It wasn’t spartan, and it wasn’t center-aligned or itemized, but when I walked in and closed the door behind me I thought immediately of the simplicity of a monk’s cell, and I looked at its inhabitant and thought, “I’d rename you ‘Monk’ if I thought I could make it stick.” I said nothing. I’ve been accused of that many times, more times than I care to recount; I talk more than I once did but the ratio of words hushed to words spoken still runs somewhere around six-to-one.We’d talked my visit up for a week, in sass and verbal sparring, and it was simpler and stranger and odder now that I was actually there, because somewhere along the way I remembered that this was a new person to me and wasn’t I supposed to be cautious around new people and not say everything within the first five minutes?
“Did you bring a jacket?”
“I did, but it’s in the car.”
“It’s going to get chilly out tonight. You’re going to want something.” He opened up his closet and pulled out something I didn’t recognize, unfurling it in an unspoken request to put my arms here, in the armholes. “Navy peacoat.” I shrugged the garment to my shoulders knowing immediately that I would not feel comfortable wearing it out; the shaped shoulders were fitted to a body much wider than my own, and the sleeves covered my hands.
I laughed to myself, amused to finally have proof that I have been a child in adult’s clothing all along, and promised to retrieve my trench coat from the car.
* * * * *
In my world, I am equal enough to open my own doors, but the sphere of my world overlaps with the sphere of others, and if a doorway happens to get wedged in the middle, I have to look for cues to figure out who is going to open it. If the woman chooses wrongly, she annoys the other person. So I watch for cues; I maintain cruising speed toward doors and watch the body language for intent. Speeding up, or an angling arm, portends an intent to open the door for me; should that happen, I am gracious and verbally thank the person. If not, I am not insulted; I am perfectly capable of opening my own door. Forcing someone into a sham of politeness is not politeness, it is imposition.
I learned the proper Thai usage of a spoon, and as the meal progressed, I relaxed. I reminded myself that the Amy-the-librarian lanyard was elsewhere, and that outside of the Isle of Aisles I was still my own person and might still speak freely.
We spoke of life and love over appetizers and of travels over entrées, and when we stepped out of the restaurant with a slowly-firming friendship, him leading the way through the plate-glass doorway, the leaves swirled through the parking lot, eddied by the same winds that swirled the tails of my trench coat around my legs and made me shiver as I shut the car’s door.