Real-Life Dialogue: Men Are from Illinois, Women Are from Manhattan Edition

[The setting: a Saturday morning at a suburban home in North Florida, USA. He has been experiencing back pain for a few days; she approaches him in the kitchen, question marks in her eyes.]

She: How’s your back?

He: Still not normal.

She: Where is it? What sort of pain is it?

[He has been expecting and preparing mentally for this line of questioning, but hasn’t quite nailed down his metaphors yet.]

He: I don’t know — it’s hard to describe…

She: Try anyway.

He: It feels, well, wobbly. It’s like when you take a… a dozen Lincoln Logs, say, and they’re stacked end-to-end in a, like, a tower, and you’re trying not to let ’em topple but—

[She holds up the palm of her hand, stopping him.]

She: Wait.

He: But—

She: Wait. You need to use terms I can understand.

He: Such as—?

She: Well, say my martini glass is too full, up to the brim, and you’re carrying it to me while holding the base of the stem…

[A momentary pause, giving him time to recognize his confusion as such.]

He: [rolling his eyes] Yes. It’s exactly like that.

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Real-Life Dialogue: Time Warp Edition

Real-Life Dialogue[The setting: a suburban home in North Florida, USA, late on a Sunday afternoon. He has just returned from grocery shopping. The dialogue occurs as they’re placing things he’s bought into the pantry and refrigerator.]

She: The time really got away from us today — we’ve still got so much to do for the company coming tomorrow. It’s already almost five-thirty.

[He looks down at his watch.]

He: What are you talking about? It’s barely past four o’clock.

She: [hope dawning in her eyes as she looks down at his watch, held up for her inspection] Really?!

He: Yeah, really. I mean I thought it was a little weird, maybe you—

She: [looking down at her cell phone, hope dying] No. It IS almost FIVE-thirty.

[She holds up her cell phone for his inspection.]

He: Wha— huh? [looking down at his own cellphone, checking his watch again] Damn it. Watch battery must have died. And I’m off work tomorrow, without a car—

She: Well, I could take your watch to work with me, and run it over to the mall at lunch for a new battery. But I won’t have time to—

He: [confused, but dismissive] Well, that wouldn’t work anyway. I mean, if you’ve got my watch all day then how am I gonna know what time it is?

She: [her brain whirs, audibly]

He: [his brain whirs, audibly]

[Both crack up laughing.]

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Real-Life Dialogue: The Inscrutable Double-X Chromosome Edition

Real-Life Dialogue[The setting: a comfortable suburban home in North Florida, USA, on an August weekend in 2014. She is sitting in the living room, her laptop computer open; He is walking through the living room on some mission or another, in one direction or another.]

She: Oh, these people.

He: Hmm? What people?

[He stops to look over Her shoulder. On-screen is a publicity still from a current television mini-series, based on a hugely popular novel of romance and time travel. The photo depicts an early moment in the romantic relationship between a twentieth-century English woman, Claire, and an eighteenth-century Scotsman named Jamie. Claire is tending Jamie’s battle wounds. Jamie is sitting quietly, looking at Claire, and of course wearing a kilt.]

He: Nice picture of them.

She: Yes. I’m just saying, you should read some of the comments on it.

He: Such as?

She: Like this one. [She points.] “Those knees. *SWOON*” [She laughs.]

He: Er, uh… Wait. Women swoon over men’s knees? They even notice them?

She: You’d be surprised what women notice.

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Real-Life Dialogue: Mistimed Fantasias Edition

Real-Life Dialogue[The scene: a suburban home in North Florida, USA, during one of the wettest summers on record. The weather forecast for the next thirty-six hours calls for heavy rain, up to ten inches. Because the area right outside the front door tends to accumulate water even in normal rainfall, He has finally decided to tackle the problem head-on; He has left work early on this hot, humid Friday to come home and dig a small trench to draw the expected water away. For Her part, She has been off all day, thanks to Her employer’s “Flex Friday” summer policy. He gets home, changes into shabby clothes, heads outdoors. When He comes back inside at last, She is in the living room, reading, a colorful alcoholic beverage in generously proportioned stemware on the table beside Her.]

He: Think I’m going to take a shower.

She: [smiling] Good idea.

