((My version of my latest get-together with Roc. His version is HERE.))
I'd been keeping my eye on Roc Wieler for some time now, which hasn't been all that difficult. The Ushra'Khan have eyes and ears in many places. I felt responsible for him, in a way. I'd set him along a path of hardship. I knew he was more than capable of seeing his destiny through, but no man should bare the burden that awaits him alone.
Pride. It was a failing in him. A man of his accomplishments and talent could hardly be faulted for having pride, but pride turns to hubris so quickly that one often doesn't notice until it's too late. One needs people close to keep them grounded. So I made myself visible. He knew I was always available to him, but perhaps an offering of company would help. Turns out, it did.
We met in a shambling station in some backwater system that I can't recall the name of. I don't think either of us had ever been there before and I was dubious as to why he chose some out of the way location. Was he working nearby? In any case a quick check of a station map and a magtrain ride got us to The Gate. I've been in some sketchy joints before, but this one gave me pause. Still, Roc seemed intrigued.
We entered and took a booth. The waitress wasn't the most attractive, but being around the poor and ill so often, she was still a sight for sore eyes. I was surprised how kind Roc was to her. Usually people with his lifestyle (capsuleers mostly) don't take courtesy into account. The more I learned about Roc, the more I understood why he was on the path he was.
The last time Roc and I met, it was... well tense doesn't do it justice really. My life could have ended a few times over. This was different. I didn't have to check the other patrons and wonder who was with him because I doubt he would have acted like this in front of them. It was oddly genuine. Does that mean I put him at ease, or perhaps the opposite. In any case I knew that there was a lot on his mind and I'd give him time to open up on his own terms.
"It is good to see you again, Roc Wieler." I said. It was truly good to see him. I have to say that I admired him in many ways. His accomplishments and his prestige. I doubted I'd ever warrant such attention in my own life, but that's didn't bother me.
"Good to see you too." he responded. The tone told me a lot. There was a duality in it, an unease. I guess I did put him a little off his game. He probably considered me a unique factor. Something he could barely conventionally define, much less control. That in its own way was healthy. It forced growth.
"What troubles you my friend?" I asked. I use the word friend with total conviction. The line between associate and friend is very clear to me. Friendship is a bond. I could tell Roc was trying to lower his inner walls when the waitress came by with beer and asked us if we were ready to order. With Roc's shenanigans, I'd barely looked at the menu. Roc asked for some more time while I poured our beers. I enjoy pouring beer for some reason. Visually it's almost hypnotic.
Roc wasn't ready. Those walls were being stubborn, so I changed the subject and told him about what I've been up to. I shared tips for kandjal training, what life in the Ushra'Khan was like, seeking out and helping those who had fallen so far that society chooses to forget them. He seemed enthralled.
The waitress came by again asking about our orders. Again I'd neglected to look at the menu, but instead of sending her away again, I ordered the first thing my eyes found. The Gate Delight. After looking again, I was unable to find a description, and the waitress was already gone. I got the sensation I'd just made a huge mistake, but continued to weave tales for Roc's enjoyment. I could tell he was much more relaxed by the time our orders arrived.
The food was... well... the food was bad. Not as bad as the music though. Oddly enough, Roc seemed to be enjoying both. The beer was good though, and sometimes you need to appreciate the little things. Roc seemed to be really enjoying the tunes and even went so far as to hoot and holler and clap. I was so surprised that I just had to sit back and observe. Would anyone believe me if I told them this story? Probably not.
Eventually he spoke his true mind. "Why me?" he asked. That question pleased me. I'd asked myself that question many times in my life. It invites healthy introspection. I quickly answered my simply turning it around on him in the form of a reversed question. It's a dirty trick but it works. It was obvious he wanted me to give him an out, or at least a reason why he must feel this burden. People tend to focus on burdens they don't want or didn't choose to take on, thereby making the burden seem bigger and giving them an excuse for not thinking about the actual tasks at hand. This, I expected.
He asked if there were others who could do this instead of him. Ah, pride. Of course there were others. Shakor could install some puppet Sanmatar to take over for him, or I could do it all from behind the scenes. Neither would be perfect but both would be doable. The truth was that Roc was indeed perfect for the role, but should he fail we'd have to enact some sort of back-up.
I'd hurt him. Anyone in his position would be hurt. He suggested he could just do nothing. He said he could just walk away and leave me to my own devices.
There it was again. That same sense of primal threat that I picked-up on our first encounter. He was a master of body language. I was taller and bigger, but I was still younger and he'd seen a lot more combat that I have. I had to seemingly ignore it though. If I backed down I'd lose any chance of earning his trust. He's have to trust me if he was going to be the one we all needed him to be. I took another bite of my delight and chose my words carefully.
"It has never been about my needs, my friend. The question before you is this, Can you 'just do nothing' and be satisfied with that?" I said. I had to suppress an inward laugh. There was a time where I despised people who talked like me. People who compelled us to look within to find answers. To be true to ourselves and bare witness to the universe as it really was. Still, I may have let a small grin escape.
Suddenly, Roc excused himself from the table. Had I annoyed him so much that he felt the need to leave? I watched him as he left the table. In fact he moved away from the door and towards the waitress by the bar. I don't think he found her attractive or anything, but he needed an intermission in our heavy discussion in order to decompress. From what I could read from lips and body, he asked her to dance. They actually did before she disengaged and returned to her work. Roc returned to the table with an odd look of defeat on his face. Had he been turned down?
"No, I couldn't live with myself." he said in an exhale.
"I don't know how anyone could?" I answered, ignoring the most recent events for his sake. "How can you know there is a need, and that you could potentially fill that need, and still remain inactive?How can someone just sit back and do nothing but gripe about the state of affairs, but not put forward or act on solutions to the very things they detest? Bitching and moaning about it does nothing but drag other down to suffer in your self-inflicted wallowing of despair. Do something. Stand up. Be heard. Make a difference."
Damn, I thought to myself. I can be sorta inspiring when I talk like Vakor did to me.
It did the trick. The walls were down and he was being honest with himself. I started to see how lost he felt. This path was not just foreign to him, part of him was actively resisting it. I'd seen this so many times in my travels. So many Minmatar painted spirituality with the same brush as the Amarr. Hate one, hate the other.
"I don't know how to get to where I want to be." He said with a slight amount of defeat in his voice. This was good. Not that earth was fertile and could be tilled. I didn't need to say anything really. I gave him a look that told him the answers were within himself if he just looked mindfully. He was, and I think he found them.
After letting his inner eye search a bit I set my utensils down and gave the impression I was about to speak. "So help me, if you say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, I'll punch you." he said. He really needed to lighten the mood and I had to call upon all my faculties in order to not laugh. I needed to keep control of the conversation in order to earn his respect.
In honesty, I didn't know what he should do. I barely knew what I should do. His path was just as treacherous and mysterious as my own. He felt alone, but sometimes I felt just as lost as he did. However unsure I was though, I couldn't let him see it. If I was going to help him, I needed to exude an aura of trust and confidence. He needed to believe that I knew what I was doing.
"Roc Wieler, your path is your own. It is not mine to dictate. You must make your own decisions, and live with the consequences of those choices. I do not know what is in store for you, and when my second sight gives me directions, it's always vague, often confusing, and open to interpretation. I simply try to offer what advice I may, but I will not live anyone's life for them. That is not my role. Excuse me, miss; I would like to pay for our fine meals please."
We parted ways soon after that on good terms. I think I managed to help, at least I hope I did. That night I meditated on his life and his future. It's a long road ahead.