Sunday, September 16, 2007

Snippet

I was walking on the beach this time two weeks ago. It’s dark right now, as I type – the curtains are drawn and the children are sleeping – but then it was just sunset, a glow that looked most spectacular when I was walking away from it, tossing a glance over my shoulder every few minutes to squint at the dazzling crimson brightness behind me. I walked barefoot in the damp sand, passing by elaborate sand-creations, the work of a long day’s holiday: mermaids, pyramids, bikini-clad space aliens, along with messages drawn with sticks in the sand: “John was here, 2007, single male heterosexual.”

The smell of wood smoke was in the air, and I walked the full length of the beach before I realized that the strangely off-sounding melodies pounding from loudspeakers were karaoke, drunken voices stumbling through the lyrics to out-of-date country hits like “All My Exes Live in Texas” and “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

The beach was dotted with clusters of lawn chairs, people gathered with blankets spread over their knees and dogs curled up at their feet to watch the sun go down. I avoided eye contact as I walked past these groupings, directing my gaze out to the calm blue lake, empty now except for one or two brave swimmers.

Even so, I could hear bits of conversation as I passed. “The college kids I used to teach were like that,” someone said, and in spite of myself I turned to see a woman my age, or possibly younger. Chunky glasses, streaked hair, a well-defined chin. “I couldn’t believe how apathetic they were, how averse to taking responsibility.” She laughed a little. “But then – when I think back to when I was twenty-one or twenty-two – well, I wasn’t exactly my best self then either.”

I felt an irrational urge to linger, eavesdrop a bit more, possibly even introduce myself. I shook it off and walked on. But I wonder now, as I plan lessons and pack spare outfits to send with the kids to day-care, who that woman was and whether, in another life, we might have been friends.

33 comments:

slouching mom said...

Love that. "My best self." I don't think I've been my best self yet. I wonder how old I'll be before I'm my best self.

flutter said...

Best self...that is something to aspire to.

Patois said...

I hope I've not already been my best self, but I fear I have. Darn, I knew I should have paid more attention to me and my surroundings then.

Love the description of the sand creations.

Mom101 said...

This is wonderful. I always wish for that cloak of invisibility, so I could just follow a conversation on the subway as long as I wanted instead of being satisfied with the sound bytes.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh how I understand that feeling! hers, and yours.

Julie
Using My Words

Chaotic Joy said...

Oh Lord I hope there is still a better version of myself out there somewhere, waiting for me to find it.

I am a conversation eavesdropper. I can't help myself and there have been many times I have wanted to jump into a conversation. Occasionally I even have. I wouldn't recommend it though. It's usually received with strange looks.

Kyla said...

I eavesdrop, too, but I rarely ever have the courage to jump in. Sometimes I wonder about the what-ifs, too.

painted maypole said...

i felt like I was there with you...

Magpie said...

do you think she's her best self now?

i don't know what i want to be when i grow up, so i think i've not been my best self either.

Blog Antagonist said...

I don't think we're ever our "best self" because I hope, that we're always growing and learning. But, it's good that the woman was able to recognize that twenty year olds aren't exactly the epitome of grace and wisdom.

As an avid people watcher, I'm always tempted to eavesdrop. Sometimes, I can't resist.

Christine said...

i loved this post. i wanted to be on the beach, too.

and i often find myself on the verge of reaching out like that. wondering.

Beck said...

I often hear little snatches of conversations that just stay with me for ages afterwards. Sometimes, too, I make eye contact with someone and there's this immidiate feeling of kinship, this knowledge that if were more than just passing by on the street, we'd be friends forever.

Suz said...

It's so hard, for me at least, to make friends as I get older, but this experience - the overheard conversation and the recognition of a similarity in a stranger - rings true to me.

Luisa Perkins said...

Lovely imagery, bubandpie.

It's good life doesn't end at 21.

nomotherearth said...

I usually get that instant recognition of people who SHOULD be my friends. I don't usually act on it, though, lest people think I'm crazy.

Julie said...

I often felt this way when I was pregnant. Every pregnant woman I came across was this fascinating possibility for me, this "what if" scenario. I watched other pregnant women, tried to listen to them, guessed at how far along they were. Really, I felt a connection with them and I wanted them to feel the connection, too. Do you know that we are linked, I wanted to say to them. But of course I never did. Not once.

Mad Hatter said...

A post that proves if Professor B&P were to set aside the textbooks, she could be an accomplished writer of fiction--even if this post is non-fiction.

Mrs. Chicken said...

I liked this a lot. Very evocative.

Lisa b said...

I wonder that too. There are so many lives and stories out there and we hardly get to know any of them.

Jenifer said...

Is it strange that I immediately thought of blogging while reading this? All of these snippets I hear of people's lives that makes me wish we were, more than blogging friends and while some times this happens; often geography or fear or life makes this impossible.

Vivid pictures B&P.

Rock the Cradle said...

I'm still working towards that best self. The most I can say is I know I am better now than I was at 20. (At least, that's what I'm telling myself).

Janet said...

I am a life-long eavesdropper. In fact, a biker chick in Port Elgin once tried to start a fight with me, when she realized I was listening to her conversation.

I don't think me and the biker chick would have made very good friends, based on the nasty story she was telling, but there have been so many others that would have.

Ally said...

Oh, this is a really interesting post to me. I often feel that way when I overhear tidbits of conversations. I'm tempted to join in, introduce myself. It is interesting the happenstance that causes folks to become friends.

Lawyer Mama said...

I love to eavesdrop on conversations too. Very occasionally, I'll hear an intriguing snippet and want to interrupt and introduce myself as well. Then I remember who I am and the urge passes!

Mimi said...

How can it be that by summer's end I'm desperate for an end to the sloppy humid unstructured overheated stickiness of it, but when the first leaf falls, I'm wistful for flip flops? Oh dear.

And that overheard conversation? Priceless.

(Good luck tomorrow ...)

Sober Briquette said...

Maybe it's because I'm accustomed to the way my mother always begins a conversation mid-thought, but I've never hesitated to just drop my two cents into an over-heard conversation. If they mind the intrusion, I can keep walking. If they're affable, we may have a few minutes' exchange.

I love the smell of wood smoke. I like the coolness in the air, even standing in the sun. But I don't like the approach of the equinox, and the short days to follow. The other morning, my daughter exclaimed, "I woke up much too early; it was dark!" but she was right on time. Blech.

Aliki2006 said...

I get these urges all the time--the urge to stop and start talking with someone who interests me. Then I don't and I am plagued by the what-ifs.

Terri B. said...

I love overhearing parts of conversations and imagining (sp?) the rest.

kittenpie said...

Hmm. All MY exes live in B.C.

I do love people watching and even a little eaves-dropping.

How nicely evocative of the end of a summer day.

Jenna said...

This was great! I wish it wasn't rude to sit and watch people closely, observe them, eavesdrop on their conversations. I always wonder about others' lives as well.

Suki said...

"Best self".. don't we spend each day growing towards that? If i didn't, I'd feel like I was dying a living death.

And yes... so many half-sentences that make us want to probe further, so few times we are self-confident enough or have the time to possibly make a fool of ourselves to take the chance at making friends.

b*babbler said...

"Best self"

I think I'll be pondering this one for a good long while.

niobe said...

I seldom think this about other people's posts, but in this one the lens and angle of vision seem strangely like my own.