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Harmony in three parts - A little less than a happy high — LiveJournal
Harmony in three parts
I found a seat right away, and as the train began to move, I stuck my nose into the book I pulled from my bag, as is my wont. Before long, the gentleman across the aisle was gesturing to me, and I looked up. He looked as though he could have been an extra in Whale Rider, though I'm sure he wasn't Maori, and when he spoke, his accent was decidedly not that of a Kiwi.

"Is 9:00 to late to go to temple, do you think?"
I had no idea what he was talking about. "I beg your pardon?"
"Well, it's almost 9:00 now. Do you think it's too late to go to temple?"
"Temple? I'm sorry, but I really don't know what you're talking about."
He gestured in the general direction of my book, and I start thinking that there was something fundamental about the Murakami that I had missed. Before I could panic, he said, "Well I saw the lettering on your shirt so..."
"Oh! That's the Yale crest. I've a friend who works at the Yale library."
He looked disappointed. "So you're not Jewish?"
"No, sorry."
He paused for a moment. "Are you a student around here?"
"I'm actually a professional."
"Oh? Where do you teach?"
I smiled before responding. "I'm not a professor, I'm a professional. I work for Public Health."

I went back to the Murakami, and he opened up his book for moment before he continued. "So, how is that?"
"It's really good. I've very much enjoyed it so far."
"I haven't read it... but I've heard really good things about it."
"The weird thing is that whenever I start reading it in public, someone starts talking to me."
The disappointment crossed his face again. "...so I'm kind of late to the party. I probably should have read it."
"Not at all. It's my first time with it. I just think it's interesting how beloved it is."
He held up his book. "Have you read any Bret Easton Ellis?"
"I can't say as I have."
"Seriously? Not even Less Than Zero?"
"Nope. Missed it. Didn't even catch the movie."

There was another pause, so I again tried to return to my reading. Soon, he gestured to the young Japanese woman who was sitting next to me reading about Vermont's roadside geography and asked, "Are you two together?"
I grinned. "No."
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure thing."
"Why is it that reading a book, this tangible object that will probably be around a hundred years from now, is more compelling than engaging in a conversation with someone you'll probably never see again?"
The question felt like a challenge on some level, but it put me in a contemplative state of mind. It struck me almost in the same way a Zen koan might, so I just answered with the first thing that came to my head. "I don't know that I can answer that question."
"Fair enough."

He left the train at the next stop.
16 comments or Leave a comment
stochasticgirl From: stochasticgirl Date: May 14th, 2007 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
That is quite a question. I'm not sure how I would have responded either.

(It makes for a lovely story, too.)
komos From: komos Date: May 15th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC) (Link)
If it takes it up a notch, I was heading home after having seen 28 Weeks Later when this happened.
From: uruz Date: May 14th, 2007 11:01 am (UTC) (Link)
"Because the book is far more interesting than you are."

Bluntness ftw!
komos From: komos Date: May 15th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)
It's weird, but it's not how the exchange struck me.
prosicated From: prosicated Date: May 14th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC) (Link)
"Because it's too late for temple, bitch!"
What an interesting exchange...
komos From: komos Date: May 15th, 2007 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
But, I'm not Jewish!
itsametaketoshi From: itsametaketoshi Date: May 14th, 2007 01:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
damn i think some of the enlightenment rubbed off on me by accident. you can have it back if you want it...
komos From: komos Date: May 15th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
It's delicious on toast with a touch of French's generic blue-collar mustard.
laughingwoman From: laughingwoman Date: May 14th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
he sounds like the rare, genuinely interesting stranger.

which murakami are you reading?
inahandbasket From: inahandbasket Date: May 14th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
you preemptively stole my comment! hah.
komos From: komos Date: May 15th, 2007 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. I'm coming late to the party, but I've heard so many good things about it and I'm in the right frame of mind for it.
sassyinkpen From: sassyinkpen Date: May 14th, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hrmm....that is interesting. Granted, I sort of get his point, but that question would have gotten my hackles up pretty good, I think. For one thing, it just feels adversarial to me, and for another - when I was riding the bus all the time, that was my personal veg out time. I could read or listen to music or just daydream totally guilt free, because it's too distracting to study or work, and you can't do a whole lot else.
komos From: komos Date: May 15th, 2007 03:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I think on some level he was trying to get my hackles up, but given the contemplative frame of mind I was in, I don't know that he was going to be successful regardless of how in my face he got. I honestly don't think he understood my reactions to him.
cosmicserpent From: cosmicserpent Date: May 14th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh I missed that he likes Ellis when you were telling Sam this story on Saturday. Now I really agree with my previous assesment that "go fuck youself," is pretty much the correct answer.
komos From: komos Date: May 15th, 2007 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Is Ellis particularly confrontational?
cosmicserpent From: cosmicserpent Date: May 15th, 2007 12:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nah, he's just particularly awful.
16 comments or Leave a comment