a woman in green and a man in gray

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

What is the substance of “being interesting”? Quantify it. What mixture produces it?

It’s a game. It’s all a game. “It’s all politics.” It is.

It’s a slow revealing of excellence, a dash of mystery, a well-placed remark. Moreso, it’s listening to the other and feigning interest. Or being interested, genuinely.

Last night may be the final evening I see Elizabeth working in the Ruta Maya Tobacco Shop. Her official last day is Friday. She’s covering a couple of shifts for Sarah next week, then fin. So I sat there until later than my weekday usual enjoying her spry, sly remarks; the swift but somehow smooth way her gray v-neck shirt fell against the dull pallor of her collarbone; the visual softness of her newly-trimmed short brown hair. (Which I followed up a compliment on with a short story about how, earlier in the day, I’d complimented a woman’s hair even though I didn’t really care for it. “Are you trying to make me paranoid?” Elizabeth asked.)

Just prior to Mike’s arrival yesterday evening, she sat in the chair next to mine that’s positioned perpendicular. Our legs would have collided save that I usually sit diagonally in that particular chair to provide room for whoever happens to be in the chair she was occupying. She leaned forward with a hand folded under her chin and the other under her elbow on the chair’s arm. She spoke quickly, almost comically: “What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What’s your goal?” (Those types of questions.) I laughed. “We’re back at this, eh?” She’d asked me on our way back from the art opening a couple of weeks ago. Embarrassed, I’d refused to tell her then. “I’ll tell you another time. I just hate having thousands of people aware of my goals and laughing at me when I fail.” I’d thought of telling her since then but hadn’t.

“It’s fucked up how much you know about me and I don’t–. . .”
“I’m going to major in PoliSci. I’d like to do policy analysis or something along those lines. . .”
“That’s cool, man.”
“. . .I know how boring that must sound to most people. . .”
“No, that’s cool. That’s really great.”
“Actually, I really want to be a lawyer.”
Stop. Glare. Cat-hiss-gurgle sounds from her throat.
“I’m just kidding.”
“Are you okay?”
“I was going to keep doing it to see how many sounds I could make but that’s pretty much it.”

Then Mike showed up. We talked about his Hamilton Pool girl. I told Elizabeth about the letter I’d written to the owners of Ruta Maya blasting her boss. “Now that you’re leaving and I feel I can trust you. . .” I started. “Oh, thanks,” she responded.

It isn’t a crush. I know that’s what you’re thinking. And, if it were, it would be a friend-crush, if those are possible. A person you want as a friend. Someone you’d like to see more often, platonically. Someone you enjoy talking to. An active-friend. Someone who’s interested in you and your opinion, it seems.

So, in a way, it was another sad night in a string of sad nights on the corner of Fourth and Lavaca (lets make it a year, fellas!). Probably the newest and shortest (three months) employee of either the Ruta Maya Coffeeshop or Tobacco Shop became my favorite. The one I’d go to see even when the girl with the crush on me was working. It feels stupid writing this because the sentiment is most likely unshared. Perhaps her years in Hollywood instilled in her some abject acting skill. But it appears genuine, and I’m not asking for much more than appearances from girls these days. As John says, “80% is just showing up.” (Okay. That appearances thing is a lie. I do ask for much more. Probably too much.)

Bittersweet her exit is, nonetheless. I wouldn’t wish working under Mitch on anyone. She’s overqualified for the job both in dreams and in education. So it’s good to see her go in that respect.

But what makes me interesting to her and not others (if that so be the case)? What makes her and not Raya, the girl with the supposed crush, interesting to me? It isn’t looks. Raya is an undisputed hottie. Is it me? Do I say more interesting things to one than the other? Is it comfort? The ability to speak more easily? Is it the employee-customer trust that built up over time (though I’ve broken it before)?

Was it that I was interesting or that she was interested?

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