Monday, April 12, 2010

Conversation Conversationalists by Lisa Rusczyk

Conversation Conversationalists
by Lisa Rusczyk

There are people in our world who have a thousand things to say and not a soul wants to listen to them. I have been a columnist for fifteen years and I’ve never been able to figure out the purpose of such people in society.

Take my sister-in-law Sandy, for prime example. Not as pretty as my wife, but not at all hard on the eyes. Well-meaning, even-tempered, married to a quiet guy named Chad. I wouldn’t say it to my wife, but he’d have to be a listener to marry her. Well, okay, I might have mentioned the observation to my lady once or twice in jest. She poked me with her pinkie and shook her head.

However, I often wonder after our weekly family dinner if Chad really does listen. You see, she’s not offensive, not opinionated. She’s a gardener. A hobby of hers. Nice back yard. She and my wife walk around while Sandy points out various buds and bushes and rambles on about sunlight, shade, water, and pruning. My wife says they have a special sisterly bond. Bonding in the vegetable patch. I just don’t see it.

If it sounds like I’m talking badly about Sandy, I’m not. I’m just trying to find her place in the big scheme of humanity. Take last Thursday, for example, our family dinner night. I don’t know how it happened, but my wife was helping one of the kids with homework and Chad was on the phone. Suddenly it was just me and Sandy on the back porch. I held my unlit cigar in hand, Chad’s blunt waiting for him in my shirt pocket, and Sandy began talking about the dinner’s pork chops. She said the word “tasty” about six times in two minutes. I tell myself it’s all my editing experience, but I wanted to scream out so many other words for her to pick and chose from. Savory, juicy, delectable, zesty, tender, moist, flavorful, wicked, outrageously scrumptious. Ah.

My wife says I’m too sarcastic with Sandy. It might hurt her feelings. I asked if she had said that it did, and my wife said there were no complaints. I am not sarcastic with her. I’m just trying to make her life more tasty.

After she told me about the pork chops I had also eaten, she started in on the salad greens. She had, after all, grown them. I lit my cigar prematurely and listened to the fluctuations of her voice, glancing back now and then to see if Chad was still on the phone in the kitchen. He was listening to the other end. Go figure. I tried not to yawn as Sandy explained vegetable gardening insecticides and how lucky they had been this season in regards to destructive bugs. I agreed that she was very fortuitous with her edible growth. She agreed with my agreement.

Then she spoke of her son, Bobby, fourteen, who had recently found a girlfriend. I thought this a bit more interesting, but all I heard was how sweet the young woman was and how sweet Bobby behaved around her and how sweet her parents seemed to be. Without meeting the girl or her parents, I supplied new adjectives for them in my mind. How overly polite and trying-to-please the girlfriend was, how nervous as hell Bobby acted, how fake the parents seemed to be. No parent of a fourteen-year-old girl confronting her first boyfriend’s parents could be honestly… Oh, heck. I’ll say the word. Sweet.

Then she asked me a question that took me by surprise, but now that I’ve thought about it, I attribute it to worries over watching her young firstborn with his initial love.

“Cody, how old were you when you had your first girlfriend?”

I chuckled and tipped my cigar at her as though to say, now that’s conversation. “After leaving a trail of broken hearts through elementary school, I’d have to say Debbie was my first one. That was when we were both sixteen. When I look back, I often wonder if she said yes to the first date because I could drive and my dad had a nice car.”

I puffed my fat cigar and squinted my eyes to let her know more was to come and she wasn’t to resume talking yet. “She was pretty; not as nice as your sister.” I winked. She continued to smile, as she had been doing since I opened my mouth.

“We went to the movies and held hands for six months, and then she dumped me for the tallest boy in school. He was the best basketball player, as you can imagine. Had his own car. They went off to college together and I never found out what happened to them. I didn’t go to that reunion nonsense. Aw, we were all a little crazy at that age, weren’t we? My heart was broken for a while, but another girl, a sweet girl came along a few months later and I was happy as could be. Never met anyone, and I mean anyone, like your sister, though. So much fun to talk to, do things with, eat dinner with, watch the television, of all things, with—”

The door opened and the spouses joined us. My wife ruffled my thinning hair and said, “He’ll talk your ear off, won’t he, Sis?”

Chad laughed loudly. With gusto. Pounding, vibrating, ear splitting, rattling, shaking, loud laughter. True hilarity.

I thought she was funny. I really did. Sandy twittered and pat my knee. “He’s always so interesting.”

Chad lit his cigar. The evening continued in its habits.

Where is the place for such conversations as those with, or should I say, from Sandy? Plants and pork chops and observations coated in sweetness? Perhaps it is to astound the rest of us when they open their lips and utter unexpected phrases and questions. I have to admit I forget such talkers are the same species as me, though I love Sandy as a sister of my own. Her birthday is coming up and, as every year, I am contemplating buying her a thesaurus. Would she be offended? Can she be?

I’ll think about it. Talk to my wife about it again over breakfast. She gives me that sweet, evil-eye each time I bring it up. Perhaps that’s the reason I haven’t given one to Sandy yet. Besides, I’ve been giving her a rose bush every year now for eleven years. How could I break a tradition like that?


Cherie Reich said...

Great story! I enjoy the inner dialogue of the protagonist as he ponders conversations and conversationalists. :)

Aubrie said...

Sometimes I think that's what people think about me! I like to talk about nonsense just for fun! Keen observance of people, Lisa!

Jessica said...

I'm going to use the phrase "outrageously scrumptious" next time I eat something good. :D

Sheila Deeth said...

Very nice. Perfect inner conversation.