“Seems like my kind of place.” I said as we entered the dark, seedy pub, aptly named The Gate. To my recollection, I still can’t determine whether it was simple coincidence that Gigaer and I came into contact that day, or whether it was other divine intervention playing its hand. Regardless, it was one of the first in a long series of critical decisions that would alter my path forever.
A young, plump waitress offered us a booth, which we casually accepted. The booth was near the front of the pub, yet cast in shadow, darkened even more than its dim surroundings.
We took our seats, listening to an older man and woman bellow out offkey Country Karaoke to each other, and ordered some beer. I introduced us both by our first names to the waitress, and got her name, a personal habit I had developed long ago. By knowing her name, it was much easier to yell for her later when we were dissatisfied with the service.
A smirk came to my face, and as the would be professional singer finished this particular croon, I let loose with a loud “Yeehaw!” which wasn’t even noticed amidst the sporatic, drunken patrons.
I never quite felt comfortable around Gigaer; he was a bit of an anomaly to me. There wasn’t much public record of him, and that which I had found was mostly third party opinion on his eccentricities. Talking with the man face to face seemed to be a completely different experience. So either he was very good at masking his true nature, or he was generally misperceived. My fleeting thought was to wonder if that was intentional, or whether his awkward mannerisms simply did the job for him autonomously. I liked having an advantage over people, whether it was physical intimidation, some piece of dirt on them, or simply the power of my presence; with Gigaer, I had no edge, and I found that unsettling.
“It is good to see you again, Roc Wieler.” Gigaer spoke loudly, though still mostly drowned out from the ambient noise of the pub. He was a soft spoken man, yet his voice had no difficulty carrying to me.
“Good to see you too.” I replied, though I had to admit it probably didn’t sound sincere. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see Gigaer, it was just so bloody unexpected. The thought had entered my mind while I was working through some public domain documents, and it was Gigaer that initiated contact.
He had been on my mind a lot lately, what with all the events I found myself swirling in, and it was just more than a little creepy that at the particular moment I needed him most, he had contacted me, after months of complete silence. We had exchanged casual small talk through the computer, but I quickly came to the point, and invited him for this meeting.
We had chosen a secluded location, a place neither of us had been, in the hopes of affording us some privacy amongst strangers. So far, it seemed to be working.
“What troubles you my friend?” Gigaer asked, pulling me from myself. “You seem to be … brooding.” He continued, a smirk on his face.
I gathered my thoughts to speak when the plump waitress came by. Already, I couldn’t remember her name, and felt a momentary pang of guilt over it. If she had been attractive, I probably would’ve had no issue remembering her name at all. Another item to add the list for my pyschotherapist.
“You all ready to order?” she said, with unconcealed bubbliness.
“Couple more minutes.” I said, throwing in a slightly too late “please” as she walked away to presumably go about the rest of her duties.
Gigaer picked up the pitcher of beer and poured us both a glass. While he poured, he shared a bit of his own journey lately, parts of it filled with a sadness to rival my own. I made a toast to those we’ve loved and lost, and we downed our drinks in silence, both of us contemplative.
He then continued on about more pleasant things happening in his life, and I found myself hanging on his every word. If there was any one thing I would give the man credit for, it was his seemingly effortless ability to weave a compelling story. He spoke in metaphors at times, stitching these together with cold, hard facts, the cadence of his storytelling reaching feverish pitches and suspenseful lows. I was completely spellbound.
He stopped so we could order some food, and I chose the steak on flatbread sandwich. I asked about the steak; it was apparently made fresh from some of the local livestock planetside. Gigaer ordered The Gate Delight, which I found brave, as it really didn’t have too much of a description to it.
He continued to regale me with his tales until our food arrived.
The portions were generous; the quality was not. Still, bad food just begged for more beer.
It was over dinner that I finally managed to put together the words I had been wanting to say to Gigaer since our very first encounter.
“Why me?” I asked in earnest. I didn’t think there was any need to be more specific, as I knew he would have keen enough insight to know exactly what I was referring to.
Without missing a beat, he replied. “Why not you?” he said, a smug smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth, only to be quickly masked with another bite of food.
I could think of many reasons, many rebuttals, many outright refusals as to “Why not me”, but as I mulled my arguments around in my head, I realized they all could be twisted and manipulated to actually support all the reasons “Why me”. It was infuriating and enlightening at the same time.
“There has to be someone else who could do this.” I said with exasperation.
“There are many, I have no doubt. Do not think yourself unique or special in this, Roc Wieler. What craftsman works with but one tool?” Gigaer replied flatly.
That wasn’t an answer I had expected. I guess I had been full of myself lately, wrapped in my arrogance, thinking that I was indeed gifted above most, and that entitled me to the degree of angst I felt. But Gigaer was right, once again. I was simply a drop of water in the crashing waves of the universe, a near infinitely anonymous speck in a greater whole. I was a tool, as he had so succintly put it.
