Whenever They Spoke

As he was walking by, he was talking on his cell phone. She recognized the voice so she stood up to look — she was sitting out in the sun. What he was saying, she knew a little about too — he was talking about his wife, complaining, which he often did whenever they spoke.
She called out his name with an attendant hello and he waved back at her but kept on walking and talking. Suddenly he stopped in his tracks and told the person he was talking to that he needed to go.
She walked to her locked front gate which was close to where he was standing with several bags of groceries in one hand and his phone in the other. She imagined he wanted to chat but he made no indication that he wanted to come in — so she didn’t bother to ask.
He struggled to get the other party to quit, but he finally did. She waited while he finished and then he flipped his phone back closed.
She hadn’t seen him in awhile and had actually been worried. Turned out it was because he had had a seizure and was restricted from driving. She offered him a ride but he was close enough to home that he declined it. They stood there and talked for quite a little while.
He was easy to complain with and so that was how she started with her side of the conversation. As soon as she did, she remembered that she had decided to quit thinking and talking in those kinds of ways because all they do is make life more miserable and never fix a thing.
She was thinking how easy it is to get into bad patterns and how hard it is to change them once they’ve been started.
He had lived in their little town as far back as she could remember. He might even have arrived before she did. She couldn’t remember if they had ever talked about it, but they had been stopping to talk all through the years.
When she first met him, he wasn’t married but was in the same house as the one he now calls his “wife”. All along he had been saying things like, “If I wasn’t with her…,” which eventually turned into, “If I wasn’t married.” One time he slipped and said, “If you weren’t married,” even though he had known all along that she had never been.
One time she had a card left on her car window that was a handwritten excerpt of Lionel Richie’s, “Hello” song with specific verses picked out to make the card giver’s message clear — “I’ve been alone with you inside my mind and in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips a thousand times. I sometimes see you pass outside my door…hello…” and then some of his own thoughts about how beautiful he thinks she is and how he will always love her. It wasn’t unusual at all for her to walk by his house as it was on her walking path.
The card sounded so very heartbroken but she never said a word to him about it. She figured if it was him and he really wanted her to know, he would say so.
She couldn’t imagine that it could have been from anyone other than him because there had never been anyone else in town who had shown even the slightest kind of interest. Well, maybe one or two, but none had been as sentimental as he had always been. It was very cryptic with little clues inserted that she believed were intended to give her leads. None of them meant anything much to her other than the excerpt itself which was the mood of his usual musings about her — whenever they stopped to talk.
He was a little man who was from New York or New Jersey and had a very New York or New Jersey dialect. He was now quite crippled and bent and was losing most of his teeth and came off as a scrappy fighter just like someone from New Jersey would be inclined to.
She didn’t think of herself as anything better — after all, she was getting quite a bit older too — but he had never been anyone she could find herself interested in and as the years had gone by, it had become clearer and clearer that they had very little in common. About all they had ever really had in common was that they were both lonely and glad to have someone to talk to.
This day was nothing different. They spoke for a while and he went on, crippled and bent and walking. He waved back after a few strides and said, “Go with God.” She shouted back, “You too.”