Saturday, October 22, 2011

the talker and the talked-to

I've chatted with her before. She owns the farm that sets up a few spaces down and across the way from the market stand I sell for. But our conversations in the past were just small talk in passing -- not memorable. Nothing like today's.

She dropped off some produce at our stand for some of her customers to pick up, as she wouldn't be there when they stopped by. I asked her the normal questions -- what each customer should get, what to do with the produce if they didn't come. And somehow she migrated from those topics to telling me about some dramas amongst her farm workers. About the politics of selling to various wholesale venders. About her marketing philosophies and how she is a person, not a business strategy. I kept looking over my shoulder, assessing the busy-ness of our stand and making sure my partner was able to handle all the customers. We weren't particularly busy, but there was a steady stream of people at our stand, and though I was interested in what she was telling me, I had a job to do. But it didn't feel possible for me to break away from this woman's field of energy. I felt trapped. She talked on until finally someone interrupted her to ask me a question. I seized my out. She eventually left.

After the market ended, she stopped by again to make sure her customers had picked up their produce. She asked me about myself -- what else do I do aside from the market job? I told her about being home with my girls and another on the way. And before I knew it, she was telling me everything from the story of her daughter's birth 30 years ago and why she doesn't advocate home birth even though she loves everything that's natural to how and why she and her husband started their farm. Again, I was interested in what she had to say -- she has an unusual and inspiring story.

But I was tired. My knees hurt from standing. And I really had to pee. All the other vendors had cleared out and gone home, and we were the only ones left in the lot. I was ready to call it a day. I shifted from foot to foot. Shielded my eyes from the sun. Still she talked on.

Finally, I picked up my bags in the middle of a stream of her consciousness and started to wade through it toward my car. It felt awkward, but she had shifted from telling me about how her father came to approve of her farming lifestyle to the story of a cut she had on her finger from a staple that was sticking out of a crate. It felt like a good time to wiggle out of her energetic web.

As I drove home,  I didn't feel solitude even though I was alone in the car. Something of her came with me. Not in a negative way -- I didn't feel weighted down -- but I felt more full of her than of me. She was the giver. I was the receiver. I heard a good portion of her life story, while I think I said about four sentences during our entire interaction.  I marveled at her ability to talk and completely miss social cues. And I wondered at my passivity and my inability to send those cues more directly.

Did anything of me go home with her? I doubt it. But perhaps she felt lighter, more alive, after giving me some of her "stuff."

She would talk all day. To anyone, I think. How completely opposite from me. I would listen all day. To anyone, I think.

And perhaps this -- our completely opposite natures -- was the reason I felt so stuck to this woman while she was speaking. She held me in place. Not maliciously, no. It was just what her energy did to mine. I'm not sure I've ever experienced anything like it. And I'm not sure I want to again.