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OtterSummer 8.20-ShyTown

I presume I understand, but I’m pretty sure I understand as if it was me and not because I’m somehow clued in to what’s going on inside her. She’d rather be alone, it seems, but she’s never really isolated, given that she’s almost always plugged into that iPod Touch, sharing giggles with her legions of long-distance friends.

While we hovered along the periphery of the neighborhood potluck last night, she showed me that she was editing pictures of clouds she’d captured from the stands at the baseball game last week. She hadn’t been sure she was hungry, and a little angry that we’d insisted she tag along to the place down the street where this whole neighborhood was gathering. After we’d been through the food line, she changed her mind, returning with a few choice selections, which she ate head down, a great excuse to further avoid eye contact and small talk.

The neighbors have an introduction ritual, and The Muse and I stood and delivered while The Grand Otter sat on the furthest edge of the retaining wall along the front sidewalk, listening to her soundtrack, magenta hair hiding her face. I announced her presence. She would have been embarrassed had she heard me.

Later, she migrated to the front steps to sit next to The Muse and occasionally respond to questions after smiling slightly and removing her headset. She was not sullen, sitting rather as if tethered and anxious to escape. She met several people and held up her side of each interrogation, heart apparently somewhere else.

The Muse finally gave her a key and commuted her sentence for good behavior. We left shortly thereafter. Once back to the new digs, she settled onto the couch, still editing pictures on her handheld or giggling with distant friends. I cooked a couple of burgers, which we ate quickly and with great satisfaction before she plugged back in and began texting again.

I know the security shy people know; that space inside my head where everything seems safe and familiar. I know how to slip in there when surrounded by strangers. I know how to remain a stranger, and how to ensure strange places never become familiar. The Muse seems more comfortable working the crowd, and I don’t mind watching what’s going on around me. Engaging feels like slipping into a slightly too hot bath, the initiation perhaps worth the soak, but plenty daunting enough to convince me out of actually getting in.

Near as I can tell, this tendency is associated with my temperament. It’s no shortcoming, but a feature. I suspect it’s that way for The Otter, too. I will not be trying to talk her out of her thick candy shell, though I will worry about her a bit. I will complain about the wasted opportunities just as if my footprints have not been most often unaccompanied by a parallel pair.

Shy is not the same thing as afraid. There’s no particular anxiety involved. It’s a preference, and not a self-destructive one. I sometimes feel like I need a headlamp to peer into The Otter’s world. I put on the headlamp rather than insist that she turn on her own dome light. She’s observing everything around her all the time. Shy, they might say. Witness, she might tell herself.

She’s been up half the night again, writing. On those some-day-to-be-shared pages, she’s describing her self to herself, connecting perceptions to conclusions, making relationships that should outlast this Otter Summer and everything it involved.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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