Waiting for the bus

Evan (who hated his name even though there really wasn’t much offensive about it) sat outside the large downtown hotel on a damp concrete wall with his small leather suitcase beside him, waiting for the bus to the airport. Meanwhile he intently scratched at a piece of rampant fingernail on his right index finger. If anyone chanced to notice him as they passed by, they would have taken him for someone enjoying much the same preoccupation which attends picking one’s nose. At last he was able to catch the shard of nail and dislodge it quickly, but painfully, leaving a bubble of blood behind. He instinctively stuck his finger in his mouth to soothe the throbbing.

Looking up from his erstwhile duties, with his finger still stuck in his mouth, Evan scanned the geography about him through squinted eyes. It was a sunny July day, and it promised to be hot, though at 7:30 a.m. it was still pleasantly cool. He had already had his breakfast at the small and uninspiring restaurant in the hotel, and a good bowel movement afterwards. Because he had nothing but the prospect of the flight back to Nova Scotia, he really didn’t care much about the weather. What did it matter? He wouldn’t be here to enjoy it anyway. And once you’re on a plane and above the clouds, the weather is always sunny. Evan finally withdrew his finger from his mouth and examined the damaged keratin. Even with his finger in his mouth, Evan could never look preposterous. His incredibly thick and perpetually messy yellow hair, off-set by a summer tan which he acquired from being out-of-doors constantly or sailing, immediately distracted everyone from anything but his handsome features. His legs were unusually long, making his narrow torso seem rather wispy. There was almost something sylph-like about Evan, as masculine as he was in every other way.

It had been a short and speedy weekend as usual. He wasn’t sure how many more times he could convince himself to make what were fast becoming expensive monthly jaunts to be with his girl friend, Pippa. It didn’t help that they had had a disagreement last evening, walking back from the Gallery. It was one of those stupid arguments which are more the product of sleep deprivation than anything else, where one’s body is just screaming to be let alone and to retire. But, given enough lubricant (they had each had too much to drink at dinner), the irksomeness assumed a dimension far beyond what was merited, and before long they were blowing their stacks. He knew that. He had called her this morning (she refused to stay at the hotel last night) to apologize. She said she was sorry, too, but both of them lacked the energy to bring the matter full circle. They were drifting apart, and they knew that too.

As Evan pondered these matters, he stared blankly across the boulevard at the water fountain in the park beyond. He hardly blinked, so mesmerized was he. All his life Evan had been more visceral than cerebral, responding to life’s messages more out of instinct than rationality, much as an animal would do. Something was telling him now to flee the territory, for good. It did, however, break his heart to think that he was being so harsh with Pippa, who by all accounts was an extremely generous person and someone whom many considered to be the best thing that had happened to Evan in years. For all his charms, Evan was essentially a selfish person, and the older he grew, the more he reluctantly accepted his faults, though he knew not how to overcome them. It could nonetheless be said of Evan that he was no free-loader, and he had no intention whatever of riding on Pippa’s coat tails to redeem himself. His independence simply wouldn’t allow such a concession, no matter how useful it might be.

Indeed there had been other instances in Evan’s life when he had turned away from paths which, on the face of it at least, offered calculable rewards of the kind to which most aspire, having chosen instead something which was not only more personally digestible but certainly less “driven” by the mere prospect of monetary or social gain. The effect of such decisions was partly to distance him from society, but also to cultivate a burning and generally uncompromising individuality, sharpened by his commitment to detail in all that he did. He knew that it was that and that alone which distinguished him, so he clung to it.

Because Evan had moved about so much during his life, from one educational institution to another, his private world was oddly like a patchwork or collage, colourful but lacking in continuity. As a result, even the people in his life, as close as they may appear to have been, were for Evan easily estranged when the utility or meaning of the relationship was exhausted. It bothered Evan that he could be so seemingly callous about people, but at the same time he cushioned the sting of the observation by satisfying himself that it was best for all concerned. Evan became attached to very few things in his life, preferring to view everything (things and people) as temporary delights at best. It was perhaps for this reason that he particularly enjoyed small, expensive items, things which were possibly portable if need be, though he acknowledged he had never been compelled to put the theory to the test. Yet he often found himself interested to hear about what people removed from their burning dwelling, or how the persecuted Jews secreted some of their objets d’art or fine jewellery. This all further exemplified that, apart from very few items, everything in Evan’s world was replaceable, a concept which at once disturbed and pacified him. In one respect, it made little sense to become needlessly attached to anyone or anything, although he wasn’t entirely convinced of the propriety of such philosophy.