“Welcome back George. How was it?” Pete asked, strictly observing the custom of not giving George time to settle in upon returning from his trip before beginning the questions.
George’s eyes had the look of a man searching for an appropriate opening to the story that he knows will be well worth telling. “It was good. Seattle has some good weather and good scenery,” he said.
“Yeah, but that’s just in the summer, right?” Pete asked.
“Right. The point is, I don’t think I could live there unless some company paid me a lot of money,” George said, repeating “a lot” for effect. “Oh, and Pete, I have to tell you about the girl,” he excitedly recalled.
“That’s right. You actually got to meet her. Though you had essentially made up your mind before the trip that she wasn’t the one for you, right?”
“Yeah, she’s definitely not for me. She was hot, but she kept reminding me of my ex-” said George.
“Probably never a good thing.”
“-and besides a bunch of little things, you should’ve seen the place she lived in!” George recalled, his animation for the story growing exponentially now. “I don’t know where they got the figure from, but it was a downtown apartment and everyone in it kept saying it cost six hundred thousand dollars,” George said, cutting himself off there with a stare that is usually followed by a stroke or heart attack. Thankfully a burst of laughter which most would categorize as the sound of a man going insane ended Pete’s concern and preceded, “Oh, and you won’t believe this. She had some nice bookshelves. So I took a look-”
“Bad books, right?” Pete guessed.
“-no,” George said, his eye-lids still completely out of sight. “No Pete. Not bad books, fake books.”
Now nodding, George continued, “Yeah, I saw a book that I didn’t recognize, so I pulled it off the shelf.” Then flipping the pages of an imaginary book, he said, “When I opened it, the pages were blank.”
“Get outta here!”
“She had decorative books Pete,” George concluded. “Pete, the woman had books on bookshelves purely for decoration.”
“I don’t even know what to say.”
“Of course, she did have a big TV though,” George said.
The two single men would have laughed themselves to death if it wasn’t for the eerie silence that accompanied each necessary breath. The silence that these two knew ought to be filled with the sound of crying babies, children’s laughter, lids rattling on a hot stove, the clothes dryer buzzing for the fourth time in as many hours, bad piano playing, lousy excuse giving, and sometimes–just sometimes–the sound of a loving wife’s voice as she mockingly whispers, “Isn’t this everything we hoped for and more?” with an inner strength and resolve that have, as of yet, avoided language’s shackle.