I thought he was blind when he first walked up. His large, slightly misshapen, ebony head was tilted oddly and his right eye rolled around unnaturally. I realized he wasn’t blind when he found his way to the chair adjacent to mine at the coffee shop (Uncle Joe’s, know the place?). I’m a nice girl, so I greeted him with something compulsory like “How’s it goin?” or “Good evening.” I smiled, and got back to my pre-study procrastination.
Through my headphones I heard him ask me if I was listening to music.
I answered him, and we got to talking.
We talked about the most bizarre subjects. It all started with my being a physics major. Lynn (sp?) was there to play speed chess with the regulars, but claimed an interest in science. This interest, I would soon discover, was based mainly on eccentric theories inspired by Flash Gordon, Star Wars, and Star Trek.
He thinks that we’ll someday construct totally new types of matter, and kept referring to man’s drive to refashion himself scientifically and fundamentally in some way. This offended his religious side, and he often scoffed at the idea of man playing God.
I smiled a lot, nodded, and egged him on, trying to get some good stories out of him, as is my wont. I enjoyed a few of his brainchildren more than others. He’s got this idea that we could harness the power of glowworms to make special paint. This paint could coat all our rooms and we could turn the walls on and off with a light switch. Some current or something would then be run through the glowworm paint and light our rooms. He thinks Thomas Edison would feel pretty challenged by this idea were he still around. I agreed.
In the interest of your time I’ll summarize some of the other subjects we touched upon:
seven headed anacondas (made with nuclear technology)
light bridges (like on Flash Gordon)
teleportation (which he thinks Stanford has already invented… inspired by Flash Gordon)
air-density metal that would facilitate cloud cities (Star Wars)
really fast moving elementary particles (I didn’t tell him about accelerators)
neutron matter (I told him about the N-bomb… he was unimpressed)
Discomfort had been easily avoided because he was too eccentric, and I too curious to be disturbed, but eventually, it came.
About forty minutes into our conversation, two not-so-hetero-normative friends of mine had joined us and had been reading and listening silently to Lynn and I.
Twenty minutes later or so, he took it upon himself to randomly warn me and my two sexually deviant counterparts about the dangers of some social groups here at the U of C. He warned us, in all seriousness, to avoid those lesbian parties…
I laughed nervously and hysterically during the anti-gay homophobic banter that followed. He was, unsurprisingly, very conservative about such things and thought his resentful tolerance to be equivallent somehow to openmindedness. My blushing and stammering probably got a little out of hand, and after some awkward social maneuvering, the ladies and I made our get-away.
He apologized at some point during our escape about bringing up something that I might be “uncomfortable” with. I so desired to debate with him about his ideas on sexual morality, but instead I patted him on the back, a complete stranger, and assuaged his fear, “No darlin’, it’s nothin'” I muttered.
Who am I?
Have I no self-respect?
Was this a kindness to an old ignorant man or a failure as a socially conscious being?
Whoa, a Johnny Depp look-a-like just walked into the cafe… I can no longer concentrate on this story, so it’s a good thing I’m pretty much done writing it.
I have not yet decided the point of all this, the moral of the story as it were, but I suspect you’ll derive your own, or… be inspired to invent glowworm paint.