We Might Talk, But Are We Communicating?

Roger has been dating Elaine for some time now. Then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?” There is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship… And Roger is thinking gosh – six months…

And Elaine is thinking: Hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going… I mean, where are we going? Are we heading toward a life together? And Roger is thinking: …so that means it was February, which was right after I had the car in the shop, which means… lemme check the odometer… Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change now.

And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment? Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected. And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say it’s still not shifting right.

And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure. I never should have mentioned it. Now he probably feels cornered, like I’m being too aggressive and now he wants out…And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say the scumballs.

And Elaine is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

“Roger,” Elaine says aloud. “What?” says a startled Roger. “Please don’t torture yourself like this,” her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have… Oh goodness, I feel so…” She breaks down, sobbing. “What?” says Roger. “I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. “You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine asks. “No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer. “It’s just that… It’s that I… I need some time,” Elaine says.

There is a 15-second pause while Roger tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work. “Yes,” he says. Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand. “Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” “What way?” asks Roger. “That way about time,” says Elaine. “Oh,” says Roger. “Yes.” Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next. At last she speaks. “Thank you, Roger,” she says. “Thank you?” says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and Elaine lies in bed and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos and becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it again…

The next day, Elaine will call her closest friend to talk for hours. They will analyze everything that was said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any conclusions…