When You Least Expect It (1) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

This post has had a number of titles over the last three days. The Luggage Tag Says – (4), Surprised With Joy or even Little Did I Knowin other words, this has been a very difficult post to put into words (in a good way) – let alone title. Over a month ago, I introduced a person I called Toby (not his name or initial). It was in the post titled Surprised But Not By Joy. I had talked about a deep rooted cynicism I discovered concerning people and was working on getting weeded out of my personal garden.

A several weeks ago, we met Toby again at the same place – and I had a delightful time chatting and getting to know him even better. It was then I realized that D&D were having some serious problems with this. It was that night that D decided to drop the comment to me that I “had more patience that he did what ‘those’ kind of people.” He had put Toby in a very specific category and therefore was not to be trusted or even conversed with beyond minor pleasantries. And there is a HUGE difference between being a cynic and being cautious.

A cynic is a man who,
when he smells flowers,
looks around for a coffin.
–H. L. Mencken (1880 – 1956)

Toby and I met for coffee the next day – and embarked on a series of conversations/meetings that were honest, truthful and enlightening.

The Luggage Tag Says – (4)

I had started the series on removing false luggage tags on life’s journey and thought it was almost complete for the time being, when I discovered this tag hidden behind the bright red yarn ball on the handle of my luggage so I can spot it in the midst of others at the airport. I had talked about the false luggage tag of expecting every answer to be according to my expectations.

THIS luggage tag,however, is the tag of expecting every answer to be according to OTHER people’s expectations – sometimes at the expense of my own. And for a “fixer” personality such as I have been dealing with, that can be a real trap. The fixer tends to pour a LOT of personal oil over other people’s troubled waters, to the point their car can run out of oil – and burn out. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t listen and evaluate others people’s opinions when necessary. It does mean that I can’t base my personal life expectations on the expectations of other people. Before it comes up, I’m not talking about a job where obviously the expectations are going to be based on other people. After all, a job – as a very interesting consultant once said – requires that you rent your behavior for a period of time, based on the expectations of others.

Of course, D&D were merely (in their minds) trying to be protective, attentive, etc.. Based on further comments and conversations that were had – they also had a mindset that was not going to change (easily), and were expecting me to follow in that. They have been unable to share in the fact that within the last week I have been:

Surprised With Joy –
(apologies or thank you to C. S. Lewis)

Toby and I went for lunch and a movie. Trying to find the small Greek restaurant that I knew exactly where it was – proved that I didn’t know where it was. We eventually found it – after quite a search on foot. When we sat down, I was struck by the fact we both had been laughing about the situation and enjoying our surroundings. We even took time to stop at an enormous waterfall fountain that is a Houston landmark. We took a great deal of time over lunch and put off the movie until the next day. On my way home I was still chuckling over the excursion to the wilds of “getting lost” in the general vicinity, and was also struck by the ease of the conversation and sharing that occurred.

We met for an early light dinner the next day, and as we were going into the theater – I turned to Toby asked, “Are we dating?” I was horrified that sentence had come out of my mouth. There had been nothing on either side that obviously indicated such a thought was correct. But, being the terminal romantic that I am – (remember, we’re the ones that pat the sandwich after we make them)- my life is colored by many small things as well as the huge brick walls that I occasionally run headlong into.

What is a small thing? As I’ve mentioned before, I have very bad knees and am working toward getting them operated on and repaired. I was struck by the fact that at curbs – without being asked – Toby would pause and wait for me to step down offering his shoulder as balance. A little thing. We visited a couple of friends today, and they had one of those lovely, delightful overstuffed LOW leather couches that even people with great legs have some trouble getting up from. Without a word, or even a glance – there was an arm right in my peripheral vision to hold onto and get up. A little thing. “Oh well,” someone might say – “He’s just being polite, kind or helpful.” To which I reply: “And your point?” The fact is – I’ve never had any of my friends over the last several years do that.

February 17th I posted about who are you looking for not what are you looking for – but who. I included some short descriptions of incidents that in my mind helped me with the “who.”

The dramatist in me realizes that I have not given Toby’s answer to my question along with several other questions people might have. This is, however, a good time for an intermission.
–More Tomorrow

Early Morning Thoughts ~ Truth or ? (Part 4)

As I continue these thoughts on truth and making truth work … I want to offer without comment tonight the following fascinating story:

by Flavia M. Lobo

from CAFE IRREAL, a wonderful e-magazine of international imagination

Actually I never thought it did much for Marta,” said Mother from the depths of her closet.

