Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sounds and Silence

So s/he doesn't call. No message, no ring, no nothing, but then, that's part of the deal, right?
"The pits," says my friend Diana who has been through it "enough times to remember but too many times to count." It's amazing, she says, how we revert to childhood, how silence brings out the worst. "I end up resenting the pretense," she adds. "It's insulting to make believe that there was nothing there when you obviously know there was. Actually, what it is is demeaning."

Diana, early 40s, pixyish blond in wondrous shape thanks to an infernal exercise schedule and a steady diet of hamster food. Diana has been divorced since 1999, had a quick fling just after the papers were signed, barely enjoyed it. There followed a ruinous four years with a man addicted to pain pills--"he said his back was bad and I never questioned it"--a very brief affair with a woman personal trainer--"I had to see what all the hoopla was about."--and for the past few years an on-and-off thing with a man who works for the United Nations and travels a lot.

I've known Diana since I worked at the World Bank. At the time she was with one of the regional desks, wrote reports, met with Executive Directors and briefed them on the state of the world. We were good friends, in touch for years while she was stationed overseas, then we lost contact. She's been back for a couple of months now, thinner but otherwise unchanged.

"It's amazing," she says over coffee, "how we have managed to dream up so many ways to say less and less." She refers to an advice column in the morning Post. "The advantages of breaking up by email!! Can you imagine anything more cowardly?" I tell her that happened to me not that long ago. "You're kidding! How old was she, 16?" Well, no, nowhere near 16. A lot older than that, actually.

We talk about communications between couples that ceased to be. "So you decide not to see each other, or talk, and all of a sudden its like you never saw each other. How stupid is that?" She is full of thoughts, suggestions, opinions. "It's a form of revisionism, isn't it? Act as if whatever it was never really existed, make believe the emotions, the involvement, the passion," she uses the word like a truncheon, "never were. How sad."

And of course the longer the dearth of words, of exchanges, the better the editing of the past. In no time at all we come to believe what we want, and what we want others to believe as well. Nothing ever occurred, it was all fantasy, all play.

"That's the silliest thing ever," Diana says. "My ex-husband used to do that a lot. I think if you asked him now, he'd probably tell you we were never married.

"So," she says, "are you still writing?"

Here's installment 104 of Wasted Miracles.

After the crowds drifted away and both Mamadou and Colin had answered questions from the police, the port authority, the company representative of the firm that owned the forklift, the customs people and the Coast Guard, Colin said, “I thought he was gone.”

Mamadou shrugged. “I guess he wasn’t. It was dark in the house...”

There didn’t seem to be too much to say.

The two women had been questioned as well then released and opted to take the first available flight out of Baltimore-Washington airport directly to Florida. Colin drove Mamadou back to his garage in Southeast D.C.. There wasn’t much to say during the ride either.


The extremely fat tourist waved a fistful of dollar bills in the air, hooted, “Over here, honey! Over here!” His voice carried easily over the gut-deep thumping of the music but no one paid attention. Mollie felt the sweat trickle between her breasts, closed her eyes, thrust her hips in his direction. The man yelled, “My heart! I’m dyin’, honey! Come and make me alive again!” Molly glanced at the boss who was tending bar, saw him nod. She finished her dance, found her camisole. The man stood as she approached.

“That was just beautiful! Beautiful! Wanna drink? Two? Three?”

He still held the bills clenched in one hand, the wad folded over to look larger. “Wanna share some of this later?” He pulled a small clear plastic bag from his shirt pocket, waved it in front of her nose.

She shook her head. “Not my style.”

She wondered how much money he had. Every time there was a paying customer, every time she saw a handful of cash, she wondered. She had paid $3,000 for a ten pound bag of flour and now every bill took on a different significance. It could have been, should have been, hers.

The fat man said, “So, how much?”

She looked at him. His face shone in the heat and his eyes bulged. “For what?”

“Everything, Honey. The whole shebang. Up, down and sideways... How much?”

She looked at the money in his fist, looked up. A bubble of saliva was forming in one corner of his mouth.

“Three thousand dollars,” she said.

The man looked at her, grinned as if he’d just heard a bad joke.

She gave him her most fetching smile, ran a hand around the neck of his shirt. “Or two hundred bucks and a ticket out of here.”


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