Talking with Aria
We leave the mall and go to the station. After a few moments deliberating where we should go we finally get on the first bust that arrives. The idea is to get on a random bus, get off at a random stop then explore. It’s naïve, the idea that getting lost in a new city is the best way to get to know it. But in reality the best way is to look at a map and systematically determine where to go and what routes to take. It’s the best way to go, because you’ll always know where you are. But getting lost has a romantic feel to it, something that can pull even me in. Getting lost means finding a way.
We’ve walked for a while now. I point out important places and landmarks and tell her a little bit about the area. She nods along politely and occasionally asks a few questions. She does it to be polite and to let me know she’s paying attention.
“So…” she starts cautiously. “What about you?”
“What about me?”
“What do you do for fun?”
“Fun? I don’t know.” I thought about it for a little bit. “I pretty much chill all the time. I read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies and TV. I like taking walks. That’s pretty much all I do outside of school.”
“Oh, cool.” We kept walking for a while. Our steps were punctuated by the silence between us. We walk in silence like that for a while.
“What about you?” I ask. I can’t tell if the silence was becoming awkward or not.
“What do I do for fun? I’m pretty simple actually.” She takes a breath and sighs a small sigh, thinking. “Books mostly, I really like reading. And I love music, but I also really like silence.” She’s your typical classic introvert. She’s a walking stereotype, and her long straight black hair and pale skin only reinforce it. She looks at me again and arches an eyebrow. “What do you like to read?”
I have a ready prepared answer for this. Everybody does when they’re asked this type of question, they just don’t realize it.
“I like all kinds – fantasy, horror, historical, mystery or adventure. Anything really. I have a thing for stories.”
“I don’t know I just really enjoy stories.” There was a lull in the conversation. Not too long, but long enough for it to be noticed.
“Everybody enjoys stories. What makes it different for you?” This isn’t how this conversation is supposed to go. Usually, people ask me what I read and I say in an off hand and vague way that I read a lot and then that’s it. But she’s asking me questions about things I’ve never talked about with anyone before.
“Um, it’s hard to describe. I mean- you know when you’re reading a really good book right? And it’s something you’ve read before but you read it again anyway because it’s really good?” I start to make gestures with my hand to make her understand. “You can describe what you think is good about the book to other people. Things like characters and plot and prose. But you can’t explain the feeling you get when reading it. That is what I love about stories. They make you feel something.
I start to realize I’m talking a lot. I don’t usually say this much. But this is something that’s incredibly important to me, and because she asked me it was important that she understood. But maybe it’s something that I need to understand about myself as well, something about me that I’ve always just accepted but never actually thought about.
“Oh okay. I get it I guess…” We keep walking in silence again. I wonder for a moment if it became awkward for her then decide that I don’t particularly care. Besides I don’t think she does.
Most people are afraid of silences, especially when they’re with someone new. It feels uneasy and tense. But I think that conversations are like music. It can be funny, happy, sad and angry. It’s not good when there’s too much of something happening in the music, in the same way a person talks too much. But a rest in music, a moment in time of complete silence, can sometimes convey more about a song than any note can. It’s the same with conversations. Silence gives room to breathe, to reflect. It makes the conversation worthwhile.
“What are you thinking about?” She asks.
“Silence. I get what you mean,” I say, remembering what she said before, “I like it too.”
“I don’t like it when people talk too much. They think less.” I stop suddenly and laugh It was abrupt and loud and came out of me involuntarily. “What?” she asks.
“No it’s just funny. I get what you mean.”
“It’s true! People say too much. It’s boring. I like having to think during my conversations. It’s much more enjoyable.” She started to walk a little faster, and I found myself speeding up along with her. “Conversations are like sex that way.”
“I’m sorry, what?” That was the last thing I was expecting her to say.
“It’s like sex. Some times you want it to start slow and have it build up. Sometimes you want it slow all the way. Sometimes you want it hard. Conversations are the same way, but a lot of people suck at it. It can be quite amazing if you do it right.”
“So how about this conversation you’re having with me right now? Enjoying yourself?” She furrowed her eyebrows and looked at me.
“I can’t complain.” She smiled and this time it was a full smile, full of straight white teeth, a full grin. “I like how I can complain about other conversations.” I smile as well.
“No, I bet I’m not intellectually stimulating enough for you.” Her smile flashes at me again.
“I think you could be pretty stimulating if you wanted to.”
“I like to think I’m good at stimulation as well.”
“That’s good to hear. It’s never fun when one person has to do all the work.”
“Yeah I can hold my own. I can last for a while as well.”
“Ooh, look what we have here, big man can last a while can he?” We’re now both laughing, reveling in the beauty that is subtext.
“We’re still talking about conversations right?” I ask.
“We could be,” she says and walks ahead.
I decide not to think of Aria as a normal person. She is clearly different. She is more interesting and mysterious. She speaks softly and rarely, yet she shoots out implications voraciously. We spend the rest of the day talking. It’s like starting a new book that you know is going to be good. You’re excited to discover the new things within. We flirt outrageously, and we flirt discreetly. We talk about our favorite movies. Favorite books. Favorite stories.
It is dark when we decide to go home, and we take different buses on the way back. I think about the day’s events and look at it as if it was a story that was being told. I think about what we did, what we said and how I felt, and realized that for the first time, my life is actually resembling a story.
Stories are structured. They have a beginning, middle and an end. There is the introduction, rising action, climax and denouement. But life is different. We don’t always have rising action that leads to a climax. Instead, life is a never-ending plateau that has miniscule little ups and downs. Today was different. I feel like today was the introduction, and the rising action is just about to begin.