“That’s just UNACCEPTABLE!”
He was foaming at his mouth, at the front desk.
A little man.
His face, red from a lifetime of terrible diet, was boiling with outrage. Everything in the world seemed to have gone askew for him; and overhearing the routine of his ready complaints, I could tell this was not the first time he ever voiced his grief.
Quietly, I slipped past the heavy doors of this mountain spa resort and I lingered by the doormat. I had come here for silence. It wasn’t really the noise of all the others left back in LA-LA that I minded. They could just go on and on, for all I cared, about their dreams and their sex lives. About their dreams of better sex lives. As a matter of fact, I preferred they went on and on: It gave me something to write about, during the day.
But the noise in my own head was rattling my balance with an ache:
Survival. Dignity. Freedom. Art.
“I DEMAND my refund — or you’re gonna have to talk to my lawyer!” the little man was getting carried away with the routine of his ready complaints.
I had always wondered what it was like to live one’s life by fronting. It sucked, I recently thought, that we all had one hell of a time negotiating our boundaries with other people. I wished it didn’t have to be so strained, so testy. Couldn’t we just leave each other enough space and air: Enough dignity? Enough freedom? But this clan of others that lived their lives by fronting: It must be miserable to be perpetually expecting some sort of injustice.
Still though: I was fascinated. So, I lingered by the doormat.
A couple of drinkers hanging at the bar shot their confused glares in the direction the front desk: They would’ve been much more interested in getting involved had they not drank too much free wine at a tasting earlier that night. Or maybe, just like me, they had come here for silence. I couldn’t see the bartender. The lounge was empty. And the only other civilian caught in the avalanche of the little man’s outrage was the nighttime clerk, at the front desk.
I had seen her early in the morning when I arrived, and she graciously allowed for my early check-in. Her kind smile reminded me of someone I couldn’t quite remember. A cloud of curly strawberry-blond hair framed her freckled face, down to her collar bone, and it suited her well.
It suited this place, to where many had come for silence:
“How late is your spa open?” I asked her, at the time.
“It’s open 24/7,” she responded.
I looked up, puzzled. I had already arrived here with gratitude, and this was causing me a bit of an overload. She smiled kindly, reminding me of someone I couldn’t quite remember.
“We’re all adults here,” she said. “Right?”
Now, she was sitting in her chair, looking down at her desk calendar as if meditating. I realized this entire time the little man had been screaming on an old-fashioned, ivory phone mounted onto the wall.
He, by now, was a goner:
“You know what?! I’m gonna call THE POLICE!”
The nighttime clerk noticed me, lingering by the doormat, and she smiled kindly. Bingo! She reminded me of someone who had helped me once through a transition in LA-LA (of which I had many, in between my needs for silence).
I nodded at the nighttime clerk. It sucked, I thought, that she was having one hell of a time surviving the avalanche of other people’s entitlements. And I wished it didn’t have to be so strained for her, so testy.
I smiled, kindly:
“LOOK!” the little man — that poor lost soul! — was now screaming out every word. “I’VE DONE THIS BEFORE!”
But of course: Everything in the world must’ve gone askew for him; and overhearing the routine of his ready complaints, I already knew this was not the first time he ever voiced his grief.
“Excuse me?” I said to his wife — a woman a stocky stature — who was blocking the stairway with three giant, overstuffed pieces of luggage, while she lazily scrawled through her BlackBerry messages.
The woman looked up. I had expected a scowl. A boiling outrage. Instead, she looked at me with such a sheepish apology, I wished it didn’t have to be so strained for her, so testy. And she smiled at me, ever so slightly. Ever so kindly.
Suddenly, I remembered: I had seen her earlier, at a seafood restaurant right above the roaring ocean. All the windows of the place were flung open, and not till later I realized there was no ambiance music to distract us from silence.
It seemed we had all come here — for silence — from the noises in our heads:
Some of us didn’t live our lives by fronting. Some of us were still prone to gratitude:
And especially those who got caught in the avalanche of outrages by little men and women — by the poor lost souls — still deserved our: