I admit it. I did. But sometimes, well, sometimes we just do.
The background: My uncle has a neighbor. He’s a nice enough guy. In his late 70s, used to be a relatively big deal trumpet player. He seems pretty lonely now. He’s married, with a kid, but I think when you’ve lived a life of performance after performance after performance, the stillness of retirement can be maddening. You want to matter. You want to exist. But, in your mind, you don’t.
This man’s greatest flaw is, to be blunt, he can’t be quiet. Literally, he lacks the ability not to talk. He talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks. I’ve seen every possible escape route utilized in his presence, and nothing ever works. He talks over you, through you, around you. On and on and on and on—a verbal vortex of hell. A black hole of banter.
Anyhow, my uncle’s friend seems to like that I write. When I visit my uncle, he emerges from thin air, almost like one of those creepy Twilight Zone episodes from back in the day. There is no escape. You are doomed.
A couple of weeks ago the phone rang in our house. I almost picked up, but the wife wisely said, “I wouldn’t—I don’t know the number.” We let the machine take it, and it was him. The message lasted, I’d say, six solid minutes. Blathering about this, wants to introduce me to that, etc. I thanked my wife profusely.
Today, I was home alone, packing up my stuff to hit the neighborhood Cosi. I have about three hours before I pick up the kids—three valuable hours. The phone rings. Florida area code—probably my parents. Possibly my mother-in-law (who I adore). I answer—it’s him. Fucking him.
I think fast. “I’m on the other line,” I say. “One second.”
I hang up the phone.
He calls back, and I don’t answer. Calls again—don’t answer. One more time.
I deserve every possible insult on this one—but I know y’all have done the same sort of thing at one time or another. It was a major dick move—lonely senior just wanting to talk. But he is my personal poison sumac. I hear his voice, I itch. I scratch. I claw.
I behave as a major dick.
I know … I know.