The waitress, seeing me lost in thought, paused to wave a hand in front of my eyes. Not because she'd asked me anything. Gratuitously: simply because she'd seen that I was thinking. At once the old anger was ignited, and suffused me like a blush. I fixed a cold unsmiling gaze on her face, rocked with a rage so deep that I could do nothing but what I did in childhood: cut off my voice and my face, and present a perfect blank to the world, until I had control of myself again.
All my life people have done this. Seeing that I'm thinking something out, or exploring some emotion or experience with deep attention, they deliberately come and interrupt me. It's supposed to be funny. They've caught me, they seem to think, in a lapse.
If they knew the deep hatred their interruption lights in my heart, they'd back up even faster than this waitress did. In all the years I've suffered this persecution, I've never yet killed one of my tormentors. But there's always a first time, my pretties.
It's incomprehensible to me. If you see someone painting, do you step up to snatch the brush out of their hand? If you see someone working with power tools, do you go find the fusebox to switch off the electricity? If you see someone singing, do you take the opportunity to pitch a balled-up kleenex in their mouth? Why is thinking the one act of creative attention that it's supposed to be a harmless joke to ruin?
I have a horror of imprisonment, because I picture prison as a place where this happens all the time, where nobody ever leaves you alone to think.
Nowadays this sort of interruption happens so seldom that I can afford to hold no grudge; sometimes I don't even get angry. When I was in school it happened all the time, and I'm sure it still happens all the time to thoughtful children. I wish I could do something to protect them. I wish, at the very least, I could tell that that the day will come when they can surround themselves with people who would no more interrupt them because they are thinking than they would break a window because it was lighted. Someday, it will be rare enough to be worthy of a blog post. Hang in there, kids.