I'm a horrible gauge... of just about anything -- but I was going to say age. I can never guess a person's age acurately. I even forget my own age now and then, depending on the company.
We were processing still negetives for a series of photographic storyboards for a documentary (one that never turned out). During our first conversation, tipping stainless steele cans of chemicals back and forth, I thought Arnold was going to be the most uninterensting social geek I'd meet all year. He speaks in a nasally voice. He wears his butterfly collars buttoned all the way up. Always with a pull-over sweater. His polyester GoodWill slacks always seems two sizes too small.
Under short deadlines, he and I somehow ended up doubling together on equipment and chemicals just to make the processing go faster. I think it was on the second or third day he told me about his wife (!). He's also the same age I am.
The only thing good about having a lousy attitude is finding out how wrong I often am about people. Arnold's just a shy kind of guy. So am I generally, except around other shy people. I dunno...it's a wierd infuriority complex that I'm barely aware of; something to do with anxiety and depression, but that's a whole 'nother story.
Arnold being a generally shy kind of guy, I found him a convenient conversationalist when I needed one. I'm usually not very aware of myself, and I cringe to think that using him like that might have had something to do with his frequent reclusiveness. While the rest of us would gather in a loud bunch I would sometimes catch him out of the corner of my eye leaning against a wall by himself staring down at the floor. I was born with a weakness in my heart for the unwilling loaner.
Over time he had began speaking up more during seminars and creative meetings. Every time he did he proved that he's got his shit squared away. His shyness gradually melted to a severe modesty. But when he speaks up, he knows what he's talking about.
There was a week or two recently passed when I found myself painfully without friends. Some of that anxiety made me think it was me; some relaxation helped me see otherwise. Nonetheless, in that time Arnold was a better friend than I felt I deserved.
I have a tendency to construct elaborate associations with people, places, events, odd occurences that forever color my recollection - for better or for worse. Arnold has many mannerisms that remind me fondly of my brother-in-law. I'm not sure why I think of this, but the pitiful image of A* getting beat up all the time in grade school was somehow projected onto Arnold. (Part of that is the guilt of remembering myself as a big, tough 5th-grader stomping around, picking on weaklings who were much better at their school work.) When this association was connected somewhere between two neurons, I felt something like...protective...of Arnold. He's my buddy. And - at least within these circumstances - I'd do anything for him.
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