17 Silences


(or Demons if it makes a difference)

I have my own demons to deal with, she said

And if this ends up the way it very well might

I don’t feel up to dealing with your demons as well.

I’m only just coming to terms with who I am, she said

And if you ask too many questions

And seek too many insights

I’ll probably contradict myself trying to be too certain.

 If you decide to stay I’ll make you dinner.

I’ll make it anyway if you stay long enough

But if I know beforehand that you’ll be around

For even a little while

I’ll maybe go to a bit of extra effort.

Not that it’s any trouble, she said,

If you know what I mean.

No, I don’t know what she means.

Every time she says

“You know what I mean” I am lost.

Go away and leave me alone, she says.

Why do you want me to go away?

You know, she says.

No! I don’t know.

Whatever we do we must not fall in love, she said.

You can say it if you want

But don’t mean it or we’ll both be in all sorts of trouble.


I have my own demons to deal with.

How long will you be away, I said.

Well my passport doesn’t expire for four years.

I planned on telling her I’d miss her

Because that way she’d know that deep down

I maybe did love her.

But every time we started to talk

It was about what she’d done at work that day.

Will you miss me? She said,

All flippant and facetious.

 Actually I will in a strange perverse sort of a way, I said.

That didn’t say what I meant it to say..

Now I’ll never be able to say what I meant to say.

How long will you be away, I said.

‘til August, she said. Will you miss me?

 Actually I will, I said. In a strange perverse sort of way.

Conversations never work out like I planned.

Before, I had planned it all out.

I’d say this – she’d say that.

I’d say such and such – she’d say this and that.

I never planned what to say if she said something different.

“You know, I’m actually going to miss you,” I would say.

And she’d say nothing but look understanding

And deep down she’d know what I really meant

And if it was the wrong thing to say

She’d ignore it and no one would be hurt

Are you going to miss me, she said.

 I hadn’t planned that.

Actually I will, I said.

And I was all flippant and facetious.

And I don’t know if she even heard me

Flippant or not.

You know what I mean.

No. I don’t know what you mean, she said.

 And I have my own demons to deal with.

I hope you enjoy yourself in America, I said.

I will, she said.

Will you miss me? She said.

 No. I said. Not as much as before.

Why not, she said.

Because I’m protecting myself.

But what if I actually want you to miss me?

Then I guess we’ll never know, I said.


I wrote this years ago when I was first learning about the way women talk a different language. The words they use are the same words that we use but they mean different things. They assume that we understand. We don’t. The lady about whom I wrote  was very nice and when she got back from America all she talked about was the Patchwork quilt she bought in Pennsylvania for $2500.


7 thoughts on “17 Silences

  1. Wow. Packs a punch doesn’t it. Yet it makes perfect sense to me. The interaction is like an iceberg. 90% of the conversation is below the surface – not verbalised. Not just from the woman’s perspective. We all have these conversations when we care but are protecting ourselves against hurt and rejection. And even years into my marriage when I had to travel for work, I would ask my husband on my return if he missed me. He never understood what I was asking either. So after a while, I just stopped asking. I wonder if he noticed? Now, after more than thirty years together, I wouldn’t need to ask. . . . Except I don’t have a job, much less travel for work.

  2. I love this John. Women do not always say what they mean, we talk in circles and metaphors, and yes – we expect you to understand. To an extent. If you don’t understand, we expect you to stick around long enough to figure out what we really mean (if you care enough). We are certainly a conundrum, that much is for certain. Thank-you for sharing this!

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