Friday, June 02, 2006

The Roundabout

The Roundabout sweats a lot, in every situation. He is unusually salty and moist. On winter days he wears both scarf and hat. In summer he wears suits. He is always the last to squeeze into the subway car, with much commotion and apology. Everyone makes way for The Roundabout and hopes he moves along so they're not stuck standing next to him.

You can tell by the look in his eye when he's about to launch. The Roundabout begins every conversation with exasperation. Several blinks of a countdown, and then the request. He wants to ask you a question, only one, and he promises it won't take more than a moment. He bursts into the office and is always in a hurry. You'll be glad when it's over, but it won't be unless you're lucky and something else comes up, because once he starts the Roundabout cannot be stopped.

He only wants to ask one question, but he will never ask that question. Too many other questions intervene. He has to back up and preface it and tell you why he needs to ask that question. This entails a story, which is long and involved and makes no sense whatsoever. At first you might have guessed what the question was going to be, but soon you give up trying. You have no idea.

Soon he switches tracks, then switches tracks again. He sweats some more as he realizes he's forgotten why he's pestering you. The story he's recounting is too complex. He gets lost and cannot find the way. He sits there in your office, sputtering, blustering, pretending that he's getting there. You of course have other work to do but you can't get around this obstacle, this blockage, this living exclamation point.

There will come a time when you deliberately don't invite him to some function, and he'll be sad. You'll wish you'd thought of it sooner, because after this he no longer appears at your door. He knows that you don't like him, and all those questions were merely pretexts for a visit. He had wanted to be your friend. He's sorry to have been such a bore. He has big sad eyes. You wish he'd look away.

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