Conversations are a funny thing.
When you stop to think about them they’re no different from any other good story but they have the unique concept of being told by two people. The way that this is different from stand-up performed by the Sklars brothers or another comedy duo is that there’s an audience of two as well. We sit and talk to our friends, family or complete strangers with two goals in mind when it’s a true dyadic conversation: the first is to entertain our obvious audience, which is the other person; the other goal is to entertain ourselves.
We love being smart. We love being witty and clever and we also love surprising ourselves. I live by the rule that we never learn anything while we’re talking but… but, every now and then if you talk long enough to someone who is kind enough to just let you ramble on and on and on you’ll say something that not even you were expecting. You’ll think to yourself, “Oh my god. Did those words just come out of my mouth? Is that an original thought or did it just regurgitate that?”
You scan your mind over and over and over again and it turns out that to the best of your knowledge, either because it’s true or because you really want it to be a reality, that YES you did just think of that all on your own.
The other day I told a friend that, “every diamond loses its luster if you stare at it long enough.”
HOLY SHIT! I said that? No fucking way! That is way more prophetic then any thought I have ever had. But, the more I thought and combed the catacombs of my cerebral library the more I came to realize that it was from my very own grey matter. Kudos to me, I suppose.
But in this moment of entertaining our selves and our friends there comes a point when the conversation is over. The point has been said and the story is through. This is the point when we need to gracefully bow out. This is where the awkward silences come in, the moment between the next beginning but after the last end. What do we do? We try and think of the next thing to say or the next question to ask but rather than struggle and strain for a conversation defibrillator I have a better option.
I say that if the conversation was good, and I mean truly spectacular, the kind of conversation that if you never see that person again and only thought of those 5 minutes where you talked about life and art and friendship then you would be completely content with how you left it, I say leave it alone. Just walk away. How many people get to go out on a high note? Steve Jobs didn’t. He died after releasing one piece of uninspired tech after the other. Paul Newman didn’t. For all of his philanthropy his last movies were a voice over for a Doc Hollywood rip-off and a movie that was released on HBO. Please, take advantage of those moments in life where the ending is something to savor.
I walk away.
I find something else to do or some place to be, not because I don’t want to talk to that person anymore but because I had so much fun speaking with them and hearing what they had to say that I would rather have that perfect moment stay in my mind as a memory of them than spoil it with the quiet that follows or the bullshit, “So, the Dodgers aren’t too bad this year.”
Live life like a comedian. Leave them laughing. Live life like a poet and leave them thinking or live life like a tragic warning and leave them crying. When you make an impact on someone’s life it is so magical and rare that I prefer to let that moment exist forever by having it be my final impression. There’s a saying that you shouldn’t say anything to someone that you wouldn’t want to stand as your last words to them. This is that in a way. If I were talking to my friends I would tell them I love them and if I were talking to my brother I would tell him that though we went through some rough patches I cherish our relationship as it is. When I leave a conversation and I let it end on, “… well it was great talking.” I can’t fucking stand it. I get sick with myself. I wish I said more or I wish I were good enough to say what I wanted to with fewer words. I wish I could cut through the bullshit and tell these people exactly what I wanted to say and listen to the things they have to share.
The “I’m done talking moment” isn’t a crass instance in time but an appreciation that sometimes things aren’t going to be better. Will you look like a fool? Yes. One time I was talking to a stranger and we hit that moment where I was done with what I had to say and he with his so I quickly scanned the room and just walked out the first door I saw. This turned out to be the emergency exit to the casino I was staying in and I spent the rest of the night in an unusually hot 100-degree parking garage trying to get my drunk ass back to my hotel room. But, you know what? If I had to do it again I would.
But, treat the IDT Moment as what is. Smile, damn it, and be happy that you had this perfect capsule with this beautiful and unique person by letting it be. We don’t like endings. As much as we love resolutions we don’t like it when things are over, but embracing finishes is actually surprisingly comforting. You should try it sometime. It’s like a fatality in Mortal Kombat.
Call me awkward or call me socially inept but it stands in my mind as the time when that conversation had to die. It wasn’t tragic, too soon, or past its prime. The “I’m Done Talking Moment” is perfect.