The simplest questions — "Why is there air?" or "Is there a God?" or "Where do we go from here?" — often demand the most complicated answers. Confronted thusly, I have a tendency to fall back on the facile semi-witticism, either my own or someone else's. In the order asked:

  1. To blow up basketballs;
  2. S/He says there is;
  3. To the next paragraph.

Then, out of the blue, she asked "What is it about me?" Not unctuously, like a gold-digger sizing up a mark; not huffily, like a well-bred lady dismissing some presumptuous peasant; but as a simple request for information. Just the same, I felt I had to scramble for a quick and breezy answer that was somehow amusingly snarky yet achingly sincere, and I failed miserably at the task — even at the "quick and breezy" part of it. What I said was something to the effect that "I'm not really sure. All I know is when I compile everything I've ever wanted, and try to put it all together, it always seems to look a lot like you."

Being the eminently sensible person that she is, she let it go at that, and the subject was changed quickly enough. And being the vaguely (sometimes not so vaguely) obsessive person that I am, I stewed over the question, and the seeming inadequacy of my answer, for a year or so, demonstrating that some ideas are truly timeless, or at least endless.

But what is it about her, anyway? Why would I spend this much time thinking about someone who is presumably not interested, not available even if she were interested, and 2500 kilometers away besides? There's a quick and breezy answer to that one too — three words, give or take a sigh — but that merely states the case; it doesn't explain it. And given my general disqualifications, one might legitimately wonder if I have a case at all.

But go back to her question, and the tone in which it was asked. No hidden agenda, no attempt at self-aggrandizement, no sudden change of emotional gears. Does this mean that the question was of no more significance to her than "Do you have this in a size 8?" Hardly. She wanted to know where I stood, and if I slouched while so doing, and no matter what convoluted brain geometry we've been taught all our lives, the shortest distance between question and answer is still a straight line. In a world seemingly in thrall to its psychological dysfunctions, an attitude like this is refreshing.

"So basically, you're looking for refreshment?" Very funny. Actually, I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for, or even that I have any business looking. But there she is, forthright when others are evasive, standing tall while others' knees are jerking, faster than a speeding bullet with a quip, more powerful than a locomotive with a scornful retort, and able to leap fashion hurdles in a single bound, all while knowing exactly which beer goes best with which breakfast cereal. If sweet dreams are made of this, who am I to disagree?

Now, if her next question turns out to be "Why did you post that?" — well, I'll worry about that for the next twelve or thirteen months.

The Vent

8 October 2000

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 Copyright © 2000 by Charles G. Hill