She’s older. She’s gray, very very gray. And she moves slowly, unhurriedly, relaxed. She knows what I don’t know yet and I, well aware of it, am happy to be in the presence of someone who can fill the gaps in my own knowledge.
The conversation doesn’t start out slow. From the start, we are comfortable with each other, always knowing what the other person means to say. Pleased with the realization that she has already been where I am an that I am on the way to where she is now.
The long easy pauses in our conversation are signals for each of us to reflect and to remember the differences between us. Pauses for us to consider the angles in which we connect.
“Tell me about your free time,” she says as if she had forgotten what it was like to have free time. And as I begin to remind her, she listens carefully and then interrupts. She only interrupts herself it seems because her conclusions to my thoughts are so much like ones I would have come to myself if I’d had the time for more possibilities.
She wants to know why I had asked her to dine with me. My impatience to become what she already is intrigues her. Experience had taught her to leave impatience behind and over the years she had forgotten about the energy it devours and the power it can thwart. Knowing now that all things would happen in their own time was so much a part of her demeanor that she couldn’t even imagine anymore wanting to hurry things along. She knew there was no point to it.
I tell her I want to learn from her, learn what she knows now that she didn’t know earlier. . .and slowly as I talk she remembers what it was like to be me. As she remembers, a slow tiredness takes over her expression and changes the angle in which she talks to me.
She wonders out loud what allegiance she owes me. She wonders if she even has to talk with me at all. For a moment, I think she might get up and leave. However, as the answer to my question begins to break through her weariness and her evasions, my expectation grows that I will soon hear something that I haven’t yet begun to imagine. Something that vastly differentiates and connects our lives. The words however did not come from the uncharted territory, which I imagined she traveled ahead of me. Rather her words came from the depths of my own experience.
- - -Gretchen Elsner-Sommer, 19 September 2000