Okay, so my plan to come home from a 24 hour roadtrip fluent in Spanish went a bit loco over the weekend.
Rather than driving Sophie's teammates, there was a last minute shuffle wherein one of the coaches ended up coming with us instead: an arrangement which caught me like a deer in the headlights.
Five hours in a car with someone I didn't know? Someone who eats and breathes volleyball? Someone who happens to already speak Spanish?
What was I going to do? Could I turn on my Spanish audiobook and force him to listen to quieres agua a zillion times? Could I fake a sudden command of the nuances of the sport, when I still don't know if these girls are playing matches, sets, or games?
No. Absolutamente no.
I was going to have to interact this guy. I was going to have to exchange pleasantries. I was going to have to gear up and be an extrovert. I was going to have to engage in that most magical of all magic tricks: small talk.
For five whole hours.
And it's not like I was feeling sorry for myself. It was more out of concern for him: would he feel trapped in close quarters wondering if all Canadians were this unfriendly, if I'd forgotten how to speak English, or had I perhaps dated a volleyball coach years ago which ended badly and now every subsequent coach had to pay for it with my freezing silence?
I realize to the vast majority of civilization, the instinct to chit chat is so basic it hardly merits attention. You know? It's all: talk about your day, relate anecdotes, nod and smile, tell what he said/she said, say: you're kidding me!, talk more about your day. Lather, rinse, and repeat. I know people who can do this for five hours and not even come up for air.
But dear reader, I'm not the little ape who was socialized that way. I'm the little ape who hid in trees, kept her nose in a book, hoarded pencil crayons, ran with wolves, and never got asked to prom because all the boy apes liked the other girl apes better than me, though I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with my lack of conversational skills whatsoever.
Not that I'm bitter or anything. Or slightly confused by my sudden ape analogy.
Anyway, it's just that to this day, I have a hard time making pleasant conversation, especially in contrived social settings. I'm good at writing. I'm good at listening.
Not so skilled at talking.
Who would have known? It turned out this coach was a very unusual guy. Like, he was a good talker, but he was also a great questioner and listener. In fact, I think he got his Ph.D in engaging conversations, because that's exactly what we ended up having until suddenly we were in Phoenix with no idea how we got there.
At any rate, the girls played brilliantly. They won all their games, sets, matches...whatever.
And on the way back home, in the middle of the night, I saw a snake laying across the highway. He was enormous, half the length of the oncoming lane, enjoying the warmth of the pavement. Farther on down the road, a tiny mouse ran into the beam of my headlights and hopped from one foot to the next, its brain big enough to register danger yet eclipsed by the prospect of resolving it.
I wonder why I'm not a skilled conversationalist? I wonder why some people can go on and on, completely at ease, always thinking of new things to say?
I wonder why I'm still thinking about that snake, his contempt for danger on what must have certainly been the last night of his life? And that silly, scurrying mouse. I hope its brain came through in the clutch. I hope wisdom prevailed. I hope it chose to resist the light and make a beeline for the darkness, where perhaps it had a cozy nest, a set of pencil crayons, and a cup of chamomile tea.
p.s. I keep meaning to show you the sweetest thing from Jenmeister.
And this. Because Caroline was brave enough to wear her flower to church while I only imagined myself doing so.