talking

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The kind you never, ever meant to do on an airplane at 6 in the morning. When it’s too early to be alive, and there is not enough coffee in the world, not even if they turned on all the coffee-making machines and constructed a complicated funnel that poured it all into your face. When you’re nervous about where you’re going. When you notice that your seatmate kind of looks like the pretty version of Keira Knightley. Only cooler, and probably sleepier. But you’d never say so because what kind of animal talks to her seatmate on a flight? But then she says something offhand under her breath about the flight attendant and makes you laugh. And you say something in return, and she laughs. And somehow, you don’t stop. The kind of talking that carries you through a two-hour flight and sleep giddiness. Her fiancé and your quiet hopes. Jobs and careers and life choices and the kinds of hearts it takes to make specific decisions. And you exchange contact info when you both head off to your respective layovers and you remember talking about the wonder of this digital world that is so ridiculous and awful and keeps everyone in touch and you’re glad for it.

The kind when you’ve known each other for years. So many years. All the years, and through all the worst of it, of both of you. You know each other’s most horrible hopes and very worst dreams and evilest deeds. You have seen each other at your ugliests. And yet. The kind of talking that never changes but is always exactly right and comfortable. You say the right things to each other, and it’s always a gift. He’s got a beer and a shot and you should have a Manhattan but instead it’s a glass of wine with your lunch and you’re talking about the vagaries of life and the absurdities you always talk about and you are aware that this is when you are your most relaxed, when you have to talk. You are so much better at writing than talking. But this talking is as comfortable as talking to yourself, only funnier.

The kind of talking you do in a room full of people you graduated with, the instructors who taught you how to write and about what kind of writer you wanted to be. Who kicked your ass and saw how bad you could fail. Who are proud of you because you did okay in the end. To the writers in the room who are on every single point of that spectrum, to both sides of you. Talking about fear and success and ability and hope and possibility and change. Talking about this book you made and how it’s in the world. Talking about how strange it is. Talking about how proud you are. Making that admission, because you can in a room full of writers. That is what you can talk about.

Talking when you’ve known each other for years but only recently, only recently realized that you should have really known each other, really for years. Too much time not noticing that you had so much in common and why aren’t you friends? Why not yet? Because there is so much to talk about. There are all the things to say. There is not enough time to say them, ever, even over the oysters you’ve been craving since oysters crawled up on land and became frogs or whatever. Oysters and writing and how exhausting it is. More oysters and the complexities of relationships. Navigating love and navigating friendship. Tangling and untangling the threads that lead you through the maze but not to the maw of the minotaur, you hope. But the problem is you always worry that there’s a minotaur, and you always worry that the thread could—can, will, might, whatever the fuck you can’t think about it now—break and it is a wonder that sometimes you can go on hoping and keep creeping ahead.

The kind of talking in a car that smells like fried onion ring chips and garlic potato chips and pork rinds and all the other awfulnesses you’ve swept off the shelf with one arm to carry along with you on a long drive up (down? You always forget which way) to the next place where you have to do more talking—about yourself, about the book you wrote, and why you wrote it but you’re trying not to think about that. The kind of talking you do with someone who so important to you but has been so far away for too long—have you ever lived in the same city? Have you ever had more than a handful of hours together? But every time it’s like there wasn’t all those miles though there is a moment of pressure as you push through the funny and the glib and you fall into the real part of your friendship, the true part that makes it so important and real. And you talk about things that range along that scale, from butt jokes to the construction of consciousness, from friendship and fear to the kinds of words you backspace because that’s how much respect you have for them. It’s like a Kinsey scale you’re playing, only the nakedness is all emotional and it is the kind of talking that feels good. Invigorating. The kind of talking that makes you remember who you are and even more importantly who you hope to be. Of who this person in your life is, and how long you hope to keep them.

The kind where you know each other so well, and so strangely, and so strangely well–but not at all. Where you are texts and phone calls, but not people yet to each other, with head and hair and heartbeats and facial expressions and a smile that stops you short just for a split second because you didn’t know that’s what it looked like and now you are so glad to know. Where there is so much that is familiar, like a song you heard once but only once and only a long time ago but you know you liked it. You know it has stuck with you for a reason. And it’s coming back to you while you talk and you realize that you are talking and this is different and strange until it isn’t any more, and it’s just talking about everything, some of it important and some of it not and you’ve walked three miles through the city without noticing and that’s the kind of thing that happens when you know someone, and now you do, or you’re starting to and it is a happiness. That kind of talking.

The kind of talking where you’re panicked. Where you’re in the spotlight and being called upon to be poised, smart, articulate. And do it on television. But you have to be poised, smart, and articulate off the cuff, on the television, about something incredibly personal to you. Something that scares you a little bit when you think about it, makes you feel vulnerable even though by now, my god, aren’t you over that yet? Even if you aren’t totally confident and secure you should be able to fake it, am I right? So you fake it. The kind of talking where you smile and you keep smiling and your mouth moves but you’re not sure you’re saying the right thing but you keep talking because it is sink or swim, honey. That’s just the way it is. That’s the way it always is, really, and you feel like you’ve learned a valuable lesson when you collapse afterwards, just glad you lived through all the talking.

And then, the kind of silence where you realize you haven’t spoken to anyone all day, not out loud. You can’t ever stop talking with your fingers—your brain is wired directly to your hands and ha if that’ll ever change. Where it is a relief to be quiet, for a little while. A silent spot where you realize you’ve always been terrified of talking, out loud, to people. Strangers and not and semi-strangers. And that you’ve lived through that too. That the more you do something, the better you get at it. That it’s also really nice to be quiet for awhile.

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