Peculiar Type #8 – Relationship Columnists Not Needed
The houses built in the early 1920s along Pine Street had been ruthlessly gutted and demolished within a span of three months. The Samson and Moynihan Company had considered it a success that they had outbid their rivals to build condominiums and a shopping center in this old, tired district, and the contractors were eager to put up the buildings as soon as possible to collect that final paycheck from the city.
Don was glad that Samson and Moynihan had outbid Smith, Smith, and Smith-Johnson because that meant that he had a job with regular hours for at least two years as the district was being renovated. It meant that he could use his hands instead of idling in front of the television and being nagged by the wife. It also meant that there would be fewer arguments about money, and that it was an excuse to avoid the in-laws and to pretend that there was nothing wrong with the kids.
During lunch break, Don would stake out a seat at the stone wall. Although the original houses were gone, the architect had decided to leave the stone wall that divided the subsequent hilly forest from the relatively flat district as a demarcation between human activity and one of the few remaining pockets of nature. Samson and Moynihan didn’t understand the architect’s rationale, but Don didn’t care. It gave him a perch while he ate his customary salami sandwich.
Don’s lunch companion was a pimply-faced kid in his early twenties. Marty was one of those happy kids with either a grin or a whistle on his lips. He was optimistic and talkative. Usually Don left him to chatter away while he munched on his sandwich, allowing him to talk away the gloomy thoughts that always lingered in the periphery. But today, Marty was silent.
The older man swallowed and glanced at the kid. Marty was a little pale and he was chewing mechanically as if lunch was a chore and not a respite. Don cleared his throat.
“Hey Marty, what’s the matter?” He winced. His voice sounded gruff, unused, and maybe even a little accusatory.
“Aw, com’on, you can’t fool me.”
Marty sighed as if he was Atlas, carrying the world on his shoulders. “It’s Sandy. She won’t talk to me. And I can’t think of anything that I might have done wrong.”
Sandy was Marty’s equally young wife. Don had seen her once, a pretty, plump girl with long hair to match her name and a charming smile. Marty and Sandy reminded him of the first years of his marriage, when he had thought that he had been happy. And now, he felt hollow as if something had leaked out through the years. He wondered if his wife felt the same way.
“Have you told her that you love her?” he found himself saying.
“That I love her?” Marty was confused only for a moment. “Well, of course, that must be it! I don’t recall telling her that this morning. You must be a genius, Don!”
And as the kid began jabbering about how he had read in this magazine once that husbands should pamper their wives to put them in a good humor and that maybe he should offer to cook dinner for Sandy, Don fell back into a silence that was now cloudy with questions of his own. Should he follow his own advice?