Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nick of Time

There's a shop on West Main Street where I frequently drop by to check out the latest sales and sensations. The young and fresh-faced store attendant knows me well by sight nowadays and calls out a cheerful "Hi there !" or a "How're you doing?" whenever I either enter the store or prepare to leave. Initially I'd felt somewhat awkward at exchanging such niceties with strangers whose fates really don't concern me in the least. But I soon got used to it in course of time, although I daresay K would be able to recall several unfortunate instances when I was singularly tongue-tied (very rude, was the exact turn of phrase he used, I think) whe, one evening, the most flamboyant and flirtatious amongst a group of young beauties asked me in passing how I was doing and I came up with the smartest response known to mankind, a blank stare (later, I tried to justify myself by arguing with K that she had addressed him and not me). On another similar occasion, a very young teen returning from school seemed to be eyeing me almost reverentially from a distance, obvious enough to make me sneak a quick peek at my attire to check out the flaw that premised her gaze (her expression surely being deciphered wrongly by my short-sighted self). Funnily enough, when right in front, she rewarded me with a flashing smile and a 'Hiiiiiiiiii there !" I sure felt very proud of myself after that for the most obscure reasons I (or anyone else, for that matter) could conjure up. But the point is that I've now internalised the custom myself and usually treat the Brookside maintenance crew or the salesman at a shop counter or the lady serving me at the post office with similar pleasantries, unless of course, I feel to sleepy or sulky to venture into speech of any form.

However, last Friday, I was caught totally off-guard. The store attendant at the aforementioned shop had exchanged the usual pleasantries and small talk regarding the weather with me and I was just settling in to exploration mode within the shop, elated at my eventual public appearance after several days of inclement weather and frustrated exercise. All of a sudden , he came up with the most bizarre question ever, "So, how's your partner doing ?" There was a long pause before I could muster up enough gravity to reply. His question seemed more to try and delicately move the attention away from the nature of K and my relationship than to draw attention to it but weirdly enough, it succeeded in having quite the opposite effect. For one moment, I battled with the mischievous desire to rise to the occasion by demanding which 'partner' he was referring to, but restrained myself just in time. It dawned on me in a flash : several small and overlooked signs coming together to complete the puzzle in a split second of intuitive recognition of his homosexuality.

I thanked my lucky stars that I had not risen to my own bait. Freedom of speech should always be encouraged, but not at the expense of others.

2 comments:

Sreetama said...

I read your comment on Sue's post. The friend's post she was referring to is mine. Don't know if you read it. If you haven't, please do and leave me your thoughts. But having been married at 24, i think we have averted many a disaster just by letting ourselves sleep over it. and didactic monologue? I am bring it every single time, no matter how much i try to hold myself back, it's like i can't stop the demon in me from taking over.

Clytemnestra said...

Hahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!! Man! Didn't you reel from all the wonderful revelations?! & what's Jij's take on this?

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