“So what’s your story?” said the man who sat next to me with his eyes bright and a smile that went on forever. He caught me a little off guard as he suddenly gave me all his attention. He was being polite but at the same time, I could also sense that he was a bit curious.
Beneath the dusty blue evening sky, we found ourselves sitting together at a long table of food and drinks. We were surrounded by other guests enjoying themselves in the medieval courtyard of Prešporák pub.
I had been here once before but I don’t remember it being a pub. It was a pop-up record shop and I happened to be walking by when I noticed the big arched doorway was open. Always curious, I slipped in between the people and boxes of old records and took a look around.
Now it’s been transformed into a pub decorated with miss matched wooden tables and chairs and old metal signs; my new favourite place to go for a beer.
A small beer. I rarely drink unless I find myself in a place surrounded by other people where I am expected to be social and even then it is always just a small beer or a glass of wine. Just enough to ease in and out of conversations without feeling self-conscious.
Yes, I have a story. I have many stories but which one do I choose to tell? Depending on how well I know you I choose my stories accordingly. Taking in the context of the situation – a get together in a medieval courtyard with people I barely know – I choose to stick to the acceptable story of my life. The one that will make me seem the most normal considering that the person listening has nothing else to judge me by.
So I began with the usual, “I was born…”, And “I studied…”, and “I lived… “, and “I live now…”, and “I am interested in…”, and “I also write.”
“And what about you?” I asked.
I don’t remember his answer exactly but I remember him telling me that he is Slovak, that he is drummer both in a heavy metal band and a jazz band, that he owns a house on a hill and that he had attended Ted x the other day. The way that he had mentioned the last part I could tell that it had him excited.
“What was it about?” I was curious to know.
“About being in-between.” he said, a little confused as to how to describe it. The various guest speakers were sharing talks about their experiences with transitioning from one stage in their life to another. His favourite speaker was a transgendered person who spoke about the need for more education regarding what it means to transition. I told him that I believed gender was a choice and he slightly agreed with me but told me he had never really thought about it. What he enjoyed was the challenge of thinking about it and being inspired to think about things in a new light.
This sparked a new level in our conversation, leaving behind the superficial that often made me so uncomfortable. We talked about the human relationship with the unknown and it’s implications on the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves. We talked about “being in the zone’ and what that meant to a drummer and how similar it was to what I feel when I exercise or write. Those moments when we can transcend and move beyond ourselves. We talked about how everything at its core is fluid and he talked to me about the Tao Te Ching.
And suddenly we had left the party and were slowly meandering down the road of a deep conversation. And by deep, I mean that reality started to lose its edges as we both came to an agreement on certain points other then what is conventionally accepted.
I admitted to him that I had lived in so many places that I no longer could relate to home being somewhere outside myself. That secretly I was building my home within – letting go of the stuff of this world and instead focusing on the things that I can take with me when I die – the wisdom and knowledge of the world that may (or may not) serve me in the next life.
You see, I don’t believe that we die because what is there to die into? Everything is alive and remains alive in one form or another.
And something tells me that I have lived many lives because from time to time I remember something unusual. I will have a dream that will take me to another place so real that I must have been there before. Or I will hear myself say something to myself that couldn’t have just come from me because there was no way I could have known that. Suddenly none of this is black and white and I’m just not fully convinced that I am only 40 years old.
I then ordered another small beer and I admitted to him that I had a more Buddhist approach to living and that although I believed in this for myself I was also equally happy for those who choose to live their life otherwise. This I stressed was the most important thing – to find happiness in others for how they are.
No dogma. No need to convert. Just a quiet admission to a way of life to a stranger that seemed to be on a similar road. By this point, we had gotten so deep in conversation that we had forgotten where we were and I felt a little guilty having taken him away from the party.
“I should return you to the others. I am sure they miss your company.”
We both smiled. He then dug his fork into his plate of nakladaný syr – marinated cheese covered in crushed pistachios and red onions – that he had ordered ages ago.
I looked around at all the happy people, happy to be there with them under the still dusty blue evening sky, sitting with them in the lovely medieval courtyard, feeling a sense of togetherness even if we didn’t know each other very well. I left a short while after, just tipsy enough to feel carefree walking home, wrapped in my oversized sweater enjoying the feeling of the cool wind at my feet.