Street Talk (part 2 of 3)
The two of us were sitting on this bench, and I had to go but didn’t want to.
“So what do you do alone in the city?” He asked. “Don’t you have kids?”
“I do,” I said, and I would have liked to be with them now. “I have a busy job, and sometimes there are things we need to discuss, so we have a business dinner.”
He lost me. “Business dinner? You have a husband?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You should be at home.”
You might be right, I thought. “Why did you walk out?” I changed the subject. “Why don’t you stay and make them stop fighting and have a nice evening?”
“Ah, a nice evening.” “We don’t have that. My wife hardly talks to me.” “She doesn’t talk to anybody.” “She cooks for us. ” “I told her: “eat with us,” but she will not.” “She is like her mother.” “She cleans the house and washes our clothes.” “My sons are 24 and 20; I also have four daughters.”
“My sons are always asking for money; my daughters just want to get married.” “We get older.” “Nothing changes, and we will be alone in a couple of years, and then we will die in a country that hates us.” Then he said: “I should not talk like this.” “I never do.”
“So why me?” I asked. Wondering why it happened.
“You look like a good person, and maybe you even care.” “In my life, nobody cares.”
I was wondering why indeed I cared. What could have happened in the last minutes to make me care about someone I just met and who comes from a culture I have no chance ever to grasp? It did not matter. He was sincere and direct in a very simple way that left me without my defenses.
“Can I ask you about your life,” I asked?
“Are you telling your wife the food is good?”
“No.” “We eat it so she must know.”
“Ever put your hand on her shoulder, or kissed her face?”
“Maybe you should stop asking,” he said. “We don’t do such things, and this is too private.”
I did not want to stop. “You never tried to get any closer to her did you?” “You don’t know how, and you hide behind your culture.” I might have crossed a line here, but he was not angry. “It seems like there are the two of you and each one of you is alone.” We were silent again for a while. Then I said: “Look, there are similar things in my life too, although many of the details are different.”
“But in the end, if you live with your wife, there should be some intimacy.” “There should be some closeness and some tenderness?” “You talk, and you touch, and you do things together, and you feel together.” I was not waiting for any reaction. I thought of my early morning coffee, handbag on my shoulder, garage door closing and waking up my kids and husband. I thought of quick kisses while running, and touching that is losing its tenderness. Quick sex when I am half asleep and sketchy work stories when we are both at home sometimes. Our separate lives are tearing us away from each other.
I am not much better off.