I first met the traveler in a small café on HampshireBoulevard in December of 1978. I recall it was unusuallywarm for an Iowa winter, which isn't to say it was warm. Faintwisps of snow meandered over the canopied window besideus. Across the table, he sipped from the steaming mug thewaitress had just topped off. The heat steamed up his minutespectacles as our conversation continued.“Where did you say you were from?” I asked.He smiled. “I didn't.” He eased the glasses off his linedface. We shared an awkward silence that I've yet to top in my26 years. When he finished clearing the lenses, I continued.“So...where you from?”“Around.”“Around Davenport?”“Good coffee.” His faint smile faded; his eyes turnedoutward. This was the third or fourth question he'd dodged. Ididn't know if it was a game to him or what. Every responsecame back vague, if at all. Still, my curiosity had the better of me.“Seriously,
?”The traveler didn't answer. Instead, he turned his headand peered out to the window. On the street, a little girl in anover-sized blue coat collected falling snowflakes on her tongue.Seeing this, the traveler smiled again. Turning back to hiscoffee, he sipped quietly.“Listen, I don't have time for this. Tell me your name.Where you're from...Something! Or I'm leaving.”“You're the one who wanted to see me, if I recall.”“Recall what? What are you talking about?” If achemist could somehow break down curiosity, I'm sure it could be recomposed into frustration.
I continued, “I don't know you.How could I possibly have wanted to see you?”3