"Why are you mad at me?"
"Why are you so distant?"
"Why won't you let me in?"
Three questions from three people about three issues. all pointing to one fundamental, uncomfortable truth about me. And here I thought I was being Mr. Affable, the rakehell played so well on stage by rondavis.
"You're severe," Baby K says in the middle of a bunch of words.
"Severe?" I shake my head. "C'mon."
"Takes one to tell one," she shoots back, and in her voice I hear the steel and recognize a fellow bird of prey.
She explains: you don't always tell people what they want to hear, and that's sometimes hard to take, and well, when that happens you can come across as stern and, you know, that might lead some people to believe you're a dick.
Ah. Got it.
She's talking about my colleagues at the Paragraph Factory, but she may as well include the people in my off-duty life. Only to them I'm aloof, a maddening blank, a bastard who won't reveal what's behind his eyes. It's a different brand of severe; instead of dealing with a strict Godfather they get the Introvert, who grows quieter with each new night.
I clear my throat to speak, think better of it. Opening up means letting someone into the madhouse upstairs, and that's a goddamned noisy place, full of salivating bats and other loathsome creatures. People passing by the gates get a glimpse of one of the beasts and think they'd fancy a visit; from the street it looks like a fascinating place to spend some time. They think they might even get to pet one of the animals, tame it and make it love them. They don't notice the teeth.
The people who've been unlucky enough to talk their way into that zoo never stop by the gift shop; they're too busy rushing to the exit. Informed by those experiences, I've slapped new locks on the gates to keep sightseers out and the animals in. With a faint smile I tell passers-by: sorry, the zoo is closed for renovations. No worries, though – it'll be open this spring, bigger and better than ever. Just like Wonders of Wildlife.
Left alone I wander the grounds, say hello to a few beasts. They snarl a reply: open the gates; we're hungry. Bring us something to eat.