“I’m not sure I’m getting what you’re getting at”

The emphasis was on the second ‘I’m’ and the ‘you’re’, hand gestures accompanied each of these words, first pointing toward himself and then toward his partner. He was making some kind of joke about his play on the word ‘getting’, it wasn’t funny and although intending on lightening the mood, it just ended up making him look childish and uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable but what he wasn’t, was sure what to say next. He felt it was not his turn anymore, felt he had made it pretty obvious that the next section of dialogue would not come from him. That was how conversations worked, turn taking, and he had taken his turn. Now to stare obediently ahead and wait and ignore the fact that he rather regretted throwing away his turn. Hindsight am I right.

His partner didn’t seem overly convinced that he wanted to fit in with those good old conversational norms at the moment, he was looking worryingly close to switching off and retreating back into himself in those five minutes of impenetrable silence he so often resorted to when in situations he didn’t desire to be in. It wasn’t that he was trying to ignore those around him, or that he was considering his silence as his response, it was more that he needed time to think things over, time to consider what his next step was and what he felt on the matter at all. He would close off, turn in on himself and stare off into the near distance, as if making eye contact with a power nobody else around him could see, and that would speak into him the wisdom that he needed. Unfortunately, the formless fountain of omniscience didn’t have the answer to everything.

“I’m not sure I’m getting what you’re getting at”

It hadn’t been funny the first time and nothing changed when he repeated it. It was yet again infantile and yet again made him seem out of place. As if he wanted to be just about anywhere else. Which he did. There had been no emphasis for effect this time, just a monotone delivery which tried to convey all of its meaning through its tone, a tone which was unmistakably apologetic. He knew he had angered his partner enough with his evasions of the topic and of his responsibility to contribute to the conversation, and therefore he knew also that he would have to try to un-dig that hole by sticking to his claims and pretending his reluctances really were based on misunderstanding and confusion, and not on the lack of anything better to say. When in doubt, avoid conveying your feelings and instead become irritating in an effort to bring the conversation to a premature end.

His feelings, what an interesting topic. That was a lie, it was not an interesting topic at all because it was a topic he couldn’t speak on, because he didn’t know anything about it. This was one of those moments when he needed a friend who knew him well enough to look at him, make their judgements, and ask “why are you feeling so down?”, or “embarrassed?”, or “alone?”, “confused?”, “angry?”. He felt somehow all of these and none of them, he felt something and he felt it strongly. Whether it was one large unnamed emotion, or whether it was multiple mixed together he couldn’t say, but he felt something and it was affecting his decisions which was a dangerous game. He couldn’t afford to be out of control right now, he had an important discussion to have and if he didn’t know in which direction he wanted the discussion to go, that was ok. It would have to be ok, it was too late for him to admit he wasn’t sure what he wanted, it was too late to notice the warning signs of an impending conversation topic and neatly skirt around it. Decision making would have to wait until after the decision had been made, then he could evaluate and decide what to do about it. He was in too deep.

“I’m not sure I’m getting what you’re getting at”

This was, again, an admission, but less of a consequential one. It was just a thing to say, as had it really been both times before, but this time he said it as if it was, as if it was something to fill the space, to keep them on track and remind them of the task at hand, in case his silent partner wasn’t making big calculation and had instead drifted off to another land. It came with an exhalation, an expression of relaxation but also of defeat. Of unwilling relaxation, he supposed. He had become resigned to his fate, and his fate was that he really was not sure he was getting what his partner was getting at. Lines had somewhere been crossed, their normally conducive relationship had lost its footing and communication had been dropped completely. It was gone, not even slipping away for them to desperately grab at, but gone. Leaving behind a hole that felt larger and more dangerous by the second. If their normal methods of communication were unavailable, others would have to step in, it was compulsory.

Perhaps he would go with laying things out very factually, very analytically. Explaining everything, including his lack of knowledge of his feelings on the subject, providing options for what the outcomes could be, what the logical next steps are, like a flow diagram, make it impersonal. Or perhaps he would stick with his original plan and hope that he was the only one experiencing these issues. Hope that his partner was busy thinking away about their best options, which outcome they should aim for, and what they should do next in his opinion. Maybe neither of them would say anything, maybe they would both sit here in silence and rot away in a void of feeling and understanding. A void of comprehension. Perhaps he should reach out the first olive branch, take inspiration from what had angered his partner and take things more seriously, swallow this bundle of inexplicable feeling vying to take over and try harder.

July 07, 2021 23:02

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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