Mike Firesmith: Someone to Talk To

Posted on November 2, 2012


By Mike Firesmith

The creepy guy never so much as spoke to me until he saw me with Legs. There aren’t that many women who even women say have great legs but Legs is mostly legs. She’s friendly, she’s intelligent, and she doesn’t like guys hitting on her. I never have which is why she likes to talk to me. I assume, given her personality, if she was interested she would tell me. In four years she’s never even hinted she was so I can assume she isn’t. That’s logical. The creepy guy saw me talking to her one day and after that I was his best friend. He’s asked me about her twice and I told him both times, “That woman will let you know if she wants to have a conversation with you, and she’s already let you know she doesn’t.”  Legs is one of those really good looking women who would rather not be. The Creepy Guy doesn’t get this.

He sat down at the Y today and started talking to me, even though I was listening to my MP3. No sense of personal space. No sense of privacy. Just a prattle about how great the director looks and how he wished he could get her number. I tell him she’s married and he looks puzzled. The Creepy Guy gets up to chase a woman who is ignoring him and I settle down with Florence and the Machine.

I won’t talk to someone wearing earbuds. If someone wants to be left alone I am all for it. But an older man approaches me and I unplug. He’s carrying a plastic bag with some stuff in it. This is his first trip into the Y and he isn’t sure what to do or where to go. I unplug and motion for him to sit down. We trade names and handshakes but I already know him. I’ve met him a few times in my life and I know what he’s going to say but I let him say it.

He’s retired. He’s got great kids who have great kids. He’s got a second career and even his daughter the dentist is old enough to be retired. I nod and ask the questions I should but I know what he is going to say. He talks about the Mexican restaurant in town he loves and we discover we live about ten miles apart. Don’t push him, Mike, you know it’s coming.

Then it does come, he tells me his wife died three years ago and they were together for fifty-six years and there it is. There is a tear in his soul and his life is pouring out of it each and every day.  He talks about other things but he comes back to the fact he’s alone now. He’s just like me, he tells me, he’s a bit of a hermit but he isn’t. He talks about the things they did and he speaks of her in the present tense. He says “we” often.  All the wonderful things he’s done in his life were done with her. He cannot stop talking about it.

I invite him to the Yoga class and he knows he can’t do it. He has very bad knees, but wants to check it out. He’ll try anything, really, go anywhere, and speak to anyone right now. He’s incredibly intelligent, well-traveled, educated, but there’s something in his life that is gone. This is a man who lost his someone to talk to and the rest of us is all he has left. He’s sifting through the sands of humanity trying to find some hint there is someone, anyone, out there who can make him feel alive again.

I haven’t been here for fifty-six years. I remember a young woman whose voice I really loved, who called me by my given name, and I will always remember the way she said it in passion. This man took a young woman’s voice with him through High School and College, through three kids and likely a war, and to Mexico and to Thailand. In a few moments he told me all of this and didn’t say anything at all about this, but this was all he was ever going to say, and what else is there?

Fifty-six years of living a life with someone he knew so well, losing her was like losing his face. Who he sees in the mirror isn’t the same without her and he knows it. Every morning he gets up she is gone. Every night when he closes his eyes she is gone and every second of the day she is gone. I knew him for ten seconds and I knew she was gone. The scars on his knees are not nearly as visible as the ones on his heart.

In fifty-six years a woman became his lover, the mother of his children, his best friend, his nurse, his cook, his companion, but mostly, whatever else two people share, she was his someone to talk to. Fifty-six years and imagine how many conversations they had. Imagine how many times she said, “I love you!” and imagine how many times he said, “I love you!” and now… What does he say?

Imagine after fifty years and you begin to think this is how it always was and how it always will be. There will always be someone to talk to. Someone who really understands you.Someone who you can say anything at all to and they’ll love you. Someone who will stay with you no matter what you do. Someone who was there forever.  Someone to talk to.

He bails out of Yoga and I wonder if I will see him again. After class he’s in the locker room, talking to someone else but he asks me about the class. I tell him he ought to try again, to go to Yoga and give it a chance. He’s busy, he tells me, he is teaching art these days, and he doesn’t have much time.

What he doesn’t have is someone to talk to. The rest of us are there, but we will never be who he wants us to be. Someone to talk to is not the most important thing in the world until your someone to talk to is gone.

Take Care,



See more of Mike Firesmith’s work at The Hickory Head Hermit!