A brilliant sunset. I’m on the porch. My neighbors are on their porch. We can’t see each other. I am eavesdropping because I am a semi-professional eavesdropper.
The people are talking and sipping. I hear the sound of ice clinking in glasses, and I overhear average people making conversation.
And there is a baby cooing.
An older man’s voice says to the baby, “Wook at Gwanddaddy’s wittle gull. Hey! You’ve got Granddaddy’s nose!”
The voice that belongs to his wife answers, “Give back Granddaddy’s nose, pwecious wittle gull.”
“Who’s Granddaddy’s wittle baby gull?”
“Jenna! Come outside, quick! She’s got Granddaddy’s nose!”
Yes. There’s a lot to be excited about at the neighbor’s house tonight.
For me, one of the hardest things about the quarantine was the lack of conversation. I miss it. I think I could endure anything if I had enough chit-chat. But without it my mind starts to worry and I work myself into a frenzy.
In the past I’ve interviewed old men who spent their youth in World War II foxholes. Men who didn’t speak about the war until they were in their eighties.
Something they said was that during lulls between fighting, it was the gentle art of conversation that kept them sane.
One man told me that infantrymen would have conversations lasting six or seven hours sometimes. Maybe longer. Until their voices gave out. Until they couldn’t speak the next day.
They would talk about how they missed their hometowns, about their best girls, their kid brothers, their favorite dogs, their childhood sweethearts, their mother’s cooking.
They talked to keep from losing it. They laughed to keep from being afraid.
My neighbor’s voice: “Who’s Granddaddy’s wittle gull? Are you Paw Paw’s wittle baby gull?
I hear them laugh.
I lean my head backward and close my eyes. I could listen to their happy cadence all night. Nobody is talking about a virus, national death tolls,…