NOT MANY PEOPLE like me. I have no friends. And I would like to know why. People begin friendly enough, at least not unfriendly, and nobody is rude to me, yet none have taken the next step, which is taking an interest in what I have to say, how I manage to live. I don’t know what I have said or not said, or what it is about my manner that has put them off. It doesn’t take long before I see there is little of hope of them becoming my friend, or friendly towards me, let alone getting to see them again, already they are casting around at other people for possible friendship. People don’t seek me out. They don’t need me. People quickly lose interest in me. I don’t find other people especially interesting either, I can’t off-hand think of one I’d like to see again, but at least I stay in the one spot and keep talking – I make an effort. I have things to say about many different topics! There is plenty to notice in a face, including mine. I’d say that’s something most people haven’t picked up, don’t bother about, although it’s an area I’ve been concentrating on for years. If I’m talking to somebody I make a point of paying attention, and yet I notice they don’t look at me. People are concerned with themselves, nothing much more. For some time now I have made a practice of looking closely at the face of whoever I am talking to. I am put off by those men and women who have the deep vertical lines running down from the eyes, giving them a permanently worn disappointed look, in men mostly, as if they’ve thrown in the towel. I don’t just scan a face, I have been known to stare too much. Often I finish their sentences for them. On first meeting when the slate is clean I notice their politeness. This is how we are all supposed to be. It doesn’t take long for their attention to shift and they move away. And then I never hear from them again.
What is the matter with other people? I don’t understand why a person should be interested only in themselves when there is a huge amount of untapped interest nearby, for example in the seriousness among the people in front of them. I suppose my concentrated manner can at times become off-putting. People like a bit of fresh air, as if I am too concentrated. Near the Botanical Gardens I saw coming towards me a person I knew, if not a friend almost a friend, or so I imagined, and before I could prepare my mouth and shoulders in readiness for all that is necessary, less than six paces away he crossed the street and in his rush to escape almost collided with a cyclist. I ask myself – why? Here’s another example. Only a few weeks later I bumped into Graeme L, who I knew from my previous job, and without breaking stride he gave me a couple of rapid hand-waving motions in front of his nose, the signal being, ‘Can’t stop! Can’t stop!’ As he went on taking long strides I wanted to catch up to him, perhaps take him by the elbow. Instead I told myself he must be late for an appointment, and I remembered he was never punctual. Some people set out to be late, apparently wanting the attention. They then become addicted to it. It was not as if we didn’t know each other. Often we shared a bench in the sunlight outside the office eating our sandwiches, until one lunch hour I saw him waiting not at our usual bench but another bench with two or three others, leaning back and laughing loudly, over-laughing I would say, something I had not seen before. After that we never shared our sandwiches. He had repositioned himself there, at a distance, a conscious decision. It isn’t necessarily something about me that people don’t like – if that’s what you’re thinking. What about them – the ones who are rejecting me? I don’t know where their superiority comes from. It’s not as if they themselves have anything better to say. In my experience most people on earth don’t have much to say. I remember reading in the local newspaper, we all think we are more interest- ing to others than we actually are. I’d agree with that 100 per cent. Our view of ourselves doesn’t quite match what others think. It follows that other people are not as interesting to me as they think they are. I can’t think of any person I would want to seek out because of their interesting attentive personality. Last week I entered a lift in Macquarie Street for an appointment with my optometrist, and the one and only person facing the doors was Leon Rosenquist, the stranger who had formed some sort of liaison with my step-sister, thirty-four years of age, who I had watched playing tennis one Saturday afternoon, and if I’m not mistaken, we chatted together over a cup of tea afterwards. Now alongside me in the lift he studiously gazed at the ascending numbers as they lit up, without the slightest acknowledgement of my presence. ‘You really do need your eyes tested. Remember me?’ I was on the point of saying, my sleeve touching his elbow. The whole building was filled with optometrists and hearing-aid specialists. He stepped out at the seventh floor, having successfully avoided speaking to me. I assumed he was feeling awkward about his behaviour towards my step-sister. I had noticed how off the court he couldn’t take his eyes off the perspiration patch under her armpit, which had spread into the shape of a pear, or a humid country, Africa.
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