Maybe True, Mostly Metaphor Part VI

What do you think of the phrase silence is golden, reader?

Feel free to disagree with me, but I think the only people who believe that phrase are the ones who have never enjoyed an engaging conversation over a late night pizza in a bustling neighborhood. There’s nothing quite like it. 

First, you have the eccentric, background sounds of the city—squealing buses, groaning trains, trolleys and subways, rumbling generators—their constant hum reminding you that there’s electricity in the air (if you’ve ever had an electrical outage, you know what I mean, friend). 

But, those aural cityscapes only form the bass and drum line—the steady cadence, rhythm, and beat. Second, you have the living sounds. The light patter of a rainy drizzle. The rustle of leaves as a lazy breeze slips through the trees that line the city streets—those giant city trees that you always see but never pay attention to until the roots begin intruding through the sidewalk (how dare they). Footsteps in rain puddles as businesswomen and salarymen get home after an all too long workday. Night owls—musicians, bartenders, swing shifters, waiters and waitresses, and partiers all getting ready to start their long watches—all marching, dancing, playing in time and step with the city itself.

Lastly, finally, no sheet of music is complete without the melody. The hook. The verses, rhymes, and chorus of a conversation shared over—like I said at the beginning—a Giant. Loaded. Pizza.   

If silence is golden, then late night city pizza conversations are priceless.

“Alright, Moog. You win. This place is way better than the deep dish joint we were at last week,” I managed to say in between chewing through the stretchy cheese and hot bread of our heart-attack dinner, “What is this? Sourdough?”

“Don’t change the subject, man!” He nearly flung his pizza slice across the room as he threw his arms up. “Alice, man. What was the good news she had?”

I had just finished telling him about the text message I’d received earlier that day and the exchange that followed. At first I tried calling the number, but it went straight to voicemail. Instead, I had to respond to her via text. I’m fine. I landed in Seattle (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had crashed and wrecked her hot air balloon quite yet). Where are you? What news? And wait…how DID you find me?

As I told Moog, Alice said she was in Denver, Colorado. She rode for hours and hours on my motorcycle, not having a solid plan in mind other than getting away. She wasn’t sure if her husband had followed. It didn’t matter. She was done. Starting over. She didn’t really give me any details as to how, though. She apologized a thousand times about the motorcycle. I wanted to equally apologize for being in possession of her (or her husband’s?) balloon, but I wasn’t sure how, considering it was her that had caused it to happen. 

When I stopped to think about it, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the situation. I should’ve been mad at her, right? She stole my motorcycle and left me adrift in a hot air balloon. I could’ve died for all she knew. At the same time, however, I couldn’t say that things were going terribly bad for me. These quirky, strange events were turning out to make for an interesting life and story. If I ever wrote a novel about it, I thought to myself, I’d have to thank her for getting the whole mess started. 

I decided that, since I didn’t feel angry about her naturally, then there was no need to. Besides, I messaged her, if you think of it as a trade, motorcycle for hot air balloon, I’m the one who got the bargain. 

As for how she found me, she simply searched my name on the internet. The first result was an article by an undercover food and drink writer raving about some up and coming sushi bar in the heart of the Seattle night life. The writer went on about how the newly employed bartender could make up more than just drinks, “He makes entire stories,” the food critic wrote.

Apparently, there was a reason why my number one bar patron was always on his phone. I guess he was taking notes. I’d have to thank him with a new drink next time I saw him around. He didn’t mention The Boss (nor any word of Moog’s and my conversation about whether or not he was a racist) other than to say that Boss Man gave him permission to use my real name in the article. Yep, that was The Boss, alright. “Thanks for asking me, first…” I mumbled under my breath. Maybe as manager I could confront him about some of his practi—oh, right…

“…Moog, there’s another thing I need to tell you…”

“Later, man! First you gotta tell me what Alice’s good news was. Don’t leave me hanging like this.”   

I hesitated, but complied. “Well, she told me that there was good news and bad news. The good news is that she had a way to compensate me for all this madness…the bad news is that she sold my motorcycle.”

“She what? Is she unstable, man? I mean, I figured she had to be kinda unstable. But she not only stole your bike, but she sold—wait, how did she sell it when—“

“I kept the vehicle title in a plastic bag underneath the seat. I guess it wasn’t hard for her to talk her way into selling—”

“Under the seat? Man, you’re as dumb as she is unstable.”

“I was living on the road! Where else was I supposed to put it?” It was my turn to throw my arms up but, unlike Moog, I made sure to finish eating my pizza first.

“That reminds me, man. You know, I’ve been thinkin’, you’ve been living under your ballon for a few weeks now…”

“Don’t remind me,” I arched my back, “sleeping on the ground is starting to wear on me.”

“Yeah and, man, your smell is startin’ to wear on me,” he crinkled his nose.

I felt my eyes go big, “I didn’t even realize…I’m sorry, I try to find a public shower as often as I can, but…”

Moog immediately burst out laughing, “Man, I’m only kiddin’. I bring it up because I’ve got some extra room at my place, you know. If you’re tired of hikin’ out to that balloon every night and showering in park fountains and stuff,” he shrugged.

