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Eavesdropping at the 50th:
an Idiomsyncratic Dialogue

    by Bruce Evans

Shortly before dinner at our 50th reunion, I happened to notice two classmates, once close friends, bump into each other, shake hands, then with an ah-what-the-heck-weíre-old-now shrug, awkwardly embrace. I slipped behind a nearby pillar and shamelessly eavesdropped on the dialoguing duo, one sanguine, eupeptic; the other saturnine, dyspeptic; one upbeat, the other beat-up; neither of them quite like you or me.

     "Hey, old buddy of mine, long time no see. Howíve you been?"

     "Oh, man, not too good. Lately, Iíve kind of been in the soup, out of the loop. I feel like my life is falling apart."

     "Can I help with that?"

     "Whatís that supposed to mean?"

     "I just mean letís talk, tell me whatís wrong."

     "Well, for one thing, my body, man. Itís on a downward slide. As a young guy, it was all just 'easy come, easy go,' you know?"

     "And now?"

     "You kidding? Like I told my urologist: 'not so easy come, not so easy go.'Ē

     "Hey, thatís normal, pal. There are natural reasons for these problems. And pills to help take care of them."

     "Well, I donít know if every thing happens for a reason, but Iím certain that everything happens for a season—and mine is growing short."

     "Oh, relax, thereís still plenty of time for joy. Remember what you thought when you were wallowing in the mud in that communal baptism with your brothers and sisters at Woodstock?"

     "This is a cursed day for the rest of my life?"

     "Well, I was thinking of a word that rhymes with 'cursed' but, honestly now, donít you feel that these are exciting, challenging times in which to be alive?"

     "Not really. To me itís a crazy world of confusion and paradox. Isnít it true that Islamic militant females are fighting for the right to be subjugated?"

     "I wouldnít put it quite like that—"

     "Then in our own culture, fervent believers are yearning for the apocalypse, unrepentant sinners are dying to raze hell, and yesterday I heard some gal say, 'I believe in evolution—honest to God, I do!' So what am I supposed to think?"

     "You mean itís surreal?"

     "No, itís real, sir. And what about the phonies in our own class of í57? Five minutes ago I went over to talk to a woman who was one of the most popular girls in our class, and sheís just been to Japan, you know, big deal, so she greets me with 'Konnichiwa, tomodachi.' What a bunch of crapola! Pardon my French, amigo, but people who sprinkle foreign phrases into everyday English are my bête noire. You may be jonesing for a rapprochement with everybody, but Iím Smith-and-Wessoning for a confrontation."

     "I hear you, guy, but take it easy, will you? Now that I think about it, when we elected Senior Celebrities back in í57, you should have been voted most likely to exceed! To me that ladyís phoniness is nothing. Nada. Sorry, I mean, no prob."

     "Easy for you to say. She didnít make you feel small the way she did me. And speaking of small, howís your old portfolio doing? So many of us seniors on fixed pensions are looking for some help from the market, and suddenly global warming has a chilling effect on the economy."

     "Ah, come on, look on the bright side—thereís a sunny forecast for stocks in solar energy!"

     "Thatís what the environmentalists want us to think. Those guys care more about fish than people. Weíll soon be facing power shortages but the greens are crying, 'Torpedo the dams! Full speed ahead!'"

     "Oh, no, I believe that scientists will lead us into a better world. For example, theyíve been able to identify which types of fish carry toxins of mercury. We can take a lesson from that."

     "Like be careful what you fish for? And that reminds me of the growing problem of obesity, restaurants supersizing portions and larding on the fats and sugars."

     "As a matter of fat, Iím here to tell you, my friend, that it is quite possible to halve your cake and eat some, too."

     "And then the traffic today. Donít even get me started."

     "I know itís bad, but—"

     "No, itís not just the congestion. The transportation experts in Seattle are social engineers these days. They all have carpool-tunnel syndrome and believe they have a date with density. They think that single guys like me driving SUVs in HOVs are SOBs."

     "Well, now, I think that we do need to change some of our ways. Sometimes those who donít dismember the past are condemned to repeat it."

     "Man, right now Iím so down that I doubt Iíll even be around to repeat it. I feel like the late Iraqi dictator when he was found in that spider hole: Saddam was damn sad. So, Iím wondering: will you come to my funeral service?"

     "With pleasure."

     "Whatís that supposed to mean?"

     "Only that Iíll be glad to honor your memory. And, you know, Iíve actually thought about my own ending a little bit. Iíd like my life summed up in an epitaph of exactly six words."

     "Yeah, right, I can think of a bunch for me in six, too. I came, I saw, I capitulated. Burned the candle at one end. Forgot everything but my pass-on word. May have exceeded my sell-by date. Iím off to join Generation Ex."

     "Oh, look, buddy, theyíre about ready to serve dinner. Sure has been great talking to you. You keep on keepiní on now, you hear? I want to see you at our 55th."

     "But if I donít live to see that day? What then?"

     "Then weíll definitely get the old gang together and have a moment of noise for you! Just joking!"

     "Yeah, sure. But, hey, wait. Before you go—what about your six-word epitaph? Whatís it going to be?"

     "My life was to die for."


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