[He gathers fresh clothing and heads to the bathroom. While undressing for the shower, He notes the shirt which he has just removed is practically dripping with perspiration. As He showers, He thinks of how She looked just now, in loose houseclothes, drink alongside, smile on Her face, long legs exposed and propped up on the ottoman… He has what might be called An Idea. He finishes showering, dresses, and goes to the living room. In His hands He carries the shirt He’d worn while digging the trench. He brandishes it.]

He: My shirt.

She: Yes?

He: [gently waves shirt in air to share its perfume] Well?

She: What?

He: I thought women were turned on by male perspiration.

She: [with a not altogether inscrutable look, involving exaggerated use of eyebrows] Uh, well, no.

He: [visibly slumping] Oh.

[He trudges to laundry pile, and prepares to face the weekend in earnest.]

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Real-Life Dialogue: Vita Brevis Edition

[The scene: North Florida, USA, the interior of a car — not their own — currently occupied by a human couple and a micro-canine. It is around 6:00 pm: He and She, with The Pooch, are on their way home from work. They left work early today in order to rent a car (this one) so that they could leave their own car at their mechanic’s for its periodic maintenance the next day: they needed to get to both the car-rental agency and the garage before either place closed at 6. The evening before, they left work early in order to meet with their handyman to discuss the next round of “projects.” This came on the heels of the second weekend in a row on which they had overnight guests, on the weekdays between which they had various medical and other appointments, following weeks of, well, more or less the same. And it came before a day on which two medical appointments were scheduled, as well as the need — of course — to return the rental car and pick up the owned one before either place closed at 6.]

He: Did you read my Facebook status update today?

She: You posted something on Facebook? But no. I almost never look at Facebook during the day.

He: Oh.

She: Well, what did it say?

He: I forget the exact wording. It was long, I remember. Something like “I’d really like to have a single week, just a straight seven days, when nobody in the household has any doctor or vet appointments, handyman or other home-improvement projects, holidays, overnight guests, car repairs, laundry to do, overslept alarm clocks, power or Internet outages, computer problems…”

She: So what you’re saying is, you don’t want life.

He: Huh?

She: Life. All of that is just life. You don’t want any of it.

He: No. I’m not saying I don’t want any of it for good — forever. I just want a single, simple week of—

She: And why do you care if I’ve got a doctor’s appointment, or if The Pooch has to go to the vet or the groomer?

He: What do you mean, why do I care? Of course I care if you’ve got to see a doctor or if she—

She: It doesn’t affect you.

He: Of course it does. We’ve only got one car. We do this thing several times a week where we have to meet up during the day just to hand the car off, or one of us has to stay home to meet with a service person, or we’ve both gotta leave work early or get to work late because—

She: It’s life. Those things happen.

[Time passes. They get home, watch a little TV, read the mail, rough-house with The Pooch, fix dinner. As they’re preparing their separate dinner plates at the kitchen counter, She suddenly speaks, from behind Him.]

She: Damn it.

He: What?

[He turns to see what the problem is. She is trying to tug a napkin from the holder — just one napkin. She does not succeed. A dozen napkins come with the napkin She’s tugging on, and apparently leap from the napkin holder to drift, like unseasonable maple leaves, to the floor.]

He: A little, mmm… problem? [He bends to pick up the napkins from the floor.]

She: I was trying to take a single napkin. And then this—

He: Y’know, that’s life. Things happen.

She: [Pause for dramatic effect, and to see if He will look at Her; He will not. However, His shoulders are shaking and snorts issue from beneath his mustache.] You know, if you were a little closer I’d slap you.


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Real-Life Dialogue: Wardrobe Culling Edition

[The scene: a suburban home in North Florida, USA. He has stayed home from work on this day to prepare a guest bedroom for painting. In this guest bedroom is a closet, and in the closet are His clothes. All of them. Woven shirts, knit shirts, jeans, suits, ties, socks, underwear, shoes… It’s not a particularly big closet. It makes sense, on this occasion, to go through the stuff folded or hanging in there, putting aside usable-but-old stuff for Goodwill donation, throwing away unusable-and/or-old stuff, and just generally… organizing — since He will have to completely empty the closet for painting, and then refill it when the painting’s done.]

She returns home from work.

She: Did you get a lot done?

He: Uh-huh. The bags in the hall are all trash. I’ll take ’em out in a little bit.

She goes to the guest bedroom to inspect the results. She returns, smiling.

She: Didn’t it feel good?

