the lost man chronicles
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the peaceful pall

"Why are you sitting by yourself?"

It was the third time I would be asked this very same question over a short stint of three hours this afternoon.

Albeit, each one chortled that she was "only teasing," there was a sharp conveyance of scorn implied which came along with the purported jocularity. (i.e. "What? You don't want me to sit next to you?")

There were about thirty of us taking a ride to a wake. It was a corporate contrivance of respect for one of the top executives whose parent had passed away, a ritual which I earnestly and solemnly participated in, but which I found amusing for its socio-politico implications nonetheless.

The boss had huddled us in the morning and iterated repeatedly, "This is not political, this is not political, but I think we should all go anyway." I was on the edge of asking him, "If its not political, why did you have to say it three times?"

For as sincere as he might have been, we all also knew he was quite conniving as well. For he's as astute as they come, and practically fears missing any opportunity to show he's doing "the right thing."

The sudden pall he donned in order to persuade us craftily made us forget the fact that he had just discussed our pending yearly reviews, especially that of his own—evaluations which stood looming because his boss was in mourning over the recent loss of her father.

At the end of his appeal he also suddenly seemed to remember something from the Company's human rights manual, and he quickly yipped, "And of course, you don’t have to go. It's purely a matter of individual discretion."

Later, when we arrived at the funeral home, he would immediately pull us aside and say with a coddling whisper, "Why don't we walk in together, as a team?" So much for free will.

After we all had awkwardly waded for an hour in the parlor, we scooted back onto the bus back to the office.

I strategically lingered so that I could be one of the last ones to take a seat in the back of the bus and perhaps avoid the gibes.

Alas, once again the keepers of the rites chimed in—"Why are you being so anti-social?"

Prepared, for I fully anticipated the quips, I quickly smiled and retorted, "I just appreciate the time I have alone," and immediately raised my book to indicate that the conversation was over.

Ultimately, my solitude was well worth the small smear upon my reputation, as I read much over the next hour of our commute.

It's funny how people are so afraid of being left alone or fear the impropriety of their actions, and how those who choose otherwise are made ripe for mockery. I always find it rather amusing how I can readily predict the scoffing reactions of others when I choose not to socialize, appease and participate in the lamentably feigned small talk which I rather not endure, if only because I prefer not to acquiesce to the general uneasiness everyone else feels whenever there is a lull, that natural pall and silence which soothes me, but tends to unsettle nervous soul.

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes them to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of one's neighbor that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses." ~ Oscar Wilde

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