Have you ever found yourself at a party, a BBQ, a Christmas open house, any social event where you’ve ended up talking to someone you’ve never met? Over the years (decades actually) it has happened frequently to me. I like meeting new people. I like hearing their stories.
But once in a while I find myself listening to a series of life events that don’t add up. One situation was at a backyard party in the early 90’s. A guy named Buck was regaling me with different segments of his life. He shook my hand looking directly in my eyes. He had just moved to Hamilton from Vancouver Island where he’d spent seven years working for a logging company. He was the highest paid because he did the most dangerous work, something about Grizzly bears and Douglas Firs. He crossed the oceans while working on freighter ships. He spent some years in California working as a stunt man. There were other jobs and heroic experiences. As ridiculous as it all sounded, I was drawn in by the sheer Walt Disney-ness of Buck’s existence.
It’s natural for questions to rise up in anyone’s mind as they listen to another person, though not necessarily from lack of trust. I like to pay attention and let my questions be answered as the dialogue plays out rather than jumping in and ruining the flow. As Buck carried on I watched and listened.
He was skinny, his long hair was in a pony tail with a bandanna tied over the top of his head. His jeans were thread bare at the knees and his chrome belt buckle had a snake curled up with its mouth wide open for the strike. He even had the quintessential raspy voice. (I’m guessing you already pictured all this) I eventually asked Buck, twice, how old he was which he somehow avoided responding to. I figured he was in his thirties.
He talked to me for over an hour while I shifted from foot to foot. I could have faked a trip to the washroom to get away, but my curiosity told me to stay. A minute later we were called to come and get our hamburgers. As we applied mustard to our patties I calculated the years he’d claimed spending in the different jobs and figured he couldn’t be younger than sixty.
I still felt Buck and I had a connection, that he liked me enough to feel he had to exaggerate to keep me near and attentive. I took my hamburger and went back to where we had been standing. Buck was chatting with an older woman that I didn’t know. I thought he’d be right over. He didn’t glance my way again. I finished my food alone. I asked the host if he knew Buck. He shrugged and said no.
Grizzly Bear – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Jeffrey Griffiths lives in Hamilton Ontario with his lovely wife and two fabulous kids. He teaches Creative Writing at Mohawk College. His writing has appeared in various literary journals, magazines, and of course ‘Life as a Human’.
Blog / Website: http://affectsoftv.blogspot.ca/