He: Uh…

She: You know — straightening up the clothes. Getting rid of the stuff you don’t wear anymore. It always makes me feel renewed and refreshed whenever I do that.

He: Let me put it this way: there were shirts in there that I bought before we’d ever met.

She: But that—

He: Yeah. Twenty years ago.

She: Sooo…

He: Right again. I can’t say I’ve done this often enough to recognize any patterns at all.

She: [silence]

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Real-Life Dialogue: Return of the Bathroom Talker

It’s been a long time since I last posted about this guy. Not that I’ve had no further interaction with him, no. It’s just that all further interaction with him has been of the same unvarying sort. Nothing new to report. And I’ve also gotten cleverer about avoiding him.

But this latest example just pushed me over the edge.

To understand what follows, you need to know that at the start of every week, for as long as I’ve worked here, I bring in a small bottle of milk which I use to flavor my tea in the morning; I stow it on a shelf on the door of the refrigerator by the coffee/hot water machine. The bottle, as it happens, holds exactly enough milk for ten cups of tea — two cups a day, five days a week. All was well until one Friday a few months ago, when I suddenly found that someone had “borrowed” a serving or two of milk from the bottle, so I didn’t have enough for that day’s tea.

It happened once, I shrugged. When it happened twice, I was forced to take radical evasive action.

To wit: I wrap my bottle of milk in a way-too-big tan plastic shopping bag — wind the bag around and around the bottle — and then secure the handle loops over the neck of the bottle. I return the bottle to the refrigerator shelf, lying on its side. Unless you unwrapped it, you’d never know what it was.

So last week, I’m dispensing hot water into my cup at the coffee machine when the Bathroom Talker (or BT) shows up. I pour the milk into the tea, and the scene unfolds from this point.


JES: Yes.

BT: [unintelligible]

JES:Excuse me?


JES: [thinking about this] Oh, uh, I put maybe a tablespoon—


JES: “They”?


JES: [wrapping up milk bottle, putting into refrigerator] Oh. Yeah. A couple months ago somebody started—


JES: Oh, uh, well, a bottle holds exactly a week’s worth—


JES: Well, yeah, that’s why I wrap it up. To hide it.


JES: Yeah. In a plastic grocery bag.

[BT stops talking, goes to refrigerator. He opens door, scans the contents, focusing especially intently on the door.]


JES: […]


JES: [laughs, shakes head, rolls eyes, and walks away without replying]


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Real-Life Dialogue (The Wind Beneath My Wings, the Garage Sale Beneath My Feet Edition): A Fragment

[The scene: a home in a suburban development in North Florida, USA. At a computer upstairs, He stares at a blank screen which represents, in fond theory and — for the moment — ebbing hope, a page in a novel-to-be. He wears headphones, volume turned up louder than normal to mask the downstairs haggling, laughter, and scrapes of wooden furniture on concrete floor.]

She calls His name, loudly, from the foot of the stairs.

He: WHAT?!?

She: Are you selling these shoes?

He: [pause] “Shoes”?

She: Shoes! These shoes! Are you selling them?

He: [confused] I don’t know wh—

She: Shoes. Brown. Made by Dexter. Lace-up shoes.

His eyes go out of focus. He recalls the shoes in question: He had bought them for Their honeymoon, in the far north, because they’d seemed rugged and tundra-worthy. The last time He’d worn them had been when He last did anything resembling yard work, when Tyrannosaurs ruled the cul-de-sacs and saber-toothed cats, the rooftops. Over the years, the shoes had become crusted with (on the outside) dried mud, grass clippings, fertilizer, accumulated grime, the dust of a nearby bursting asteroid, and (on the inside) a salty rime of ancient perspiration. Those shoes. Someone wants to freaking buy—?

She: [impatient] Never mind! If you can’t remember them then I’m selling them!

The blank screen now mocking Him, He shakes his head but cannot reply.


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Unreal-Life Dialogue: Midweek Music (Emmylou Harris) Edition

[The scene: A Saturday evening in mid-June, 2011. A living room in suburban northwest Florida, USA. A man and a woman watch TV — something the man has chosen, because it is his birthday. A knock comes at the front door; The Pooch begins to bark madly, as usual, except she is also spinning: something she does only when someone she loves (or knows she will love) approaches the house.]

She: I’ll get it.