I actually felt hurt and offended, even though in later retrospect, I would realize it was my own pride standing in the way.
“Alright, if that’s the case, I can just do nothing, and not have to worry about it, right? You’ve got other people you can use. You don’t need me at all.” There was a rising edge to my voice, a hint of primal warning to Gigaer to back down, to fold before me. It wasn’t conscious on my part, rather, a simply growing need to best this enigmatic man.
He put another morsel of food into his mouth, finishing it slowly before replying. “It has never been about my needs, Roc Wieler. The question before you is this, Can you ‘just do nothing’ and be satisfied with that?” He stabbed at another piece of his meal, sliding it into his mouth.
Damn him and his cryptic responses. He was worse than my analyst. At least she was easy on the eyes. That line of thinking brought me back to the plump waitress, and I felt another twitch of guilt, but also gave me an idea for a momentary diversion.
“Excuse me.” I said, leaving the booth, heading straight towards the waitress.
“Hey.” I said to her, my most charming smile plastered across my face. I cocked my head to one side, indicating the singing coming from somewhere behind me. “You want to dance?” I asked her.
She put down what she had been working on and looked at me awkwardly, as I didn’t wait for her answer and took her hand in mine, my other arm wrapping around her waist to dance.
She didn’t fluster. She didn’t look embarassed; at least not for herself. “I’m not allowed to dance at work.” She said, pulling herself away from me cautiously. It was then that it dawned on me that she was embarassed for me. The plump waitress felt sorry for me, probably thinking me just another stupid drunk in her bar. I found that hysterically comical!
She disengaged, and I walked back to the booth, completely mortified at the blatant rejection I had just received. Seemed it was an evening for a great many revelations to me.
“No, I couldn’t live with myself.” I said to Gigaer, completely bypassing the events that had just transpired. He let it go, thankfully.
“I don’t know how anyone could? How can you know there is a need, and that you could potentially fill that need, and still remain inactive? How can someone just sit back and gripe about the state of affairs, but not put forward or act on solutions to the very things they detest? Bitching and moaning about it does nothing but drag others down to suffer in your self-inflicted wallowing of despair. Do something. Stand up. Be heard. Make a difference.”
I cut myself short, feeling myself slipping into that same “Righteous Indignation” cadence I use when I am passionate about a topic. I had used it a lot as an officer in the Tribal Liberation Force. I had spoken with that same manner time after time while training new recruits for Freeform Industries.
I was a man of a great many passions, a man of a great many actions. I guess that is where my biggest confusion lay at the time.
“I don’t know how to get to where I want to be.” I said to Gigaer. I knew in my heart that I was destined for more, to bear a greater influence and responsibility towards our people, I just didn’t know how to get to that spot in my life, that place that I dearly longed for. All my passionate speeches came to mind, and I realized the reason there was often such hostility and anger behind my words was because each of those speeches was directed at myself.
I needed to stand up more. I needed to propose solutions. I needed to act. I needed to do more. It was the hypocrisy that was eating away at me. I wasn’t challenging myself. I wasn’t growing. I had been doing the same old, same old for over a year, wasting vital energy trying to encourage and convince others to take up the righteous banner of the cause, when I could’ve been simply waving the flag and leading by example.
I had lost my direction. This I already knew.
Gigaer was quietly eating as these thoughts raced around in my mind. He finished another bite of meat, then set his utensils down, locking my gaze to his.
I smirked, trying to cover my sudden awkwardness, and cracked a lame joke. “So help me, if you say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, I’ll punch you.” I said.
He didn’t smile. He didn’t blink. His eyebrows raised slightly, giving me that universal “You done?” look. The smirk faded from my face, and I steeled myself for whatever he was about to say, whatever great prophetic word would come forth from his mouth.
“How the hell should I know?” Gigaer said, turning back to his meal.
I was staggered, stunned, completely at a loss. I sat there repeatedly blinking, stupidly, wondering if I had him correctly.
“What?” I said, sounding as baffled and stupid out loud as I felt inside.
“Roc Wieler, your path is your own. It is not mine to dictate. You must make your own decisions, and live with the consquences of those choices. I do not know what is in store for you, and when my second sight gives me directions, it’s always vague, often confusing, and open to interpretation. I simply try to offer what advice I may, but I will not live anyone’s life for them or take responsibility for their soul. That is not my role. Excuse me, miss; I would like to pay for our fine meals please.”
I sat there mulling over his words, feeling increasingly diminished at the simple truth of it all. Stop making excuses, live your life, was the bottom line.
Thankfully, we passed on dessert; I had eaten enough humble pie for one day.
As we said our goodbyes and parted ways, I was thankful. Strange as he may be, the man was a good listener. It dawned on me that he had even called me friend during the conversation.
As I headed to the docking berth I rented, in which was nestled a brand new Sleipnir, I found myself looking forward to the next time we could enjoy each other’s company.