… I remember she looked at me for a few seconds – after staring into the distance, inviting the wind to play with some stray strands so as to create an overall effect of her being a very deep and mysterious person, the sort you feel has an allure, even though they really needn’t bother since what makes them attractive to you is something far less complicated and more lacking in Latin, Greek or French words than they would care for – and finally said:
‘You know what I like about you? You’re such a great listener.’
And what can I say? It’s the thing I do best and the worst thing to have happened to me.
At this point, you’ll probably try to get a word in, telling me how you know all about it. That you’re also someone’s or indeed, a whole cohort of *someones’* shoulder to cry on. And you know what? You’ll probably have your way. I’ll listen to your story and smile the smile of the good listener. But that smile you see there, my dearest interlocutor, is not the smile that says ‘ah, I see your plight, empathize and thank thee for so eloquently presenting it to me’. It is the gentle exercise of the facial muscles at the point in a multi-stage copping process of your status as a listener when you realize whatever your initial point might have been, before someone else decided they had a more urgent one, it’s now irrevocably lost.
But I make all this sound like I resent my perpetual shifts as a receptacle of your wonders. Quite the opposite. I’d say I enjoy it too much. Way too much. If the words of the poet are to be believed – and surely, one ought to… I mean what sort of world we live in if one can’t trust what the poets say anymore! – and all the world’s a stage, then I’m the old fool who went up to the booth above the stage, broke his leg and remained stranded there, having been assumed missing and subsequently fired by the theater he had been serving for over twenty years, condemned to watch every show.
As luck would have it, this is not a metaphor of my existence. I am what one calls, a tower. One has to because one is one. Not everyone, of course, just this one. As in me. I am a tower. Nothing fancy, mind you, just a standard issue, brick and mortar tower. What is key in my life story is the stuff of real estate agents’ dreams: location, location, location. I reside in the boring bit between I forgot which of the nine circles of hell. Or heaven. Doesn’t matter, really. The feeling you get as an intermission is pretty much the same, whichever side of the spectrum you’ve been dropped off on.
Anyways, so here I am, sprung into existence, evolved or intelligently created – choose your poison – in the middle of a vast plane of not-much-of-a-thing-ness. People are coming in from exciting moments or looking forwards to them, and what do they get? Not much. And then, there’s me. Now, with me being a tower and all that, you might imagine I don’t do a lot of travelling. Would love to, but it goes against my grain, so to speak. Although, I wouldn’t know much about grain since there are no fields of any sort around where I am, but that’s beyond the point. The one crucial thing you have to remember about me is that, being a tower, I have a lot staying power. And, mark my words, if you stay in one place long enough, people will come to you and start telling stories and grievances at you. It’s how the world works, don’t ask me why. I mean, you can, but most likely you’ll end up trying to provide the answer for it anyway. And I’ll be there, listening to you thinking aloud.
Enjoying it. A lot. Maybe a bit too much. Maybe just over the tipping point where it gets me thinking I might be so wrapped up in all these stories, ideas, sorrows, little victories other people have that there’s barely enough time to have some of my own. Although other towers would tell you that that’s just me being lazy and finding excuses for my being so. You see, most towers have their own material, so to speak. Only they have only one idea, story or sorrow or whatever. But by the bricks of Baal’s highly-unlikely balls, they are most resolute about it. I know this because we towers do every now and then communicate via fire signals. We don’t particularly enjoy it, but it’s a tradition. And what Marty from the other side of the not-much-of-a-thing-ness tells me is that I should grow up, stop paying so much attention to whatever drooling idiots have to tell me, choose a thing and stick to it. I mean, sure, I got a whole eternity to waste, hopefully, with a few patches here and there and with the environment lacking in any trace of weather. But that still doesn’t mean I should waste it.
But I feel that having a ‘thing’ would get me dangerously close to taking on the semblance of a dramatic character. And we all know what comes with that. As soon as people get a whiff of it, the pressure is on for you to go on a journey, to find a resolution for some vague conflict that’s supposedly chewing away at you. Herein lies my predicament. For it is extremely uncharacteristic for a hero to be stationary, nay, rooted to one spot. They might eventually come back full circle, but steps have to be taken, bags have to be packed, boots have to be broken in and feet bruised before the final or temporary repose of the denouement can occur.
What? Yes, I’m sure you may come up with an example to contradict me and cite some grand saga of a dried-up snail to the nearest place his neck could strain, but please don’t. I need this excuse, don’t rob me of it. Trust me, if I had the capacity to become one of those characters, I would have by now. But the fact that I resign myself to talking about other people should signal to you quite clearly that I have rather the disposition of a narrator than of an action-oriented entity.
See what I did there? Seamlessly blending indirect characterization into the complex weave of my story. Now, settle in, for it’s time we get down to business and bring some characters along to join in the fun.