In talking to others about nothing in particular over a few cups of tea or coffee, or sometimes, as an exception, about grave things affecting our lives was a beauty most people did not pause to focus on; I had no intention to build an empire, but friendships, more and more of them. Friendships grounded on mutual respect and not a desperate attempt to not be alone. Although, reluctantly, even that was something I was willing to oblige.
It was sacred to me—conversation. A person could claim to be anything in the world. If they were bold, they could even claim to be happy, but their words often betrayed them at tea time on a Thursday afternoon. To know someone, you did not have to talk to them drunk, staring at the dark, starlit sky, as is often suggested, but in the aisle of a grocery store during rush hour on a Monday. It was the only time a person was busy enough to not think about what they said.
I would catch the drift of some conversation happening around me. As guilty as I am, I often eavesdropped for a bit. Not for information, hearsay or gossip, but instead for the voices. I liked noticing when someone used their social voice. I distrusted people who relied on it. There was a distinction in how people talked generally and socially—a drink in their hands, a plate on their table, a tag on their chest.
Of course, people talked differently with different people. But, this was only true for the content of the words, not the mannerism. Everyone brought a unique mix of voice, accent and words they preferred. The rest was a farce. It was a pretentious game about who could sound kinder or smarter. Perhaps, for some shrewd gain, not that anyone admitted to it, or to portray a value system they did not grow up with, or worse, believed in. This dislike was, of course, a fatal flaw. I lost more than I gained because of it.
It was not that I could not be tactful, only that I often chose not to be for the sheer simplicity of trying to be honest in most things. It was a terrible nuisance to use words you did not like, or worse, use a voice that wasn’t your own. I could never understand it all, not that I made any attempt to do so. I was too stubborn to even try.