Bemusement

(Letter #3)

Mr. Carson,

I hate to be a bother by writing again so quickly after my last letter, but I saw something most peculiar yesterday afternoon. In order for it to make sense, I need to start from the beginning, so bare with me.

I woke up early with the intent of going out to do some yard work. The sun was warming up the ground and the sticks that were previously frozen were now able to be raked. I made some coffee, drank it on the porch while I watched the squirrels run along the top edge of the fence, then put on my gloves so I could dig in.

During the cleanup, I noticed that a large branch that hung over the property line, to the neighbor on the south side of me, was rotting from the inside. It stretched out directly over the fence that separated our yards, and I knew that if it fell it would destroy that fence. Since it’s on my property, I’d be responsible for that damage, so I gassed up the chainsaw.

But it wouldn’t start.

I pulled and pulled on the cord, and it would sputter a bit, but it just wouldn’t get going. I hadn’t used it since the previous year of course, but it was only sitting in my garage, so there was no reason it shouldn’t work. I don’t know much about motors so I resolved to sitting it aside with a promise to take it to the hardware store and have it looked at. With that done, I finished raking up and bagging everything I could, then headed to that diner by the I-87 overpass to get something to eat.

Trisha was serving as was custom on Tuesday evenings. I sat on the left side of the bar, with the claw machine to my back. As she always did, Trisha brought me a menu, but I told her that I was going to get what I always got. Nachos with no tomato and no onion. She smiled that smile she does where you can see the one canine that sticks out too far. While she put in my order I grabbed the dish of different coffee creamers and sweeteners and started arranging them in different ways to amuse myself.

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this Mr. Carson, and I’m about to get there. While I was waiting, I heard a faint voice coming from my left, between the edge of the bar and the restrooms. At first, I thought it might have been overhead radio, but when I looked for the source I noticed a small man sitting alone at a booth, his mouth moving in sync with the noises I heard. I watched him for a moment, noticing that he was not only short a conversational partner, but any sort of reading material as well.

How peculiar!

This man sat with his hands clasped together between his knees, his eyes down on the table. He looked deep in concentration, like if I went over and sat next to him he would be none the wiser. The more I watched, the more I realized that he was indeed talking to someone, just that someone was also himself. His mouth parted only slightly, but he occasionally made small conversational gestures with his hands, and I watched with fascination.

I know, it was wrong of me to stare, but have you ever! I’ve read about people with delusions or mental health issues that cause multiple personalities, but I had never met one in person. This man barely moved an inch in the whole twenty minutes I waited for my food. He kept talking, his voice low and his eyes on the table, and I only wished I could hear what he was saying without making myself obvious. I’ll say, I don’t think I’ve been that bemused in public in quite some time.

As soon as my food arrived I tried to take my mind off it by concentrating on eating. I got a look at some of the patrons. A young, bright-eyed couple that looked like they were passing through. The woman was dressed too stylish to be from around here. A couple older folk that I guessed were regulars; they sat in their spots with just coffee and the newspaper. I’d eat a chip, look back into the kitchen, and then peel my ears to listen for the talker.

All of a sudden, I hear, “vroom vroom vroom.”

The man started making noises. I couldn’t tell what kind of noise it was at first, but I looked over and saw his mouth moving, and the noise immediately reminded me of my broken chainsaw. I can’t be sure that that’s what he was alluding to, making that noise, but it sure sounded like it. It also could have been a car and I might just be piecing these things together because my brain wants me to. Either way, it was definitely something I haven’t experienced before.

I finished up and paid my bill, tipped Trisha a crisp five dollar bill and went on my way. As I left the diner, the man was still sitting there in the same spot. Still speaking slowly, eyes down on the table. I’m not sure why he was there, not eating or drinking or interacting with anyone but himself. Usually, you can’t sit in a restaurant without ordering at least a drink, but I figure he wasn’t hurting anyone so the staff let him stay.

It’s the next day now and I’m sitting here at the table with a coffee and today’s crossword. 3 down. Three letters, “lumber mill fixture.” Sometimes patterns just find you.

Until next time,

Simon Fields.