My mind keeps returning to A., without quite knowing what it is that continues to escape it. So now I need to write something, if I am not to have A. returning again in my dreams for the rest of my life.
A. was a Fixed Income strategist and a coder, a respectful, reserved Jew from further north than his accent betrayed; he was one of those people who will always be young, and there was something indefinably brilliant about him. If it were merely intellectual brilliance, I don't think I should have been so moved; it was rather a kind of charisma of of intelligence, and not just intelligence, but emotional sensitivity; each day, working with him, I felt I was in the presence of not just a lucid, but a lucent mind, and I privately despaired that the opportunities life offers are so mutually exclusive that there would be no course that A. could follow that would do justice to his abilities. He could and would excel at whatever he did, but this would be scant reparation for the remaining ninety-nine percent of his psyche that there simply would not be sufficient seconds in a lifetime to utilise.
A. had a habit of listening with great attentiveness to other people; it didn't matter if what they were saying was profound or trivial; he never interrupted, or showed the least sign that he disagreed or detected an error of reasoning; he genuinely believed, I would affirm, that every comment or assertion deserved the same humble scrutiny and complete intellectual involvement on his part. It didn't matter if someone had never said a smart thing in his life; A. would continue to listen without the slightest prejudice, as if it were perfectly feasible the next comment would overturn everything the speaker had previously said, and if A. failed to attend to every single word, it would be his ultimate loss, and his personal responsibility.
And then when A. opened his mouth to speak, he did so quickly and quietly, with complete confidence yet a certain deference, as if being smart and being always right were not qualities to take any particular pride in, and to browbeat others with your intelligence was not only a sign of ultimate weakness, but more importantly a lack of genuine humanity.
He said what would happen and why it would happen, and it was here that A. did something of which no one else seemed capable. He remained not just one step ahead, but twenty steps ahead; it was as if every puzzle newly presented to him were something he had actually thought about for years. His analysis of the future was thereby always coloured by a slightly retrospective quality, as though its potential had already been exhausted, and now it had no place left to go.
Yet somehow A.'s brilliance seemed perpetually to escape him. He wasn't vulnerable, yet he was entirely without ego. I think maybe this is the simple heart of the matter, the seeming contradiction that keeps drawing me back to him. What we admire most in others is what we lack in ourselves and the things to which we strive. For me, writing is such a fraught matter because I both want to know the truth, but also for that truth to satisfy me. In other words, I wishfully search for something better, even as I try to depict things as they truly are. There is always the temptation therefore to try to make things other than they truly are, to pretend to find something simply in order to satisfy oneself. I don't know if A. ever read a work of fiction, but in his presence I almost felt the world had no need of fiction. Or, having A., *I* had no need of fiction. There was nothing of which I could conceive that could add to him, or remedy some shortcoming of his. He was some bizarre amalgam of complete experience and its simultaneous reflection and slightly self-deprecating commentary upon itself.