I know this couple.
The man has a tendency to ramble on to me about his wife. These tirades are always unsolicited. I never ask him how he's doing, how she's doing, how their marriage is. He just goes off on the subject whenever he finds a space to fit it in. He's looking for answer that I don't have or a shoulder that I don't want to give. Sometimes, he is just looking to spit his venom at the nearest victim. I will respond to him once in a while, but in vague terms, never really pointing the finger one way or another. The only way to end one of these instances is to say something. Anything. As soon as I can find an opening, insert some words and walk away.
Recently, he cornered me again. He was making fun of her, laughing at her, calling her all kinds of things. I didn't want to listen but unfortunately, I was a captive audience. His wife is not a friend of mine, but I do have occassional contact with her and I'd rather not be on one end of the phone imagining all sorts of terrible things about her while she is trying to make small talk with me. I felt for a while as if I was poisoned against her. So I listened with half a mind, the other half of my mind wandering through the rest of my day, planning out dinner and dessert.
At some point I noticed he stopped talking. He was waiting. He wanted answers. I retraced his words with the half of mind that listened to him. He was drumming his fingers on the desk. Well? What's your thoughts on that?
He had asked about mothers. Why some young mothers feel like they have to do it all. Why they struggle to balance and juggle and never ask for help and then complain in the dark of the night that no one helps them. I told him all mothers, in some way, have a super mom syndrome. I was being vague. I was reciting mumbo jumbo I heard on Oprah or Sally Jessy or some infomercial for super power pep pills. His phone rang. My cue to get the hell out of there.
Three days later I get a phone call. It's the wife.
"Do we have a problem, me and you?"
Silence on my part. I'm struck dumb.
"Well, do we? Because I am really at a loss as to why you would talk about me. I am feeling rather angered that you chose to lecture my husband on my behavior."
"I really don't know what you're talking about." Well I did, but I didn't. Entirely.
"I am confused. I don't know why you think you know me well enough to talk about me. It makes me feel hurt."
Obviously she's been reading one of those books. How to Talk so your Children Will Listen. How to Talk so it Doesn't Appear that you are Being Accusatory When you Really Are. The books that teach you to speak from the I.
"Listen, I'm not sure what you are talking about. I never lectured your husband about you. Honestly. There must be a misunderstanding."
"No. No misunderstanding. I feel betrayed. I feel angry. I don't like it when people speak about me when I'm not there to defend myself."
I, I, I. Take your I's and stick them up your ass lady. Something about people who start every sentence with I that irks me. Also, she seemed to be reading from a script.
I hear her husband in the background. I can't be sure, but I think he's egging her on. She continues to go off on me, accusing me of sabotage, backstabbing and the downfall of western civilization.
I tell her to call me back when she feels like she can talk to me in a civil manner. What I don't say is, maybe you should ask your husband why he feels the need to talk about you all the time. Maybe you should say what's really on your mind instead of reading passages from a self-help book. Maybe you two should be hashing your problems out in counseling instead of drive-by ambushing an innocent bystander.
I ask to speak to the husband. He gets on the phone and I tell him in no uncertain terms that he should never drag me into his marital discord again. That I no longer want to hear anything he has to say of a personal nature. That I am really very angry that he pulled me into this argument to begin with. Yes, I was guilty of speaking from the I. But I was sort of using those I's as daggers.
He doesn't apologize. Instead he blames her, says she is crazy and a madwoman and misconstrued everything he said. I explain that my name should have never come up to begin with. He stammers excuses, she is in the background yelling and he is calling her names. I hang up.
Two hours later she calls again. Again, with the I's. I was reacting to my emotions. I was hasty. I was judgmental. I was hurt, angry, sad, confused. I. I. I. I. But never, outright, I am sorry. Not from either of them. I'm sure they never say they are sorry to each other, so I don't expect them to say it to me. I hang up, once again and sit at my desk in silence for a few moments.
I wonder what is going on in their house at that instant. I wonder how often it happens like this, with him accusing and her defending and there never being any middle ground. I wonder if they love each other at all, or if they will just go on like this until one of them breaks the cycle by leaving. Or worse.
It's not my business, really. But then why do I feel so sad about it?