“Look who’s here,” a stranger says to us and pulls out a chair and sits at our table. Looks to be in his late sixties, ballcap with a worn bill, wire-rimmed glasses, three-day’s silvery growth, close-cut hair on the sides. He waves at a server and asks for a cup of black coffee. “Good meeting you at the Brockways last week, good to be around like-minded people, people you can speak to without fear of an eruption of bad will. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in a room where you’re not free to speak your mind. You feel like you’re trapped in a tight space and something deep inside you wants to jump out so you can live your life in freedom again. I constantly want to ask people if they’re sure they know where their minds are taking them.” The server brings his coffee, asks if he wants a menu. “Not yet,” he says. “If you haven’t already, you should look up the Brockways on social media. They’ve got some neck snappers on there that will keep you thinking for days. I appreciate your letting me share about my son Rob. He’s just going through a difficult stretch. He’s young and gets frustrated, which is understandable. I mean it’s good to have strong convictions, but he needs to show more control, channel his energy so he doesn’t get himself arrested. He needs to be aware how acting out his anger will limit him in the future, which will only lead to deeper frustration. So how are you guys doing?” We’re reluctant to tell him. Seeing the confusion on our faces he grows uneasy, gives us a closer look. “Are you the Costellos? You’re not, are you? Why didn’t you say something? If you think you can know what I’m thinking, I’m telling you that people who think they know what I’m thinking should ask themselves how much they know what they’re thinking. You’ve got ideas crawling around beneath your so-called consciousness that you don’t even know are there. You think I don’t know you and therefore can’t see you or understand you, but the truth is that thinking you know who you are is the exact thing that keeps you from seeing and understanding who you really are. Don’t think I don’t know what I’m talking about, and if you doubt me, ask yourselves if you can prove me wrong. Who are you people anyway, misleading me with your silence? Do you think you have a right to invade my privacy? Were you hoping I’d confess to something? Do you even live here or are you just a couple of tourists rolling in here like you own the place? Does it make you feel superior to behave yourselves this way? What groups do you identify with? Do you have some agenda concealed in your silence? You should be suspicious of your own intentions, not mine.” He stands up, straightens his shirt, then pauses, two fingers on the tabletop. “Listen, I was speaking to you in good faith and you were listening to me in bad faith. Can you say I’m wrong about that? I hate it that you look at me when I’m the one with the right to be afraid of you and your surreptitious listening, all the silent wheels turning inside your big round heads, those hollow ships.”
Glen Pourciau’s third story collection, Getaway, is forthcoming later in 2021. His stories have been published by AGNI Online, failbetter, Green Mountains Review, New England Review, New World Writing, The Paris Review, Post Road, The Rupture, and others.