The following afternoon, Jean-Michel was sitting in a small café finishing a cup of Ceylon tea. He drank it with a bit of milk and two teaspoons of sugar. It was a small café, perhaps seating ten or twelve at most. Fortunately for Jean-Michel, there were not too many people in the café. The decoration was light, with an emphasis on light blue colors and geometric figures. One could interpret different images through the figures, as one might when looking at clouds. Jean-Michel had seen a pair of people figure skating – or was it a dog looking at a thin tree? It could probably be either, to whomever wanted them to be so.
Looking up, Jean-Michel saw Paul, a friend of his, walking into the café. Paul had a fairly large build, but knew what to wear to not make it stand out too much. As usual, he was wearing dark clothing – not entirely black, though, as he thought that was a bit of a creepy look. The all black look had its supporters, of course, but Paul could not be counted as one of them. Jean-Michel was fond of Paul, of course, but he seemed to complain far too often, or at least much more than a person really should. The displeased look on Paul’s face told Jean-Michel that there would be some complaining.
“Drinking tea, I see.” Paul remarked tepidly.
“It is something people drink.” Jean-Michel replied dryly.
“My mother is a big homophobe, have I ever told you that?”
“I believe that the topic has come up a few times, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Cripes, I had the most asinine conversation this morning.” Paul said.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Did it somehow involve the Bible?”
“Surely you must be psychic. However did you know a thing like that?” A young woman, wearing shorts and a t-shirt carrying the cafe’s logo walked by the table and picked up Jean-Michel’s empty teacup.
“Sadly, this isn’t the first time you’ve had this conversation with her.”
“I have, haven’t I? Yes, I suppose you could say that I have. When I came out to her, I believe, was the first time I had that pointless discussion.”
“There were a few other occasions of it, I believe.”
Probably as many times as he had brought it up in conversation, Jean-Michel thought to himself. Should he perhaps write an essay on the topic of homophobia in the United States? People should not still be dying, he thought, for being of a different sexual orientation. Particularly hypocritical were those who were killed in the name of religious fervor.
“I call it the never-ending conversation, and just this morning it felt quite much like that. There went two hours I’ll never see again.”
“On a lighter note, how’s the dating game treating you?”
“This is somehow a lighter note to you?” Paul asked, adding, “It’s terrible.”
Jean-Michel took this to mean that Paul had a bad date the previous evening.
“I had a terrible date last night, possibly one of the worst dates ever.” “
Was it…” started Jean-Michel.
“…worse than the one last week?” finished Paul. “Yes, worse than that one, even worse than the one I had the week before that, and considerably worse than the one two weeks ago. There seems to be a downward trend in the area of dating, I’m afraid.”
“In your area of dating, anyway. My lack of dating doesn’t bother me that much.”
A lie, true, but it beat hearing more of this line of conversation.
“How can it not bother you? Don’t you get lonely?” So perhaps lying would not end the conversation.
This might have been the time, Jean-Michel thought, to somehow change the subject.
“Of course I get lonely sometimes. Everyone gets lonely sometimes. But I mean really, don’t you want some tea?”
“I would love some tea.” Paul replied.
“You can ask for some at the counter over there. It’s really good. Mention that you want it loose, in a basket and in a pot or else they’ll give you a cup of luke warm water with a fifty cent tea bag.” Paul went over to the counter he pointed to, and Jean-Michel breathed a slight sigh making it obvious he was glad the topic of dating was over with. He had overstated the ordering directions for tea, but he thought that anything that would get Paul to stop thinking about his relationship problems would be a good thing. Did they really give anyone fifty-cent tea bags with luke warm water out to anyone? Probably anytime someone asked for a cup of tea without specifying what kind of tea the person wanted. The café probably didn’t want to use its better tea on people who wouldn’t know the difference between it and the cheaper tea. That is what he would do, Jean-Michel decided, if he would ever have a teahouse or diner or something along those lines.
