There were several times when I was young when I would see my father sitting on the couch in the thinking man position, his fore finger poised against his lips, staring off into the distance. I’d ask what he was thinking, hoping I would hear about some of the secrets of the universe or that he would help me understand this confusing world.
“Oh, nothing.” He’d reply.
I was always a little disappointed because it was obvious he was thinking about something. What was it, I would think to myself. I couldn’t possibly imagine. Sometimes he would frown and shake his head. I’d ask him what he was shaking his head about to which he’d reply with the same, “Oh, nothing.”
Maybe he was also trying to figure out this confusing world, or about how he was going to pay some bill, or maybe he was replaying some event from earlier in the day or his life. This was one of my earliest lessons. No one ever fully understands the world outside themselves, let alone the world inside themselves. Well, ok, my earliest lesson was learning that you shouldn’t touch or pee on an electric fence. If I were to ask my mother the same thing I’d have to make a cup of tea and whip out a rectal doughnut.
Women are like a bowl of pasta, everything’s connected, which can make it difficult for a man to follow what she’s talking about because it’s all about feelings, not a well formulated a Three Act story structure.
Men on the other hand are like a dresser with many drawers. Everything is compartmentalized. Everything has its place. He even has a drawer devoted to absolutely nothing which is appropriately called his “nothing box”. A place he likes to visit frequently. If anyone asks him what he’s thinking about while he’s in his nothing box he’ll say “Nothing”. Impossible. As a man I can testify that there is never a moment where a man is thinking about nothing. In fact it’s even scientifically proven that when we sleep our brain doesn’t. It never stops. It’s just easier for him to say “nothing” than to explain whatever bizarre, mundane, or befuddling thought may be running through his head. Chances are he may not understand what he is thinking about or it may be trivial or something he may not feel comfortable sharing with another human being.
Example. A random thought pops into my head: what would I do if someone broke into my house? Multiple scenarios go through my head.
Scenario one: Intruder breaks into my house. I call the police. The intruder hears the sirens in the distance. Fearing he may be caught he flees. Crisis averted. I am now free to change my soiled boxers.
Second scenario: Intruder breaks into my house. I’m suddenly a karate master. I confront him and deliver a front kick so powerful he coughs up his own heart which the family dog eats it in front of his eyes while I laugh triumphantly with my hands on my hips.
Third scenario: Intruder breaks into my house, goes on a raping spree, which includes the family dog. I’m powerless to do anything because in this scenario I’m not a karate master and I’ve been tied and gaged and am experiencing a reenactment of that infamous Pawn Shop scene from Pulp Fiction but with no Bruce Willis to save me. Following this heinous ordeal I swiftly hire a private detective to track down the bastard, capture him, rent a gorilla to return the favor, kill him, and bury him in an unmarked grave.
Fourth scenario: intruder breaks in. I shoot his face off with a Desert Eagle .50. Decide not to call the police since it would probably mean me going to jail for a long time where I will become a human pincushion until I’m released. I decide to burn the body, pulverize the bones into a fine powder, cut his pulverized remains into a bag of cocaine and sell the cut cocaine to some rich kids for a nice little profit which I later use to send my kids to college.
Now if someone were to ask me ‘what are you thinking about?’ while I was thinking about any of the aforementioned scenarios you can be sure my response would be “nothing”.
If he’s not thinking of wild scenarios he may be thinking about something he’s afraid of, something he doesn’t fully understand. Like his feelings. If that’s the case go easy on the guy, cut him some slack; give him some time. Who knows he may open up to you like a beautiful butterfly…or just give him some Opera.
