Cumberland Times-News


October 20, 2012

The best thing about it might be the silence

A buddy of mine was wearing an expression I’ve seen before ... sometimes in the mirror.

“I’m in trouble,” he said. “My wife is mad at me, and only one of my daughters is speaking to me.”

(Such an arrangement is sometimes referred to as “keeping open a line of communication.” One of them interacts, observes and reports to the others, who maintain a discreet distance from the adversary. It also can be called “taking one for the team.”)

“What exactly have you done,” I asked, “that you’re in trouble?”

“I don’t have the slightest idea,” he said. “And none of them will tell me.”

“Been there, brother,” I said. And I have.

When one is in it — and deeply — it always helps to know that someone else has been in it, too, or might also be in it now.

I myself am not in it — deeply or otherwise — at present. However, like all things, that could change (and I might not even realize it until it’s too late). Even if I am not romantically attached to her, sooner or later, a woman will become angry with me.

Once upon a time, I told him, I was in it — and deeply — because of something I was supposed to have done (and didn’t even remember), while my lady friend was still married to her first husband (she now has had two of them, of which I was not one), and we were just friends.

That brought a smile to his face, so I went on.

Once upon another time, I told him, I fell from grace after doing exactly what this same lady friend had told me to do. She called to tell me that she was sick and couldn’t go to a dinner party that night, but said I should go to it and maybe come out to see her afterward.

This is  precisely what I did. Got to her house about 8:30 p.m., as I recall. Earlier than I would have for a date.

“Where the hell have you been?” is how she greeted me.

When in a state of extreme befuddlement I explained that I was just following her directive, she got mad and told me to get out of her house. I didn’t need much convincing, either.

The last thing I remember about that night is that the phone was ringing when I got home.

Not once, in all the years that have passed, have I been able to recall what happened next. Did I not answer the phone? Did I answer it and go back to her house? Did I answer it and not go back to her house?

I have no idea what happened. But I do know that the conscious mind sometimes blocks out the most unpleasant memories, so ... .

My friend’s predicament reminded me of the old story about two men who were out fishing.

One tells the other, “I think I’m going to leave my wife. She hasn’t talked to me for six months.”

The other replies, “Buddy, you better think twice about that. A woman like that don’t come along every day!”

I was tempted to tell my friend to enjoy the silence while it lasted, but thought better of it.

More recently, I learned that he was on the way out of the doghouse. He had been put on probation after taking them to New York City and a concert in Washington.

It’s not likely that my writing about his recent circumstances will cause him any problems. Both he and his wife probably will read this, but they are reasonable people who have a sense of humor. I hope.

I’ve often been in trouble with a woman who was some other guy’s wife or girlfriend.

The question I always ask is this: “Why are you mad at me? I didn’t do anything.”

The answer I inevitably get is, “You’re his friend, that’s why!”

My friend’s wife isn’t like that. She’s my friend too, and so far as I know has never been mad at me — even though I’m her husband’s friend. (My desire to keep it that way has prevented me from asking why she was mad at him, although I certainly am curious about it.)

Being the only man in a household of women, it’s just a matter of time before he gets in trouble with all or most of them because of something he did (or something he did NOT do, which can have even worse consequences) with absolutely no help from me.

It will happen, even if he is doing his utmost to be on good behavior, attentive and the best husband and father he can be.

The last time I saw him, I told him how I had been sitting at my usual post in that little parklet at Baltimore and Mechanic streets when two men and a woman came to the opposite corner of the street and punched the button for the WALK signal.

As deer hunters would say, this is a good crossing. The woman was most attractive, dressed in a business jacket, short skirt, dark hosiery and tall boots. I thought to myself, “For what we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful.”

They made it across (which is not easy to do at this intersection, even with the WALK light) and passed in front of me — moving from right to left across my radio dial, as the late Jack Fleming used to say while announcing Pittsburgh Steeler and West Virginia University football games.

Three men who were walking one after the other from left to right across my radio dial passed the first group. They turned simultaneously to look over their right shoulders at the same woman I had been observing.

It always helps, I told my friend, to have independent confirmation of one’s opinion.

He grinned, looked to see where his wife was, and — seeing her nowhere — laughed.

After he went about his business, his wife came out to say hello to me.

“Just as I had a story for him,” I told her, “I’ve got one for you.”

She strapped on a grin and was all ears.

I said that while walking up the street a few minutes earlier, I passed three women who looked like they were in their early 20s.

One told the others, “I talked to him, and he has promised me that things will be different.”

My friend threw back her head and laughed uproariously.

So did I, and for the same reason: A mutual awareness that we both know very well how “things will be different” works.

I strongly suspect that she has a far better understanding of why I keep getting into trouble with women than I ever will.

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