“I’m not showering in park fount— really? Are you serious? Moog, that would be a lifesaver.”

“Don’t get mushy on me, man. I’m just tired of your stench and I know you make enough tips to pay for your share of rent. Win-win for me, man. But, enough stalling! So the bad news is that psycho not only stole your bike, but she sold it, too. Her good news better be better than good. It better be better, man.”

“Quit saying better, Moog. And yeah, it’s bett—really good news. She sold my bike…and made five grand off the sell…and she wants to send me the cash as an apology for everything that happened.”

Moog leaned back and whistled, “Okay…okay, miss crazy’s redeeming herself a little.”

“She said she’s going to mail the cash to a post office box here in town.”

“Wait, What? Do they not have banks where she comes from? She’s mailing five thousand bucks in cash to a post office box? And you just said what? ‘sure?’ ”

“She said it had to do with her husband. She thinks he might still be looking for her so she’s afraid of using banks and apps.”

“Jeez, man, how bad was their marriage? Doesn’t that sound a little paranoid?”

I shrugged, but remembered the bruise on her arm that she hesitantly claimed was a rope burn, “Hey, I only knew her for a day. I don’t know what her life is like. If she says she needs to lie low  to avoid a…”

“Dirtbag?”

“Sure, dirtbag. If she’s feels like there’s a threat, who am I to tell her otherwise?”

Moog was silent for a beat and looked up at the ceiling before thinking out loud, “You think Dirtbag will come looking for the balloon you stole?”

The thought had crossed my mind, “I don’t know how he would. I never saw anything that looked like a GPS or tracker inside the balloon, but I don’t know, there could be something like that in the compartments underneath. But, I mean, it’s just a hot air balloon, right? I imagine he’d me more focused on finding his runaway wife.”

That seemed to satisfy Moog. After all, it was just a hot air balloon, right? Something else bothered me about the conversation I had with Alice, though. She was too vague. When we met at the festival, she told me her life story in wild, vivid detail. She was outgoing, engaging, lively. She didn’t seem like the type of person to summarize or skip over details. Something just felt…off.

Maybe I was just overthinking it, reading into it too much. You’ve never read too much into a text message, have you, reader? 

“Five grand…” Moog interrupted my reverie, “That’ll go a long way towards fixing your balloon, man. Hell, forget the balloon. You could buy a plane tickets. Several plane tickets, you know?”

“I know. But…no. I’m not going to buy plane tickets. I’d rather fix the balloon. Alice isn’t worried about getting it back, and I think that if I fix it up well and really learn to fly it, I can get more use out of it than one or two plane tickets worth of traveling.” I left out the fact that I’d have to get over my nightly terrors and the chest pain that came every time I thought about flying it again.

“Alright man. I like your style. Respect.” He looked out the window of the shop we were sitting in. I followed suit, taking in the music of the city muffled behind the glass that revealed our ghostly half-reflection. “That’s a pretty penny, man. I should start calling you The Boss.”

I swear my translucent reflection turned even paler at that comment. No more waiting, then.

“Hey Moog, about that other thing I needed to tell you.”

“‘Sup, man?”

Reader, do you know why I write? It’s because I can edit and edit and edit. Every word, every letter, every punctuation mark. I can overthink and rewrite and analyze the intent and subtle nuances behind every sentence. I can take the time to craft the pages to say exactly what I want, exactly how I want it. I can sound elegant, smart, and tactful in one paragraph while being frank and straight-shooting in the next.

I’m not like that in real life. When I speak, it’s not prose. It’s a dictionary with the words out of place and half the pages missing—disjointed, confusing, and the words I find are never the ones I want.

“Moog, when Boss called me in last week, he said he was making me the manager. I start tomorrow.”

I didn’t know how else to say it other than as a plain, bare fact. No tact. No cushion. No emotion. When I write, I’m a novelist. When I speak, I’m a textbook.

People who say that silence is golden have never had to sit in it, waiting for a response after saying something difficult. Silence isn’t quite golden. No, it’s molten gold—being poured out slowly, drop by drop onto your naked, vulnerable body, violently scalding you as you’re forced to sit there and take it…silently. Painfully. Waiting. The silence drowns you in ice even while its gold burns through your skin. Frozen heart and flaming, flushed face.

Moog looked at me for what felt like—what I swear must have been—an eternity. I’m not good at reading faces. I couldn’t quite tell what he was thinking. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, but then finally…

“wait…wait, wait, wait, man…” he slammed his palms on the table, his eyes got big, and…blessed relief, he smiled. “Wait a second, man. This is perfect. Yeah…we can make this work,” He started nodding his head, “Yeah, man. Yeah. This is good. This is step one,” his smile turned a touch devious.

I was the perfect mixture of relieved and confused. Relieved that Moog seemed okay with the seeming injustice of life. Confused that this apparently was…a good thing?

But, Moog had a plan forming in his head and, for the rest of the night, he walked me through everything. Yes, this was good.

If silence is golden, reader, then conversations are priceless. 


Thanks for reading! Part VII will be out in two weeks! Check out the whole series thus far here.

Cheers,

Liam Brodentel

(Photo by Rodolfo Clix)

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