[She scoops up The Pooch and opens the front door. There on the porch stands a radiant silver beauty of a woman. The mystery woman smiles; it lights up the threshold and foyer like moonlight. When the mystery woman speaks, it is with a soft, sweet drawl.]

Mystery Woman: Hey there Missus. I’m Emmylou. Mr. Simpson at home tonight?

She: Why yes. Yes, he is. Would you like to come in?

[Finally the man — who has heard nothing of the dialogue to this point — pauses the movie, a little annoyed that the rhythm of this great action-suspense-thriller heist flick has been interrupted.]

He: Is that the pizz— Holy shit.

MW: Hey there, John.

He: But you’re — you’re—

MW: Uh-huh. Just here to play something for you, if that’s all right.

[She retrieves an acoustic guitar from the porch, comes in, sits down and makes herself comfortable, and begins to sing.]

He: [Picking self up from floor] My God…

She: Hmm. Can I get you anything, Emmylou? Water? Glass of wine? Coffee?

MW: That’d be sweet of you, ma’am. Just water for now. [Turning to the man.] Like to hear somethin’ else?

He: Er, uh, well… [nervous laugh] That was a bit somber, y’know? Maybe something more—

MW: [not-at-all-nervous laugh] More up-tempo? More birthdayish?

He: Oh, I don’t want—

MW: That’s all right, not a problem. Thank you, Miz Simpson.

[Mystery Woman takes offered glass of water, drinks deeply. He is hypnotized by the way Mystery Woman swallows. He swallows a little, himself.]

MW: Let me see… OK, hit it, boys.

[A band magically appears behind her.]

MW: There y’go. [She laughs softly.] Just like candles: one Cadillac for each decade. Hope y’all liked it.

He: I— I—

MW: Anything else you’d like to hear right now?

He: Well, I know there’s no way for you to— I mean, that little thing you did with Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch for O Brother, Where

MW: You might be surprised what I can do.

[She snaps her fingers. The band disappears, and is replaced by a suddenly coalescing Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch.]

MW: Ready, girls?

[Below, click Play button to begin Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 1:57 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

[Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch ripple, turn translucent, and return to the ether.]

He: I— I’m speechless.

MW: Thank you. I’m so glad. I’m such a fan of your blog, you just don’t know. Especially that entry you posted back at the end of March. [Mystery Woman smiles. He falls to floor again.]

[Mystery Woman stands, leans guitar against the sideboard. Mystery Woman opens her arms, and He steps into them.]

MW: Y’all have a nice night, now.

[Mystery Woman leaves. He turns to She, who is impaling Him with a glare.]

She: You want to explain what just happened, “Mr. Simpson”?

He: Well, back in March, I wrote a post, sorta magic realis— No, forget it. I’m not sure I understand it myself.

She: [nods, apparently accepting this] I will say, that’s one beautiful woman.

He: Isn’t she, though? Isn’t she just? Have you ever seen hair like that? And that smile. [Shakes head.] And didn’t she look great in jeans? And the boots—

She: Okay, okay, enough of that. Back to the movie.


Hat tip to Jules for the NPR clip. Thank you again!

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Real-Life Monologue (Anthropomorphism Edition)

[For information about this photo, which doesn’t precisely relate to the post,
see the note at the bottom.]

The scene: A suburban home in northern Florida, USA. He is trying to get the household denizens out the door promptly in the morning. He has walked and scooped up after The Pooch. He has fed The Pooch; He has fed The Cat. He has prepared the snacks/lunches which He and She will need during their respective workdays. The Pooch, at the gate to the kitchen, tosses her paper plate in the air, signaling breakfast done-age and, hence, ordering a second course. He ignores her. He sets out the various daily medications which He and She take. The Pooch barks. He ignores her. He brings the newspaper in. The Pooch noses her empty plate around on the tile floor. He ignores her. He gets His water bottle from the refrigerator. The Pooch barks again.

He (to The Pooch): Jesus Christ, all right already, I hear you! You think you’re the only person in the house?!?


About the photo: We have a wet bar in the living room, and after we get home from work at the end of the day one or the other of us will usually go there to make a drink. We stock the bottles of sweet-and-smoky-smelling liquids in a cabinet below the sink, as you can see at the right of this photo. About eight of every ten times we do this, The Pooch comes to her water bowl to drink, as shown (here wearing her red Team Woof hoodie). This completely cracks us up.

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