Still

The faint hiss of the radiator shattered the silence. Neither man spoke; neither man moved.

He shifted in his seat and repositioned his legs, “Silence doesn’t fit you.”

He lifted his head and looked at him, “I was just thinkin’.”

merton“Care to share the thought?”

He stood and walked to the window. “I’m thinking I talk too much.”

He relaxed in his shoulders. “Is this in jest?”

He turned and looked at him, “No. I’m dead serious. I think I talk too much.”

“Well, talking’s what we do here.”

“I know. I don’t mean talk like in reveal. I don’t mean I tell too much. I’m thinking I actually talk too much. You know, like too many words. I’ve thought about it. That’s all.” He turned back to the window and looked outside. “I hate snow.”

“What brought on these thoughts?”

“Have you ever noticed there’s no quiet anymore? No one shuts up.”

“Sure. I’ve noticed that.”

“I sat in a waiting room this morning and I listened to people. And no one was quiet. If they weren’t talking to someone, they were talking on the phone. So many syllables of absolutely nothing. Christ we’re a self-regarding nation.”

“Were you talking?”

“No. I’m too tired to talk anymore. But that’s just now. I always talked. I talked all the time. I’m a self-regarding asshole too. So many words of absolute nothing.”

“So you feel lately you’re hearing too much nonsense?”

He returned to the chair and sat down. “No, I’ve thought about that too.” He leaned in and pedestaled his elbows on his knees. “I used to date this woman.” He leaned back into the chair. “Date. Such a proper word. I used to have sex with this woman I was completely embarrassed of. And let me just say I know how putrid that is. But that’s not the point. The point is that one night I saw her in a bar and I was with some buddies and I didn’t want them to know I’d slept with her. So every time she’d started to talk, I interrupted her so she couldn’t say anything I didn’t want her to. It became almost violent. It’s like I snatched the words before she got them out of her mouth. Do you get what I mean?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to sit.” He stood up and started to take a step. He put his hand to his face and covered it with his palm. “I’m so Goddamned dizzy I feel like I’m going to fall down.”

“Sit down.”

“It’s okay. It’s a brief thing. It’s one of my heart medicines. And I should be used to it now but I forget. It’s okay. I’m okay.” He walked over to the bookcase and stood in front of it. “I’m okay now.” He put his hands inside his pockets and felt his rosary.

“How are you feeling?”

“Sick. I’m feeling sick.” He returned and sat in the chair. “Here’s my point. I listened to all the talking today and it reminded me of me. All the talking so no one can say aloud all the things no one wants to hear or think.”

“Is that why you talk?”

“Sometimes. I think everyone does that sometimes. But I think we do it for other reasons too.” He stood up and waited until he felt his bearings. “Do you remember when you were a kid and you were on a time-out? You’d sit there all quiet and pretty soon you’d think your mother forgot you. So you’d move the chair or clear your throat? Did you ever do that?”

“Sure.”

“I think people do that. I think people make noise so someone – anyone – realizes they’re there.”

“Are you worried no one knows you’re there?”

He shook his head. “No, people will forget me. But they know I’m here now.” He turned and pulled a book off a shelf. “Do you still read?”

“Is this a conversation about nothing?”

He slid the book back into its place. “No. I’ve run out of words. I haven’t anything left to say.” He turned around. “I told you I talked too much.”

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