December 9, 2013 by vh1161
His astonishing neck beard is what I notice first. I’ve never seen such an impressive salt and pepper cascade. He gets on the train at Greenbelt and takes a seat facing forward. He grips the bar of the seat in front of him and assumes an expression of forbearance, a mere tolerance of the fact that he has to survive another 8 hours at his office. His eyes are tired and thoughtful above a slender, slightly puckish nose that turns up at the end — a combination of features that defies me to pinpoint his age, but I guess early sixties. He wears a thick-knit oatmeal-colored sweater, like a New England fisherman. I try not to stare at the neck beard.
His name is Geoff, and he looks tired because he was up too late last night painting fine china cups. That’s what he does for his own flourishing. He gives them away as gifts, which is fine because he doesn’t really care about keeping any of them; he just likes the feeling of the brushes skimming the white surface and leaving behind veins of color and life that weren’t there before. He likes being enveloped by the details, focusing so hard that he forgets to hear the Saint-Saens coming from the stereo or taste the sherry he poured while setting up.
He paints late into the night to ignore the fact that he has to go to work tomorrow. He’s legal counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and has been for the last 25 years. The only things that really change are the computer programs and the age gap between him and the Program Analysts breathing down his neck with deadlines. They just don’t understand the variables involved in his work. His wife used to chuckle about the Millennials and remind him that he was one of the “kids these days” too, once. But she isn’t around anymore to remind him to not let people annoy him so much. Cancer won, in her case.
Geoff and Drea met later in life, at HUD. She was in the secretarial pool and knew more about computers than he did, so he found lots of reasons to visit her desk. She was color and humor and zest for life, everything missing from the grey halls and paper-pushing that defined eight hours of every day. For their first date they went out to dinner and then to one of those paint-your-own-pottery places. They painted mugs for each other. Over their fifteen years together she brought color and life where he’d never seen them before, and he helped her learn to appreciate the merits of Saint-Saens, newspapers, and paying the bills on time.
He hates still working at HUD because it echoes with Drea. But he won’t work anywhere that doesn’t echo with Drea.
If you ride the Green line and you see Geoff and he looks tired and like he’s waiting, he is. He doesn’t really know what to do except keep working and keep painting and wait until he sees Drea again.