Many months had passed since we had last seen one another.

Just before I formally introduced the keynote speaker to the roomful of delegates, he turned to me and said, 'It's good to see you again. We really need to touch base.'

It was only after I had placed my hand, lightly, against his cheek that I heard what he actually said.


One morning you wake up and you're someone else. You have a different name, and different clothes, and people look at you differently and expect different things. At first it's all very confusing and also a little bit troubling but after a while you realise how easy it is to become someone else and how little of the old you you miss and how little you need to know of yourself to go through the days and be ok.


Although he did not know it, from an early age he had confused cabbages with leeks. When she invited him over for dinner he asked if there was anything he could bring. Uncertain for a moment of whether she should respond in the affirmative or the negative, she told him it would be very helpful if he could bring some cabbage. Two days later he arrived at her apartment and gave her four leeks, saying 'cabbage'. She took the leeks and said thank you, not sure whether he was being funny and in which case whether she should be laughing or whether he didn't like cabbage but had not wished to tell her because he was too polite so that this was his way of telling her that he did not like cabbage or that he preferred leeks to cabbage, although she thought his assumption that she would like leeks could be considered rude and wondered whether she should take it as such, or whether the shop he had gone to had run out of cabbages but had plenty of leeks or perhaps had an offer on leeks and his decision to buy leeks said that he was prudent which she had been told was a good quality in a person although she couldn't be sure because she had been told she did not know what it was to be prudent. Because she was too polite she did not wish to ask why he brought leeks instead of a cabbage although she wondered what she was supposed to do with a leek when she had asked for a cabbage.


Things took a bit of turn when he finished his talk. Someone in the audience was shaking the heat from their cufflinks and said the disenfranchised would have something else to say entirely and mindfully distressed their leather sole shoes. Another person stood up and said he didn't do author photographs because he was a Marxist. This was quickly followed by a moving tribute by an elderly gentleman in short sleeves about time and the tragic beauty of forgotten careers. Only the desks know the true sadness of corporations, he said, and how the vagaries of scheduling can make or break a reputation. Someone near the back tried unsuccessfully to stifle some errant wind and I wondered whether they had had the coronation chicken at lunch as well.


It's no good; I can't see it.

     Nikolai Duffy 2011