At First Glance

There’s a scene in Midnight Cowboy where the bumpkin Joe Buck and the street-wise Ratso Rizzo accidentally re-encounter each other after Rizzo took his money and delivered him into the hands of a loony preacher instead of the job he promised.  There’s a distinct moment of friendly recognition from them both before Joe remembers he’s mad and starts chasing and Ratso remembers that here’s another one betrayed to be run from.

I was wheeling the cart down the grocery aisle in typical male point-man in-and-out shopping sortie when the large and distinct form of Jeffrey came across the end of the aisle.  We both had that moment of happy recognition – I have always liked his ebullience and I don’t know what he liked about me, but he did – before we remembered that we have a contretemps going these last couple of years over the cost of a job he did on our wharf.

By the time I had opened my mouth to say, “Mornin’, Jeffrey” and he had opened his to say “Hello, Tom”, I had my best-controlled schoolmaster’s face on and he had his best schoolboy bravado in his voice – our self-assigned roles in this unresolved dispute.

But for just a fraction of a second, it took its proper place in the scheme of things – done, over, forgotten, unimportant – and the simple liking we have for each other was in evidence before it was submerged under the roles we play.  He really did screw me and I really did dismiss him cuttingly, and we each have our reputations to maintain in this tiny village. So there is some reality to the other side.  But for just that second, the greater reality beneath was revealed: we all love and respond to each other, and given room, that is our instinct.  The hard part is to give it more than a fraction of a second of room before vanity and pride – aptly among seven deadly sins – shove it out the way.


One Response to “At First Glance”

  1. Sharon Says:

    This is an astonishly profound post.

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