The Listener

We're talking all the time, but are we really listening? Here's a beautiful glimpse into people and conversations.


We’re talking all the time, but are we really listening? Here’s a beautiful glimpse into people and conversations.

One of the top 5 entries for October’s Muse of the Month writing theme, with the cue “There’s only one thing more boring than listening to other people’s dreams, and that’s listening to their problems.” taken from Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4.

April 2014 (1)She’s late again. She’s never on time. When she comes, she’ll have some excuse as usual. A story so charming that I will end up laughing and agreeing with her that life can be a b*tch, and it’s always out to get her.

I decide to give her five more minutes. I’ve already had two cups of coffee and the waiter’s giving me looks. At the end of the painfully slow five minutes however, I make no move to rise. I know I’ll wait.

When she does arrive, the entire restaurant will wake up from its dreary business lunch sessions. I will watch in amusement as the manager and a couple of waiters cluster around her like she’s the queen. Her trademark sunglasses perched on her head, beads of perspiration clinging to her upper lip, her flaming halo of hennaed hair, the swish of her skirt, and tinkle of her beads…she never fails to make an entrance.

My afternoon will be taken care of. We go back together, she and I, right from third grade. We make an odd couple for sure – I’m the serious introvert, and she’s the lively extrovert. We’ve grown up together, taken wings together, settled down together – there’s nothing we don’t know about each other or our families. I look forward to meeting her, she makes the world come alive for me.

We make an odd couple for sure – I’m the serious introvert, and she’s the lively extrovert.

She’ll keep me entertained with stories about the people in her life. People love to confide everything in her. She’ll tell me all the details with spot-on impersonations of people I’ve never even met, but know only through her vivid descriptions. We’ll laugh till we cry. We’ll leave the restaurant only at closing time and head to a coffee shop, where I’ll listen some more.

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I’ve always been a good listener. Then she’ll protest that she’s been talking too much, and before I know it, she’ll have me spilling all the details about my own life. I know I’ll regret it once I leave, but she’s like that: a magnet for secrets.

Then I’ll urge her to talk some more, but she’ll laugh and say her dreams are non-existent, her problems too mundane. She’ll talk instead, about the harried teachers in her son’s school, and in the middle of yet another entertaining episode, she’ll suddenly discover it’s time for her to leave.

With hundreds of apologies, she’ll disappear, leaving me with a smile and the check for coffee, which I won’t mind in the least.

* * *

I receive the call much later in the evening, after I’ve spent the entire afternoon waiting alone and fuming. I pick up the call, ready to rant at her for standing me up, determined to thwart all her excuses.

It’s her husband on the line instead, sounding utterly broken. They found her hanging from the ceiling fan, he cries.

I reel with shock. I’m coming right over, I say. All the while, I’m thinking that this can’t be true. It’s a prank. There’s no way I can believe it. Someone like her, so full of life? Why would she do such a thing? I cannot believe that I will never see her alive again, never ever listen to her voice again.

Did you ever listen? A tiny voice asks. Suddenly, I’m not so sure any more.

Pic credit: Image of a whispering woman via Shutterstock.




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