January 17th 2009:
I’ve decided to practice constructing new lives while I’m in town for such a brief stay. Heaven knows I’ve had more than my fill of “starting over”s in the last few years (moving to Georgia, moving to South Carolina, and the constant movements back-and-forth between two only partially constructed worlds which are too unstable to go without serious maintenance upon returns during summers etc.) throughout the course of which I have had a running theory about what is the best way to go about such a change- especially now as I face yet another relocation to UGA upon my return to the states. Upon entering a new life the factor of the utmost importance is not to appear as if you need to belong because neediness is the strongest possible repellant of new friends second only to hideousness. And bad humor. While not impossible, it is incredibly strenuous to put forth the effort of getting to know anyone while maintaining the appearance of indifference as to whether or not they reciprocate interest in knowing you. For this reason, I have long theorized that there must be some way to make other people want to know you first without them knowing it wasn’t their idea originally. I have come up with various possibilities which wile practically fool-proof- such as constantly appearing wealthy and influential, never ever failing to win at anything, or mailing yourself a series of mysterious packages to be delivered by hand in public and refusing to open them where you can be seen- are not realistically plausible for the every-day new student/employee/what have you. But I had a slightly more realistic thought recently which is the basis by which I have fashioned my current experiment.
People feel close to each other when they are familiar enough to predict their actions- what they will wear, where they will be at a certain time, what they will be doing… all this, of course, takes place after having gotten to know the person themselves. But suppose you were able to make such predictions about a person before knowing anything about them personally or having spoken to them at all? Would this not, in some strange sense, make you feel connected to the stranger who frequents your days? Which would cause things to operate in reverse: you now are curious to know them personally. Based on this prediction, I have been scouting out a suitable place to eat lunch at the same time on the same day completely alone with a book (looking my best, of course) in order to become a familiar regular/mysterious foreigner (or “miss lonely-heart” if you will) which is an element that I don’t normally have on my side. The book is an important factor because it implies intelligence where as sitting alone doing nothing at all simply looks like desperation for human contact strong enough to make one go out alone which would cancel out the air of disconcern about making friends completely- which is the ingredient upon which this entire idea is most dependent for its success. Today I went to select the said book at El Biblioteca Nacional and stumbled upon the perfect place to haunt on a corner of el avenida central called “Q Café”. The workers are young and generally attractive, the food is delicious, the walls are covered in black-and-white photos of every-day people… experiment commence. Stand by for details.
As it turns out the library was its own adventure entirely. I didn’t know before getting there that you aren’t allowed to take the books outside of the building. You search for what you want in their old-fashioned computer system and then fill out the information on little slips which are taken to the desk on the opposite end of the library so the attendant can send it up the dumb-waiter. Meanwhile you wait in chairs for the unseen librarians upstairs to send your books down the dumb-waiter for them to call your name. you then take the books to an empty desk to read them before returning them to the dumb-waiter attendant. It was all very inconvenient at the time, but still fascinating as Soraya reminds me that this is how the library is in Breakfast at Tiffany’s- and, needless to say, anything which reminds one of or makes one feel like Audrey Hepburn is well worth any inconvenience. At any rate, I now have the perfect excuse to purchase my very first book in Spanish so, in all, it was a day well spent.