Saturday, June 7, 2008

Nosy neighbor

The wind blew tiny wisps of hair that had slipped from my ponytail, and I squinted a bit in the bright light that shone on the softball field.

Out there, adults played like children, swinging and missing, swinging and pelting the big, round ball to the outfield, running and sliding and laughing and being too serious about a strikeout.

My close friend and I sat nearby on the metal bleachers. They were the kind that would surely leave my legs red and imprinted with lines had I not been wearing jeans.

We leaned forward, hands cupping our legs, a sort of huddle against the too-cool-for-summer evening breeze.

This was her game to be at. They were her employees playing. And since we often struggle to make time for each other, she invited me along.

I was happy to go, and I left home with little guilt. The game was late enough, I still put the boy that life revolves around to bed.

So there we were, cold but happy and carefree, with enough time to catch up.

She mentioned the shirts her players were wearing. That reminded me of the company T-shirts many of us had worn to work, at our boss' urging, that day. The group photo we'd taken. I told her about it.

Then we talked about the high school reunion that's coming up, the one I'm helping plan. I recruited her to be THE decorating committee and we debated even wanting to go at all. There is courage in numbers, though, and we agreed to attend.

We talked about other things - her sister's lucrative new marketing job, for one - and then the lady who was sitting next to us interrupted.

It was quickly clear that she'd been listening closely. To every single word we said.

She offered suggestions for the reunion decorations, which involved asking my employer to print pictures of all 300 classmates (um, no) and borrowing crystal vases from the wedding of one of my friend's co-workers (again, I don't think so).

While they weren't bad ideas and this woman was nice enough, I couldn't help but feel a little violated. After all, it wasn't her conversation. My mind scanned back through everything we'd said. Did I say anything awful?

Afterward, we turned to watch the game that by this time seemed like it would never end. I wrapped the bottom of my jeans around my toes to try to stay warm.

And we sat mostly in silence.

When we did talk, our voices were low, and we chose our words carefully.

Later, over a drink, we both immediately vented about the situation. We used words like awkward and uncomfortable. Harmless? Probably.

But still.

When old friends get together, others should -- most of the time, at least -- just let them be.


Jeannine said...

I love to read your writing. It makes me not miss you so much. How'd the game end?:)

Barbie Schowalter & Kirsetin Morello said...

Yikes. Although I know it's probably just harmless & she was probably just bored, I can totally see why that freaked you out. But the venting over drinks sounds fun! -Kirsetin

Jonathan said...

Well, speaking from personal experience I tend to be the person who's asked to comment on one small question/comment, but then I overstay my welcome (sorry!).

Regarding "conversation interlopers" I would say that your strategy sounds like a good one. It's kind of a hard spot to be in.

However, I have noticed that these situations often lead to some interesting or funny conversations; for example, a friend of my mom's noticed some "conversation interlopers" once on a train and she started an outlandish conversation about a bunch of made up stuff! I haven't tried it myself, but it sounds like fun (as long as you tread carefully!). :)