You awaken to the dim, orange light as it gropes featureless walls, its arms quivering, bending and snapping along shadowy corners, confined to a small oil lantern in the center of the room. You assume you are alone, but too soon: furious swishing parts the air behind you. As you scramble backward to face your new company, jamming into the opposite pocket with enough panicked conviction to join with the wall entirely, the obscured figure slowly raises an attractively masculine right hand to assure your safety. Instantly, you are at ease.
It reminds you of your father’s hand, or the hand of your closest father-figure. Perhaps you had an especially manly mother. If orphaned, it is the hand of your streetwisest mentor; in the likely existence of foster parents, did you like your foster parents? If so, it is the hand of the best one. If not, this enigmatic wanderer also dislikes your foster parents: you can tell that from the hand. The wrinkles look sympathetic. You just assume the wandering part. If feral, the downy tufts which line his knuckles evoke the affectionate discipline of your beloved Wolfmother.
A slight smile ripples across the surface of your face as the orange glow wraps itself around you like the warm fur of the Wolfmother. You find that your acquaintance is also smiling and your curiosity piques as your eyes move from his reassuring right hand to his busy left. It slices the space between you rapidly, mechanically, as if warding away the pungent effects of a wretched gas-ball or frantically checking hand-eye coordination. The man’s highly reflective smile catches a glint of lamplight and informs you, probably telepathically, “The answer is neither, child.” His non-verbal choice of the word “child” doesn’t come off as patronizing, like it would if you said it, but blends cohesively with his previously established level of mystery. It sounds worldly, as if he knows so much that you are rendered the child to his intellectual and spiritual adulthood. In actuality, he’s in his early 20’s. You can tell that from the lamplight.
“I am clapping.”
You are to be his guest for a time. As his south paw continues to slap empty space, his right hand flourishes in a semi-circle and seems to synthesize a cascading wealth of content in its wake: he says nothing, but you are at once privy to his most meaningful thoughts concerning film, games, and even the occasional book.
“I read sometimes,” he says, and you credulously nod, absorbing every last, pregnant detail.
There is a long pause. He is struggling to say something. He deletes what he was about to say. It was stupid. You start to feel around for the exit.