You wouldn't want to be cornered at a party by him, that's for sure. He was tall and lanky and slightly greasy, and he leaned into every conversation. "I watched the most interesting program on television last night!" he'd exclaim, eyes wide and a tiny plate of canapes shaking nervously in his hand. He wavered between mind numbingly boring and painfully moronic.
Couples, when going to an event where he was sure to be, often devised hand signals to use if cornered. Scratch the right eye, tell me I have a phone call. Scratch the left eye, we just need to leave or I'll never get out alive. Singles who found themselves trapped suddenly developed bladder control problems. One time a man made himself choke on a cracker, just to get away.
It's bad, when a person risks their life to end a conversation with you.
"Jesus Christ, Bill," his own father often said, "Talking to you is like having a root canal."
His father had been interesting. A fighter pilot in World War II, a minor league catcher, a successful businessman and Honorary Chief of the Inkininki Tribe. His mother had been interesting, at least until she died - struck down by a runaway milk truck as she gave hula lessons to seniors in the town square. "Mahalo," she whispered to the octogenarian who held her hand as she passed. His brothers and sisters flew in for the funeral from their interesting lives around the world. His brother, a missionary in Papau New Guinea. His sister, working on a cure for cancer or cold sores (he couldn't remember which. It started with a "c", anyway). His oldest brother, who only ever said "It's classified," when talking about his government job.
Bill worked in a hockey card factory, pulling the lever of the big machine that cut individual cards from huge sheets. He knew the names of every hockey player in the NHL. He could tell you their height, their weight, their teams and stats. It was almost enough to make him interesting, until he told you that he'd never actually watched a game. He never watched any game of any kind, or played them, or knew their rules. He saw no point in sports.
There was one thing that got him excited - black holes. If a person dared bring up the subject, even in passing, Bill would become intensely animated, waving his hands in the air as he waxed poetic about black holes. His brother said Bill was the Black Hole of Black Holes. So concentrated was his passion that he'd start to sweat. Little beads on his upper lip at first, then the back of his neck, and finally, great dark circles under his arms. You could always tell a shirt that had been a victim of a Black Hole Rant, with it's salty half moons.
But as he grew older, Bill realized that Black Holes weren't enough. He wanted - he needed - a companion. Someone like minded to share his passions with. He'd tried joining clubs; astronomy clubs and physics clubs and science clubs. He even went to something dubbed the "Young Scientists Love Connection Weekend". In addition to the horrible name, they asked him to do something he'd never done before. They wanted him to talk about himself. Bill knew he was the most boring person in the world, and without his vast knowledge of black holes to rely on, he proved it to every poor woman he met.
So, tell me about yourself, they'd say, and he'd stare dumbly back. His mind was working frantically, searching for something, anything, interesting to say. Finally he'd stammer out "My mom was hit by a milk truck!" or "I pee sitting down!" or, most regrettably, "I have hairless balls!".
It was a disaster.
Bill gave up on love. Who needs love, anyway? He knew, deep down, that he was a good guy, even if he wasn't the most fascinating. He had resigned himself to a solitary life, and fell back into his routine. Hockey card factory. Library. Microwave dinner. Black holes. PBS. Prayers to Stephen Hawking before bed.
It was in the middle of this routine, one evening at the library, when he met Her. He was lost in thought, wandering the aisles, when his eye caught the title of a book he'd not seen before - Black Holes and the Women Who Love Them. He felt his heart quicken and he reached up to touch the spine, but another hand was there before his. Her hand. They touched briefly and she gasped. He looked at her and found himself spiraling down a black hole he'd never known existed.
"Do you..." he began, "Do you like black holes?"
"Oh," she replied, "I don't know of anything more interesting."
2 weeks ago