“Lapsong Souchong” Paul said, sitting down with a small pot, two cups, and some assorted tea condiments on a tray. Adding, “I thought perhaps you would want a spot” Paul poured himself a cup and mixed in a little sugar and milk.
“Yes, thank you.” Jean-Michel responded. Jean-Michel was not overly fond of Lapsong Souchong tea, but he did not want to enter into a lengthy discussion about tea preference. There wasn’t any topic over which he wanted to go into a lengthy discussion. Earlier, when he sat down, Jean-Michel had hoped to have a quiet hour or two prior to returning to his work. With Paul’s presence, this was to be impossible. He did not dislike Paul’s company, Jean-Michel thought as he picked up the teapot and poured himself some tea, but rather that this was just a time he wanted to think and reflect rather than interact with others. Since he was to talk to Paul now, and could not reflect, he decided on an easy enough topic.
“How’s work going?” Jean-Michel asked.
“Easy enough, pretty boring sometimes. How goes with the writing?”
“To be honest, I really wish I was writing more creative stuff and not only this dry material for trade magazines and what not. I don’t think anyone would go for my stories or poems, exactly, except for maybe family or friends. I’ve shown you a couple of stories, haven’t I?”
“Yeah, you have. I like them. They’re nice. Ahm, back to me. I’m thinking of getting a different job, having a little change of pace so to speak. Have a little excitement.”
“A bit like trying a different kind of tea, I suppose?”
“You suppose right… though I do love my Lapsong Souchong. Maybe it is time to try a different tea.”
The Time Perception of a Fly
Jean-Michel thought about the absurdity of the remark when he noticed a small insect, perhaps a fly, crawling up the side of the wall. What was the point? It would just die in a day or so, maybe less. Wasn’t the life span of the average housefly about a week or two? What an incredibly short amount of time to live. Maybe not, he decided. Maybe not, because it was entirely possible that the way that flies perceived space and time was much different than how people perceived it. What if a second to a fly was akin to an hour to a person? Every second that went by so quickly for us would just take ages. A minute would be like a few days. An hour would be two months. One day, therefore, would be about four years. One week being twenty-eight years, and two weeks fifty-six. That wasn’t such a bad life after all, if one would
“Jean-Michel? Hello? Have I lost you here?”
“I’m sorry, I was just thinking about something.” “What were you thinking about?”
“The space-time perception of house flies and other insects. You know, being that they live only a week or two, and so you have to wonder how they can possibly appreciate life if it is that short. So I was
“Never mind” Paul interjected. “I thought you might be thinking about something somewhat interesting. Er, no offense of course.”
Of course, no offense taken. Because of course, the only things that are of any interest are the things that you think are interesting, Jean-Michel thought to himself. And of course, why would Paul want to talk about anything other than the things he was interested in talking about?
“So what kind of work are you thinking of going into?” Jean-Michel lifted up his cup a bit, looked at the tea, and put it down, stirring it a little.
“Well, I’m not looking for some sort of dramatic change. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to be suddenly opening up a flower store or something like that. There are plenty of florists around here anyhow. I don’t know. I was thinking of maybe going to school part time to get an MBA or something.” Paul took a small sip of his tea, which was still quite hot, thankfully. Even properly sweetened tea loses something when it gets below a certain temperature.
“Paul, the middle manager. I can see it now.” Jean-Michel smiled.
“Ah, I see my desire for change in life is a source of amusement for you.”
“You’re so sensitive, it’s ridiculous. Calm down. I was just teasing you. I just find it hard to imagine you of all people being one of those boring management types.”
Jean-Michel let out a slight sigh. It was hard to talk to Paul sometimes. Paul always thought that Jean-Michel was making fun of him. Jean-Michel, on the other hand, thought that Paul had a fairly limited sense of humor – it was limited to only the few things that Paul found to be funny. These things were rarely at all related to the sorts of things that Jean-Michel found to be funny.