Morning. The faint scream of grinding metal trickles through the catacombs of the MBTA. A light in the distance of black draws closer, bringing the next train along with a stiff burst of wind, dishevling hair and stirring some out of their momentary mental lapses. The sudden rush of bodies is jarring. Bodies mashing together. Like angry bees in a hive. Everyone converging toward the entrance doors, hoping to make it in and on before they close. Inside the air is a muddy mess of after shave, cologne, coffee, perfume, and newspaper ink. It’s overwhelming and bitter to the taste. On an empty stomach it’s slightly nauesating. The car shimies and hops, squealing and jerking around the sharp corners. Everyone mechanically reaches out to hold on to something as we barrel through the blackness. Looking around I see blood shot eyes scared away by lethal doses of caffenine. Young and old professionals armed with the 8 keys to success. First year college students, premeds, transfers, all forms of life represented here. Hands clutching coffee cups and iPods, white aspirin earbuds drowning out the outside world, noses buried in the daily news and novels, and a visible sign of disinterest pasted on faces. Yet behind every face is that strange unquenchable thirst that consumes us all. That desire for much more than could ever be gained within the confines of 9-5.
The bar was stuffed. On 20 TV’s was the spectacle of men dressed like modern day knights crashing into each other, grunting, butt slapping, chest bumping. Their coach paced the field like his ass was on fire, his veins threatened to snap out of his neck like a guitar string strung too tight. His waved his arms like a great albatross about to take flight. His team was doing something wrong. What it was I’d never figure out. Sports announcers pulled sports statistics from their backsides. There was only one reason I was in this establishment. Buffalo wings. I occupied a spot at the bar. The bar top must have been made out of fly paper. When I set my arms down I retracted them in disgust leaving a faint little shag carpet on the counter top. The bartender appeared out of nowhere, wiped the counter down with a raggedy ann bar towel. After dealing me a Buffalo beer coaster he asked me if I knew what I wanted to drink. A blue moon, I told him. “Anything to eat?” he asked. A dozen wings I said. “What flavor?” This is unnecessarily complicated. I asked him to tell me all the flavors they had. He took a deep breath before firing off all the different types of wings under the sun. In the end I ordered a dozen of the regular then resumed watching the game. I’ve never been the sports type even though I’ve always been active. Sports confuse me, not the actual sports themselves, they’re fun to play. What confuses me is how men can talk endlessly about athletes and their statistics. Guess I’m a different breed. The bartender set a pilsner glass the size of an anti aircraft shell in front of me. A moment later he stuffed a paper receipt, my tab, into a shot glass that was sitting in front of me. There wasn’t much else to look at but the grizzly bears on the TV ramming into each other and frantically tossing the pig skin all around a wide expanse of grass filled with chalky white lines and numbers. In my head I thought about creating a hybrid version of football but in my version all the players would be inmates from jails around the country wearing Halo military suits and the football field would be littered with booby traps such as mines, oil slicks, and shooting arrows and geysers of fire. There would also be trap doors with crocodile pits and spring loaded catapults hidden in the grass that when stepped on would catapult the player into the crowd. The guy sitting next to me threw his hands up. He started talking to me like I had just seen everything. “Did you see that?” He asked. He asked it a second time. “That was ridiculous,” I agreed. I guess at some point during my day dreaming a referee had thrown his colored hanky in the air. The guy couldn’t believe the call. The ref must have been out of his mind or blind. This led into several minutes of statistics. Either the guy wanted to show off his useless knowledge or maybe he just wanted a friend, someone to connect with for a moment in time. With guys it’s different. You can’t just tell a random guy you like his hair or ask him where he got his shoes cause they’re so cute. Talking about sports is the easiest way for guys to get close that doesn’t feel gay. Deep down guys wanna connect. A lot of them just don’t know how cause their father didn’t know how. This has spanned generations. I was afraid he’d find out I was a fake, that I was there for the wings and not the game. I just kept listening and kept asking him questions to keep him talking. He never suspected. I should have just told him flat out “I know don’t know anything about sports, aside from the sport of harassing small animals and children. I just came here for the wings and the beer….how’s your relationship with your father?” It’s much easier to just talk sports stats. No crying will be involved cause there’s no crying in Football…wait, or is it Baseball?