Friday, March 4, 2011

THE BACHELOR RECLUSE


Years ago a bachelor recluse asked me over for breakfast. Two years before, he had entered my little sphere of educators on the recommendation of a close friend (whom I found out later did not know him all that well), making his presence as inane as a piece of furniture and becoming privy to our impromptu conversations about many a mundane subject including (but not limited to) all that is wrong with the world and the little bit that is right with the world (though, I believe, that topic was still in its speculative phase). He had been sitting around for quite long enough (two years, I think) and was ready to interject a few of his own ideas into the fray.

So I went over to his house one Saturday morning. Because I did not want to appear too eager (“curious” is the better word, because I was curious), I arrived ten minutes late. He  appeared at the front door unhurried in a plush, purple bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, odd morning attire for a bachelor looking for intellectual acceptance. I quickly inferred his intention to pretend this almost languid boredom and nonchalance at my arrival by the tepid coffee and lukewarm bagels on the table.

The apartment smelled of bachelor, which smells like a combination of Goodwill jeans and generic cologne (No offense to socially-conscious bachelors.). The carpet was low-grade shag. The furniture was mismatched, dirty, and uncomfortably dilapidated. The living room window was graced with a curtain that looked derived of a bed sheet with attendant stains from who knows where. The dining room table was one deceptively, knotty wooden piece that ended up being press board, and I wondered at the effort it took to produce the facade. He had an eclectic assortment of dishes and utensils, the combination of which made me think he had never even considered marriage. Or dating. Or girls.


I sat down to an awkward breakfast, sympathetic towards this forty-year old loner who for two years had been wanting to tell me something he had finally set aside time to communicate. The bagels were nasty. The coffee was only bearable with loads of sugar. He offered to heat it up, but somewhere in my discretionary reserve I felt that obliging him would contribute towards the pretension he had already displayed.


He showed me pictures of home while I ate. But he didn’t eat. I thought that strange. I have sat down with many, many people, and have learned that people who do not eat with you either feel strangely subservient or substantially superior to you. I could not decide which while he indulged my curiosity by pontificating unsolicited views on education.  As he began to speak, he put on a pair of birth control glasses and crossed his legs like a brooding philosopher. I listened with an odd sense that he was parroting some educational periodical but with a bad memory.


We talked books, and he immediately invited me to his bookshelf. What a relief. I can learn most everything that I need to know about a stranger so long as I am given access to his bookshelf. The bookshelf was a press-board rectangle, 4 feet x 4 feet with four shelves packed with books. As I began going through the top shelf, I commented on a few evangelical books of which I was briefly familiar. 


As I was finishing the second shelf, my radar went off. I quickly combed through the third shelf and glanced at each title on the last shelf. I looked at my host who was smiling maniacally at me. Every title in that bookshelf had to do with boys.

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