The Women Who Talk To Themselves

You would not think you'd fall for a woman who talks to herself, but there it is: It's done, it has happened. They are everywhere and there are more of them this week than there were last week, and you have fallen for one.

And did you not think they were all squat or odd-looking? -- you did, and you were for the most part right. They wait on bus benches and point at random places in the ground as if signaling to low-flying birds or roustabout squirrels. They wear odd-fitting dresses. They are overweight most of the time. They are sad and slight sometimes. They carry strange items they have just purchased. They talk in high squeaky voices or low alarming murmurs. If there is another side to the conversation it is a side they are angry at or conspiring with, or it is God -- like the short dumpy woman who thanked Jesus.

She said (three weeks ago), "Thank you, Jesus! My Jesus! I know my Jesus is Jesus! Thank you!" She carried a Publix bag with groceries and a cake and birthday items: candles, noisemakers, and party hats. And last week she was back on the bus. And she carried more birthday items and another cake.

(And you suspected (and you are probably right) that these items are not really for a sane birthday party. That these were things she was buying for herself. Were you saddened by it? You were, a little -- you imagined throwing a little birthday bash for yourself: No one else there, just you with a foil hat and a noisemaker, singing to yourself and making a wish. What makes it unspeakably sad is the effort. What it makes it unspeakably sad is that it isn't sad, not for her, not really: that this birthday party is a true comfort, an honest source of joy, and that though you wish to sympathize you can only shudder a little -- that your capacity for compassion and empathy is nowhere near where you would like it to be. You could not imagine anyone caring for one of these unfortunates.)

You would not think it would happen but it did.

After nights of fitful work you take the bus to your apartment -- to your cat, your beer, your TV. You drink and grow heavy. You have mown endless grass for hours and hours and your arms itch and your work clothes are stained with the juice of the field, and with burrs, and bugs, and bubblegum. (And the trash people leave behind! The lack of consideration!) You wake up tired and in deep need of morning shows targeted at women. You watch The View. Maybe, you think, you do not understand women. (And maybe you're right.) You watch Oprah. You are fascinated and perplexed. It has been a long time since you have had a girlfriend. Your shift begins at midnight -- you are expected to be done with the grounds by eight in the morning. You are a short man and like all short men you have grown a beard. You own a cat that you talk to more than you should.

What matters is the physical. You learned this in high-school. You learned that you were no prize. You learned that you could be sometimes charming and polite, and that charm and politeness helped a little, but not a lot. (And (you do not think about this too often and are vaguely reluctant to admit it) what matters for you is the physical as well.)

The woman wears a calico dress in the chill of this southern winter. She is tall and leggy and a brunette, and has very green eyes and looks vaguely Irish and she is heartbreakingly angular -- she walks as though she was stabbing the ground and did not want to; she tilts her head to inspect the ground and whatever she is saying is being said to nobody, or to nobody in particular, or to somebody who is not there. (You do not know why you are surprised by her beauty. You do not know why you find it odd that someone who has some kind of psychological problem could be beautiful. To your credit, you know that there is something wrong with that line of thinking, something ugly: You think of blind people in movies, and you cannot help but think that their real-life counterparts are not nearly as attractive, and then you remember the deaf girl with the golden locks and the honey skin in high school: how beautiful she was. But your compassion and your empathy -- they are negligible.) The woman talks to herself, though you cannot hear what she is saying, she talks so low. And you are too shy and too struck by her beauty to sit closer. You avoid direct inspection. You would not think of approaching her.

She is lovely and you are in love with her, you think.

You think of what it would be like to talk to yourself like she does.

This is what it is like.

Tonight you step into pools of orange from the glow of the lamplights. You can see yourself and the lawnmower on the reflective walls of the low flat buildings of the research park. You need to talk a little louder -- I can barely hear you -- the lawnmower needs to be looked at once you get done with it. (It probably needs oil.) Have you wondered what they do in there, in those buildings? You have. Beats me.

What matters is the physical. What matters is that you are alone. What matters is that she is beautiful. What matters is that you will not reach her -- she is not reachable, is not to be reached, is unreachable.

You think you can talk to yourself if there is no else there. You do it for a few minutes before realizing that you cannot: It's exhausting and pointless. Your throat is sore. You wouldn't be able to do it all day -- you would have nothing left to say in very little time.

If you stop right now this is what you will hear: the grumbling of the lawnmower, the Doppler decay of a lone automobile on the interstate, the hum of the electrical transformer by the building nearest you, your keys rattling in your pocket, the beating of your heart low and steady in your ear.

OK. Yes.

Yes, that is what I want to hear.

About the author:

J.M. Martinez has a strong dislike for air travel and still needs to see the motion picture 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'