Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bees and other conversations

She got there early.  After ordering her tea and choosing a comfy spot in a tucked away corner, she used the next few minutes to convince herself that everything would be normal.   As she had proven to be unreliable in the past, she did not believe herself now.   Her stomach was tightening, loosening enough to flip over, only to tighten again.  Cradling her hands around the paper cup, she blew on the tea she would not likely drink.  Looking around, she was extra careful not to make eye contact with anyone.   It was unlikely that she knew anyone here, but getting into a conversation, however brief or inconsequential, would have put her over the edge.  

Besides she was horrible at small talk.  She always marveled at how easily others seemed to talk to one another, chit-chatting about small things.  They reminded her of bees, buzzing about with purpose.  Constant buzzing.  They never lacked things to buzz about.  She could never do that, buzzing on and on. 

Oh she did want to be skilled in buzzing.  Often before parties she would practice.  “Can you believe that new finding that was published, the one on sound waves creating mass?”  She imagined her comment would illicit some equally clever response, followed by a deep discussion of physics and God.  They would discuss this new finding as it relates to the Genesis account of God creating the world by speaking.  Others might even join in the conversation, each person building on the comment of the last. 

It never worked out quite like she practiced.  Most of the time she never even attempted the buzz, but when she did she usually got a blank stare followed by a nervous laugh.  Then the bee she was talking to would buzz on about some inane thing, she would respond as best she could at respectable intervals between the buzzing of others.  Last night she had tried to think of some buzzing to start the conversation with today, but she knew it would be unnecessary. 

Mediocre paintings from local artists adorned all of the walls except the one behind her which held a cork board overflowing with papers.    There were two ladies on the sofa in the middle of the room buzzing away.  She strained to hear them as she pretended to read a “Missing Cat” poster on the cork board.

"…was the last time, I told him."  The thin, prissy bee shook her head in disbelief at what the shorter, older bee was saying.  “But he insisted that I was wrong.  Wrong! Can you believe that?”  The prissy bee looked worried and thrilled at the same time.  “So I did it anyway.  And do you know what, it was great, just great.  You have to come with me next time.  Or better yet, I’ll send you the information and you can do it whenever you like.”  Buzz Buzz Buzz.  She listened to the bees for a few minutes, could not figure out for the life of her what they were talking about and finally lost interest and began to scan the cork board in earnest.

She had started to relax just a bit when she heard his familiar voice.

“Hi.” Looking at her cup he pointed to the counter, letting her know that he was going to order his coffee.  She continued to blow on her tea while starring at the papers on the corkboard. 

“Tall Americana with room,” he told the baby faced barista behind the counter.   Babyface was slender and tall with a youthful beauty.  She wished she could remember what it was like to have the adolescent confidence that Babyface seemed to exude.  Did she ever have it or was she always nervous?  Even in her youth she remembered the great effort it took her to look carefree.   The thought of effortful-carefree-ness brought a smile to her face just as he sat down.

“What’s funny?” 

She could not even explain it to him if she had wanted to, and she did not want to.  She hoped that she was doing a good job of looking carefree and dare not give any indication of the huge effort it took just at that moment to sit there calmly with him.

“How’s your coffee?” she asked him, changing the subject.  He was already drinking it piping hot.  It usually took her 30 minutes of blowing to cool her tea down enough to drink it.  By then anyone else she had ever taken coffee or tea with was usually done.   There were dried puddles of tea in parking lots and bunches of paper cups in the back of her car as testament to her inability to drink the teas she ordered.  So wasteful, but who wants to meet for coffee with someone who drinks nothing?