Human beings suffer, they torture one another…
Of the umpteen ways I torture my fella, I’m guessing urging him to have an opinion is way up there among the top five. Somewhere between insisting he demonstrate what my snoring sounds like, and launching a late-night screed on the meaning of life, just as he’s about to fall asleep.
“What do you think?” That most feared refrain guaranteed to have him turn away to (I suspect) chew his fist before re-arranging his features from Munch’s Scream into a mild-mannered shrug.
As folk with a neurotic disposition towards shrugs can verify, this is enough to send the most stable of us hurtling towards righteous despair in the time it takes the shrugger to add a fake pout to dupe the other into thinking they’re formulating an opinion. Only they’re not. There is nothing at the end of the pout except “what do you want me to say?” And the only thing to follow that with is “have an opinion!” (exclamation mark optional) It’s our very own special torture routine.
Sometimes, when I’m bored, or hungry, I call him up to find out what he’s had for lunch. Just for the predictably forensic detail, right down to the order of item consumption. All delivered without the hint of deviation from a straight face. For some quality dirty talk, I’ll ask him to detail the contents of his desk-tidy, or to read a paragraph from something he’s working on, pausing to highlight the semi-colons, like he’s reading a telegram. He uses a lot of semi-colons in his work, so I tend to pardon his reluctance for over-thinking things back on Earth. Where over-thinking is a world away from not thinking about things at all, which would require some heavy sedation and a well-insulated cave without electricity.
It’s just he doesn’t feel the need to externalise his thoughts all the time. Torturous though it can be, it’s still one of the top five reasons I fell for him. It frees up more air-time for me, and, in a double whammy way, ensures his scarcity of words command more attention. The fucker. It’s also as valid – and sometimes necessary – a response as any other.
So we sat side-by-side last week watching events unfold in Paris. Four lips clamped shut by shock and an uneasiness from the almost voyeuristic immediacy of real-time events. Modern warfare as we have come to know it.
Eventually one of us stood up. “I’m going to bed”, he sighed without another word.