really liked the potted plants,
or they were really in a hurry,
or one of them could turn back feigning that he has forgotten his keys in the car,
but now the pointlessness has to be endured,
now the smiles have to be mirrored with the sunshine enthusiasm,
and inquiries need to be made about each other’s well being.
‘Another five minutes spent pretending how much we care about each other's daily schedules. When did I arrive? How am I? What am I doing on weekends? And the reciprocation. The handball of formality casually sprung at each other. Sure, let’s play,’ he thinks.
So, they approach each other with an impatient gait.
Like, two friends who just can’t stay apart, who just can’t have enough of each other.
He smiles his radiant — the best morning of my life — smile.
The smile he has perfected over the years of insincere greetings,
a smile that flashes across his left cheek but only touches his right one -
he has seen this male model smiling that way in a popular magazine -
his pupils light up,
yes, he does that as well
because he has read — again in a magazine — that a man’s soul reflects through his eyes,
and this is no time or place for soul exhibition.
so he covers those hollow slots with two sanguine eyeballs,
what an advancement of subterfuge!
So they meet, they shake hands.
He is familiar with the template,
he has readily available rehearsed answers,
and of course the genial questions : So to appear interested in the other’s life too..
This is a ball game, they have to really play together in this dirt.
It can’t be one way lane : the sincere insincerity,
and then it happens: he is shut off,
he is not listening a word,
he is on an auto pilot,
he is watching himself like he watches others - an out of body experience.
He knows it must be going really well.
However, there is a terrible exhaustion sucking his insides like that spider sucked the head of that preying mantis, the one time he saw on Animal Planet.
His mask burns and melts his face,
he nods at all the right places,
he undulates his eyebrows to show how interested he is,
but now, he feels a cold sense of despair
like someone who is drowning and there is so much water clogging his windpipes, he can’t breathe.
He remembers an old time.
It is gone many years ago.
His memory presents him a motion picture:
a field so green, a sky so blue
two boys passing a field
their pockets rattling with pebbles they picked up
from the spot where a grassy passageway splinters from the road to their school and crisscrosses the field.
it has rained and the air is cool,
there is water pooled in the middle of the field,
insects hover over the water,
the boys amble happily towards the pool from a long way away,
and then as they draw nearer, they run to it,
their arms stretched wide to feel the rush of air
against their bodies and against their souls
with their palms spread like soaring eagles.
because there is no other way to move that they like
they always run
they stand by the pond and they take out the pebbles by their fists,
and they throw the stones one by one.
From the water opens up a shape like a mouth and swallows the stone,
and from there, circles appear
they watch them drift to the ends and disappear
sometimes they throw the rocks together and two new rings form on the surface,
and they mix and form patterns on the sheet of water;
and they watch as if transfixed,
and this goes on,
till they run out of stones to throw.
Then they just sit there,
in silence, their hands placed over their knees, one resting over the other, their heads raised to watch the infinity around,
their feet on the damp ground,
tapping as if counting the moments,
their eyes follow the trajectories of the insects hovering around,
and gaze at the sickly sun, that never really shone that day,
as it now slides away into nothing.
And he wakes up from this reverie,
he wants to get back to that place,
he wants to get back to that friendship of sky gazing,
he wants the truth of the moment,
but he can’t have it.
There is a girl on the wall smiling, telling him in one single line what makes this organization a great place to work : ‘It lifts me up’
and he wants to move,
but he seems to have forgotten his feet in that island of grass and sky and water.
He should move,
he looks at his shiny shoes that he polished this very morning,
they reflect a dark face, his face
his corrosion is complete,
so is the conversation.
The Plato’s cave is right ahead of him.
He has to enter, he has to land in the darkness.
‘I would wear the blinders and it would hurt less then,’ he tells himself,
but blinders can’t keep the dreams of sunshine out
and that is that.