Someone has broken the scale you use to weigh all your words.
When you return to your cubicle after using the bathroom, you find that the counterweights have been smashed to bits. You are appalled, then heartbroken. This was deliberate—malicious. You immediately suspect your boss. He never’s liked your obsession with careful precision of language and has been especially annoyed by the time it takes you to recalibrate your scale for new clients and different situations. Just yesterday, he was visibly irked by how long it took to make your adjustments between the contract negotiation session and the technical briefing. But to be fair, in this open-plan office, anyone could have inflicted this damage. Except Trinela. She’s out sick today.
Then, without someone to focus outrage upon, all you feel is sadness, and you just don’t care to know who did this. That knowledge won’t put your scale back in working order, which is what you really want.
Even if you had the vengeful energy for it, you won’t have time to sleuth out the identity of the culprit until tomorrow at earliest. You have meetings to get to.
In those meetings, you’re unable to measure the difference between “So what?” and “Why do you feel that’s important?” Between “I’m sorry to hear that” and “I’m sure it’s for the best.” So you say nothing. You just sit there—first at the corner of the conference table by the window then in the back of the seminar room—feeling unanchored, like you and your words are adrift in space, no longer experiencing the force of conversational gravity.
Before you know it, the workday is over, and all you want is to retreat into your bedroom where you need no words. But you have a date tonight, and as much as you now want to postpone it, this one involves tickets to a sold-out performance of Loud Thinkers Have No Secrets—the much raved-about play you’ve been looking forward to for weeks.
As you get ready to leave, your mind’s eye looks alternately down two paths into the future: going on the date and going home. Each promises to be a kind of respite while also holding some risk of irreparable damage, and you can’t see far enough in either direction to estimate the proportions of promise to risk. From what you can make out, you decide that an evening out may not be too bad. There shouldn’t be any talking during the show—except during intermission, if there is one. All you have to do is make it through dinner and maybe mention a few comments about the play. If you start tonight’s date by explaining the situation, you should be able to manage expectations around your ability to converse.
So you work your way through the city turned sauna by July’s febrile air, heading to the restaurant you picked out last week: Thoroughfaire Lounge. While you walk, you mentally rehearse and revise the story you’ll have to tell before—no, make that after—you order the entrées. You already described your long-standing practice of weighing words on the second date, so the background and all the basics are covered. You just need to explain today’s vandalization and its consequences. You get on the train with three sentences that should do the job, and by the time the train pulls into the arts district station, you’re down to two sentences. You wish you could weigh them to make sure they’re not too dense, but they’ll have to do.
As you walk the remaining blocks to Thoroughfaire Lounge, you become anxious about the rest of the dinnertime conversation, which you can’t plan out. Your palms begin to tingle.
When you arrive at the restaurant, your watch tells you that you’re ten minutes early—now you can relax a little. Then, through Thoroughfaire’s front window, you see that your date is already waiting inside—now you might as well get the evening going. With your explanation ready, you pull at the handle of the restaurant’s thick glass door. It opens toward you slowly, with a heaviness that strikes you as intentional, as if the door is meant to test your determination to dine here.
You step inside, and the air conditioning feels welcoming, like it’s urging you to leave summer’s heat behind and enjoy a leisurely meal. Your nervousness vanishes as you become suddenly certain that this is the time to experience the weightlessness words can have. A soul mate should have some linguistic leniency after all. And if this isn’t an evening with your soul mate, well, how much does imprecision of language really matter?