Last year Marta and Vitor returned from one of their trips with a pair of masks. Of a very fine and transparent material, the masks would adjust to anyone’s face like an extra layer of skin. They did not have openings for the eyes, nostrils or mouth. Some intricate technological device temporarily opened eyes, nostrils, mouth at the touch of a minute remote control. Vitor said they were the height of fashion abroad. We had all heard of them. They protected against pollution in general, covering everything from the neck up to the hairline. So here too they were a hit. Some traveled to buy them, some had them imported. Some brought back stacks of them to sell on the black market. And after a while there were imitations offered even in street markets.

Soon Vitor, Marta and Mother all became addicted to theirs, which they wore everywhere, inside the house too. Vitor and Mother appeared more self-assured than ever in their insulation. And I suspect Vitor and Marta were not even taking them off when they went to bed. Despite the fact that the masks eventually went out of fashion, the finest being sold for peanuts. To begin with, the climate worked against them. In a tropical country air is what you want most; you want it more than protection from germs, or noise, or smells. Or other people. Only some of the more affluent wear them now as they can afford to constantly live and travel in air-conditioned environments.

Often on my visits to Mother, I find a masked group of half a dozen people or so, usually playing cards, or watching a movie or something. They speak very little and when they do words sound like grunts. They apparently understand one another perfectly though. A couple of times I have tried to participate in whatever they are doing, but had to give it up.

However, Mother has always been very careful to take the mask off inside the house, when she has no visitors, for her skin to breathe. And sometimes I am lucky enough to turn up at such a time when I can exchange words with her while she is having her massage or reorganizing her over-organized closet. Mother’s things in general look like her: very expensive, but in traditional good taste, well behaved. Except for her nightgowns and underwear. These are all silky, lacey and languid, and surprisingly revealing. I must admit I love to look at them, touch them, breathe in their sophisticated scent. Their fluidity seems out of place where they live, right next door on one side to a meticulously tidied drawer where petrified items of clothing lie as if standing at attention, and on the other to a drawer containing a carefully piled up collection of masks.

Lately Vitor started to worry about the dangers to his skin too. He is conscious and proud of his good looks. He could not risk any serious damage to them. So he makes sure he takes his mask off a couple of hours everyday and before going to sleep.
Marta, on the other hand, insecure, plain Marta believes the mask improves her appearance. It is true that it smoothes her skin and gives it a sort of glazed radiance. Also it certainly makes her look more confident, screened from the darts of other people’s often cruel glances. But her eyes. Her eyes look dead under those transparent lids. Nevertheless, everyone realized a while back that Marta would never again take off her mask. And some time after that she informed us that she could no longer take it off even if she wanted to, which was all right with her.

And over the past six months or so, I have been aware of something extraordinary. Something no one else seems to realize. At first, because of the others’ indifference, I thought maybe I was imagining it. But now I am sure. And yet no matter how forcibly I insist, the others will not take my words seriously, will not look. Instead, they respond flippantly seeming unreachable even without their masks. I have tried speaking to Marta herself also, of course. To no avail. I asked her only last week, “Isn’t it becoming a bit uncomfortable?” “No, she answered. “Not at all.” And laughed that muffled, cavernous laugh. Maybe she does not know it is happening. But how could she not? Or maybe she wants it to happen. Who knows.

What is happening is that the mask is eating away the flesh. It is making Marta’s face a little thinner every day. A minute ago, when she stood by the window in the living room, I saw her cheek bones. Not just the impression of the bones under the skin. The bones themselves. Whitish, unmistakable, covered still by a flimsy layer of epidermis which I know will soon be gone. The lips have shrunk so the teeth are never completely hidden. I looked more closely at her face and I could make out the entire skull. It is taking over.

Once more I tried to warn Marta, I tried to warn the others. I do not understand how that can be, but they do not hear. They do not see.


Flavia M. Lobo is a writer and translator from Rio de Janeiro. Her translations for the Brazilian public include Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband and Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer. She also helped revise the translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Her translation of André Sant’Ánna’s story, “Bitches Brew,” appeared in Issue 18 of The Cafe Irreal, and her translation of another Sant’Ánna story, “Love,” appears in the current issue of the online literary magazine OMEGA 6. She currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.