I’d never seen them in real life before, only in pictures. They were ’50s boots, oddly feminine and heeled and an oily black color, boots the Beatles would wear when they liked alcohol more than marijuana.
I told him I liked his shoes and to sit on the bed if he wanted. He said thanks and okay. I was chewing gum, and it was making the air smell like watermelon. Not real watermelon—the synthetic watermelon-flavor smell.
What’s your favorite book, he asked me. He was watching my bookshelf intently, as if waiting for one of my paperbacks to leap off and land on my bed beside him. I pointed to it, told him it was a beautiful mess of a novel, and that I liked it because it made me feel what was lacking even if I could never see it or anything. I asked him what he liked, he said books of myths and things, because they didn’t try to be smart or sneaky, they just told you how to live and the consequences the gods would inflict if you didn’t.
I smiled. I bet I was doing that weird thing with my lip that I always do when I’m mostly smiling inside—quiet smiles, not funny but impressed or—not happy—content, I suppose.
He smiled back. I like this, he said. I like this a lot. I asked what. He said not knowing things. I like you not knowing me and me not knowing you. You like my shoes and my myths and I like your soft bed and that you like big books. It’s simple. I’m not strange and repellent to you.
Why would you be like that, I wondered.
He told me he was a narcissist. He was depressed, and that meant he had a brain cell excuse for being obsessed with himself. But, he still obsessed over what people thought about him obsessing over himself, and he would apologize too much and that was annoying and nobody really wanted to talk to him but since it wasn’t his fault that he was annoying that kind of had to but he knew this and it made him feel awful and disgusting for talking to them. He sapped life out of people, he said.
I don’t know why he told me all that. Then he made a face which suggested that he thought that I found him repulsive and this was what made him repulsive, you know? That he thought this, that he anticipated my reaction to be a certain way when it wasn’t. But I did like his shoes, and I knew I would never see him again. So I turned off the light.