At the end of last year The Boy, formerly known as MFH, stopped working for the institution. This wasn’t the first time that he stopped working for the institution. He’d bid his adieus the previous year, told us that his contract had come to an end and that he was officially unemployed. All of this was said as casually as if we were discussing the weather. A few weeks later, and he was back, this time in a different capacity.
Last year however his announcement was tinged with anger and bitterness. From his long rant, I was to understand that he would not return, under any circumstances. This would be the last time that I would see him. Truth be told, I wasn’t sad to see the back of him. We’d shared many laughs, especially in the last two years of his employment (before that, my existence barely registered), but near the end his snide remarks had gotten to me, and he was beginning to pervade my nightmares.
So yesterday, as I was returning from the kitchen, toast in hand, I was surprised to spy him entering my lab. My initial reaction was to stop and consider retreating. But where would I hide? I entertained this ridiculous thought for all of two seconds, before continuing on my journey to the lab. Toast in hand, wary smile on lips.
Looking back, I guess I was afraid. Afraid that things might be awkward. That we’d look at each other and have nothing to say. Or worst that he’d say to me in anger, “I hear that you’ve been talking smack about me. Telling everyone that I’d been difficult to work with. That you’re having nightmares about me.”
But none of this came to pass. He saw me entering the lab and stepped forward.
“I was going to give you a hug, but that’s probably not appropriate.”
“No, no that’s probably not appropriate.” But what I actually meant to say is, “I don’t like hugs. Never have.”
“Do you still run?” I asked.
And just like that, we settled into our old routine of swapping tales. I’d tell him a short anecdote, and then I’d wait 5, maybe 10 seconds, watching as his face, as the cogs in mind whirred away recalling some distance memory. My patience was always rewarded with an outlandish tale – his cat peeing on his toothbrush, nipples bled raw during some marathon …
Anyway, the lesson that I’d like to take from this experience is whenever I’m feeling socially awkward, the best way to get someone talking, is to ask them about something they love. Sounds like common sense right? Yeah well, common sense isn’t exactly my strong suit.