One Word or Another

by Vincent Borgese

“Excuse me, what’s another word for thesaurus?” she asked the middle-aged man sitting at the next table.

He gave a short laugh, smiled, and shrugged. “That’s a good question. You’re kidding, right?”

“Why would I kid, I hardly know you,” she shot back. “I’m taking a writing class, and my professor wants us to avoid first-choice words in order to expand our “descriptive horizon,” as she air quotes.

“Well, it sounds like a Steven Wright routine to me,” he laughed.

“Who’s Steven Wright?” knowing the answer was probably known by anyone twice her age.

“He’s a comedian who played a lot of word games in his routine, like what’s another word for thesaurus. But he was doing it for laughs, and obviously you’re not. I’m getting coffee, would you like another of whatever you’re having?”

“I’ll take a tall chai latte.”

“Okay, one tea with milk coming up.”

As he approached the counter, he thought of the beauty and simplicity of youth. That inner drive to create and explore — to expand boundaries. Nothing fit like it should, and it didn’t have to. There was order in disorder; a freedom to let go. Where had it all gone. Why did he feel the need to give structure where there was none. In acquiring a lifetime of things, oh how it chained him from letting go. Just letting go. Or, perhaps, he was just revisiting youth through a prism of primary colors, forgetting the angst. Not remembering those sleepless nights wondering where life’s decisions would lead. Worried it was too late at 24 for change.

“Here’s your tall chai latte. Sorry I couldn’t help you with thesaurus.”

“Thanks, and I’ll be sure to look up that Wright guy on YouTube.”

“You do that. And good luck with your writing course,” he said as he toasted with his coffee. “Maybe your professor is just messing with your head.” Messing with your head, he thought. He hadn’t used that expression in years, but here and now it seemed to fit.

“Perhaps she is. I’m Kayla,” she said as she extended her hand.

“I’m Jim.”

He wanted to say good luck with life, or don’t let others discourage you from pursuing what you feel in your gut. He wanted to give her life lessons in closing. Something that would click and get her through those dark moments to come. And they always do. Something to nurture her spirit, that enthusiasm, to see whatever goal she may have till the end. To not get discouraged by failure; to keep swimming parallel to the shore and she’d be alright. Something. In his heart, he knew dreams don’t die. They may fade slowly, become quiet till they well up at 3 a.m. filling you with regret. But they don’t die. He said nothing.