The other day I go down to the atrium for a cup of tea and a quick read. Not long after I sit down an old guy sits near me. His wife follows right after, fiddling with a bag and says, “so you’ll just wait here until I get back?”
“Yeah! I’ll wait here,” he snaps as she walks over to a medical office.
The man’s voice is as craggy as that of his demeanour. He looks to be in his late 70s, but perhaps the demeanour ages him. He flips open a cell phone and calls someone’s voicemail and complains about what he calls an unfair charge and demands, as a 35 year customer, that the charge be rescinded.
I’m annoyed. I came down here for a few alone moments with my book and it seems I’m going to have to listen to this guy’s private conversations. As I’m considering finding another place to sit, the man connects with someone else, presumably a friend.
“Listen Jimmy I don’t want to make you mad or insult you or anything, but I need to talk to you about what you said to Dotty the other day…
“Listen, when you told me, in front of her, that I need to talk to her nicer, you made my life a living hell. Now every goddamn time I open my mouth she’s on me for not talkin’ nice to her…
“No… listen, I’m not mad, but you gotta know what she’s like! You have no idea. When you see her, when she comes by, she’s all nice and sweet. When it’s me and her, my life is HELL.”
And then he starts to up the tone – and the ante.
“Ya, ya, but wait. You really don’t know her. You don’t know what she’s like at home. She LIES.
Wait, wait – here she comes.”
The offending Dotty returns and fusses in her bag again and her craggy man has magically switched his voice over to a conversational tone and is talking about the Blue Jays and the weather. She returns to the medical office and the agitation is back.
“Your words are now written in stone man. EVERYTHING I say to her makes her fucking jump all over me saying I don’t talk nice to her and she deserves fucking better and all that. She's a BITCH.
He’s like a pot coming to a boil. Sitting at the edge of his seat his voice gets louder and I get more uncomfortable, wishing I could say “Yo, buddy – I’m right here! I didn't need to know this!”
“Nobody knows how she talks to me. She’s nice when everyone else is around but with me. Well… no… listen, really… Jimmy… Jimmy! She’s a BITCH. I have to be so fucking careful and it’s impossible to please that woman. Maybe if someone gave her a hundred thousand dollars or somethin' she’d just fucking leave…”
Finally the Craggy One seems to notice he’s not alone and walks away to another area to finish convincing Jimmy of Dotty’s double personality. His voice has raised up another notch and I hear regular crescendos of the emphasising the wrath of Dotty because Jimmy said the Craggy One should speak nicer to her.
I think about the years that have passed in the life of Dotty and the Craggy One and wonder when it was that love turned to such bitterness. I wonder if they’ll, at some point, look back on their lives together and see any value in their days turning over, seasons evolving into the next, and their having grown old together, choosing each other to finish out their lives with.
I go back to my office think I’d still like to grow old with someone. Whoever you are – let’s not let it come to that, ok?