A Conversation with Averil

by P.R.Banks

The title for this is provisional, until such time as I can come up with a better one. With it I am experimenting a little and trying a new style. I'd be interested in comments, but given the high level of apathy present with web readers I doubt many will be made.

We had been studying the harbour for sometime before Averil felt it necessary to speak. As always his timing was impeccable, just as a cloud briefly obscured the sun and waves lost their glinting perfection he said "Beautiful, isn't it?".

Such a simple utterance rarely comes from his lips. Playing his bluff I turned to him. "Yes it is."

He looked briefly at me. "No need to tense old friend, I have no great machination in mind here. I merely wanted to observe that the view is truly beautiful."


"Would you be unduly surprised if I said that this is what I live for? This is the kind of moment upon which souls repast."

That surprised me, an avowed atheist for years Averil rarely talked of souls. If he did it was usually in scornful tones. "Yes, it does surprise me. You aren't getting religion on me are you?"

He flushed and grinned for a second. "No, it just occurred to me that in the years I have known you that I never really shared with you the reason I come up here so often."

"Like I hadn't guessed, in everything you write there is nearly always a harbour featured. Did you think I hadn't noticed?"


"Really what?"

"A harbour is featured in everything I write?"

"Your fiction anyways, yes."


Quiet settled again and Averil studied the view again, this time seemingly more intently. "I am not surprised. Do you remember those pop psychology quizzes that were circulating around a while back? The ones about your personality?"

"Vaguely, I just assumed they were some half assed psychology students little joke."

"So you didn't read the quiz?"

"Of course not. It was a waste of time."


If there is one thing I have learned with Averil it is that he likes his rambling associations of things. Something in him was always looking for patterns and trying to understand them. This tended to mean conversations with him were a haphazard affair as ideas and thoughts were jumbled together as they came to mind.

It also meant the best way to encourage him was to be quiet.

Averil hesitated then spoke again. "What I mean is that often we forget that in even the most hackneyed things there is some element of truth. With this psychology quiz there was one question in particular that caught my interest." He clasped his hands and looked briefly at the view again.

"And... it was?"

"Describe your true self."

"That's it?"


Somehow this was anticlimactic. "Oh." Averil looked mildly annoyed at this. "Think about it, I come up here a lot - right?"



"Trick question Averil. I can't answer that."


At moments like these the very randomness of Averil's line of thought works against you. Here I had no idea what he was driving at, I suspect he had more a notion, than a concrete line of argument. The vagueness of his answers was a good sign of him struggling to verbalise a concept.

"I don't see what you mean Averil. All I see is that you somehow want to link coming here and enjoying the view with describing your true self."

"But that is it, there isn't anything more to see."

"Then explain. Remember us folks outside your brain don't get to see all the associations."

He looked less peeved at that, he is a bit of a sucker for mild flattery.

"What I mean is that here, viewing this view and doing this act is describing my true self. This very place and that fact that I hold the view so special describes me. Understand?"

"Not entirely."

"Why do I come here?"

"We have done this one Averil."

"Humour me. Give an obvious answer."

"Because you like the view?"

"Right, and what does that tell you?"

"That you like pretty views, mostly natural ones?"

"And that I come here often?"

"You really like pretty views."

"Perhaps, but what do I do when I am here - besides admire the view?"

"You torture your friend with odd questions?" He shot me a look that could curdle milk. "Okay, okay, seriously. You think about things."

"Right, I come here because this place puts things in perspective for me. It's quiet and there are no clocks here - nothing to upset you while thinking. And the vastness of the harbour, the view, reminds me of my smallness in things. Finally the quietness of the place, and the awareness of what interests or bores me here lets me understand my real self more.
There are no distractions here, just yourself and the universe. It is when you are most alive."

His voice trailed off and a pause seemed in order. So pause we did, looking at the view again.



"Did you notice that the waves seem to form an unchanging pattern?"

He smiled, then said "No, show me. Where does the pattern form?"

So I showed him, again and again till finally he saw it. Then we talked of the shapes it reminded us of, the strange science fiction story he had read once based on shapes and I diverted off into talking about the shapes I had seen on my bedroom ceiling when a child...

When we were done talking the sun was no longer unassailably high in the sky and I had learned that there was something else that Averil came here for.

Philip R. Banks
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