Trying to sound interested without using Nazi slogans

We meet, introduced by a drunk acquaintance who forgets both our names mid sentence. She nods in my direction by way of saying “hello”. It may have been shyness- a nervous reaction that compelled her to suck a mouthful of her drink through her straw, peering up at me from behind her glass. But, however she intended it, in our world without absolute truths where competing narratives are the basis of understanding, my own narrative classifies it under the heading sexual gestures.

My attention aroused, I ask her about herself. Sound interested, I tell myself. They like that. If only the people I met of late had actually been interesting, such reminders would not be necessary. I’d much prefer being interested than merely sounding so.

But here is a place of little depth, where meeting new people is infinitely more valued than getting better acquainted with those you have already met. People like me, who have much to say to those I know and too much caution to risk saying it to those I don’t, don’t thrive here. It’s the extroverts, the jokers, the unserious and the naive who belong. More power to them.

Julia, she said her name was. A German Julia with a “y” sounding beginning. Drunks swirl around us staggering from leg to wobbling leg. They’re making me feel a bit dizzy. I lean in to speak to her. She doesn’t understand what I say. I ask again, more slowly and more precisely, about what she does. In Berlin, she’s a waitress. Is that interesting? What’s the follow-up question here? I don’t know. Do you like it? Is it rewarding? What’s waitress in German? Fuck. I’m staring down a series of unlit tunnels. Do I want to have a moronic conversation? Can I open this up? She seems interested but I’m already bored. Ask me about me, I think. I can talk about myself. You’d be impressed, I’m sure. Shut up. Sound interested, I remind myself. Interested in what, though? I can’t sound too interested in waitressing in Berlin. I’d seem like a maniac. Change the subject.

What brings you here? A better question. An opportunity to explore her desires, her motivation, her character. But an opportunity for me to hear the same old recyclable cliches. I’m already second-guessing the answer. Sound interested!

Oh yes, it is lovely, isn’t it. Yes, we’re all so happy here. The beach, yes. Beautiful. And cheap too. Why would anyone live anywhere else. We’re so lucky to have discovered this place, and so few people come. It’s a well kept secret, let’s keep it that way.

What a prick! You’re talking crap. Tired old crap. What do you want from this girl?

She is quite attractive. Should I ask her on a date now? But what would we talk about? Why is everything so boring of late? My nan used to say that boredom is for boring people. Was she right? Probably. She was right about most things. She hated the Germans, though. That wasn’t on. But, I suppose the war would do that to you. God, the war? That was terrible. I can’t imagine that happening now.

She’s still speaking. Something about work. She can’t remember the word for work. She’s saying it in German. I know some German. Arbeit. That’s work in German. As in “Arbeit macht frei”.

Fuck. I just said that out loud. She begins to laugh. Is that nervous laughter? I don’t think so. She’s not doing the sexy straw thing – that was nervous. This isn’t. She acknowledges that I know German, if only some Nazi slogans. I assure her that I’m not a Nazi. She chuckles promisingly.

This is more interesting, isn’t it. It’s bloody ridiculous but it’s more interesting than before. Now we’re laughing about the Nazis. From talking about her holiday plans to laughing about the Nazis and their funny slogans. Yes, this is definitely better. I can’t take this much further, though. Where does one go from here?

Nowhere, it turns out. Bye then, Julia (with a “y” sound). Nice to have met you.

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