Listen Closely

When you’re first with someone, it’s all new and exciting. Anything can happen and you’re learning to settle in and figure out what’s normal. What is the level at which the two of you will operate your relationship? And will that suit you over the long haul?

In our relationship, we’ve always operated with the incontrovertible truth that Jeff is the introvert and I am the extrovert. I’ve generally enjoyed the company of others, while Jeff has more solitary pursuits. In the past, when we would be at home together, I would be the one entering his domain and asking him ‘What are you doing?’ and he would be the one explaining the thing he was working on, alone. He would smile as I bounced off to do something else, leaving him to it.

But we’ve been locked in this apartment together for weeks. Yes, he got a break while I was away, but I believe this interruption has somehow short circuited something in his brain and no matter how much I reboot him, I can’t get him to go back to how he was before.

Jeff is building a sail boat – designing it from the ground up – using his 3D printer. He’s designing all the parts from scratch using new software he’s teaching himself to use. It’s a process, and I can hear the printer laying down the filament, as we speak. He’s designed all the fittings and sewn the sails himself. It’s coming together.

All the while, I’ve been writing a lot and reading. All in my new front room. In other words, I’ve been quiet and mostly solitary. Suddenly, this has unnerved Jeff. While his printer is whirring away – he ventures into my domain and sits down.

‘You’ve been quiet.’ He tells me, as I look up from my laptop.

I don’t quite know how to respond. ‘What do you mean? I’m just in here working away.’

‘Don’t you want to come out into the living room?’ He asks me cheerily.

My eyes narrow. Is this a trick question? Usually, it’s me asking this. Why is he in here wanting to socialize?

‘Aren’t you building a boat?’ I ask.

‘Yes, but the printer is busy and it won’t be done for another hour and 13 minutes.’

‘OK.’ Again, I’m at a loss on how to respond. I’m still typing the thought I was finishing when he walked in.

‘I thought you could come out and we could talk.’ He offers.

What?! Now my ears have perked up. I’m on high alert. ‘Talk? You want to talk? You haven’t wanted to ‘talk’ since the day I met you. What do you want to talk about?’ Again, I’m still typing. I was in the middle of some good writing. I don’t want to lose the thread.

‘I don’t know. I just thought we could hang out.’

I decide to see just how much he’d like to hang out. ‘I guess I could come out and you could give me a pedicure.’ Its an opening salvo. Let’s see how far this will go. My hooves haven’t had a pedicure in a very long time.

Jeff thinks about it for a moment. ‘Sure. I could give you a pedicure.’

This is extraordinary. I’d think he might be having an affair except he hasn’t been able to leave the apartment in more than 8 weeks. And the local Mercadona in mask and gloves wouldn’t currently provide fertile ground for finding likely candidates – though in a quarantine you probably can’t be that picky.

So, he gave me a pedicure and chatted me up the whole time. Of course it was to explain the Vernier scale, and the kinds of design considerations and modifications to his boat plans he’s been making across time. That’s when it hit me. None of us are truly introverts or extroverts. We’re all just Interest-verts.

All of us have interests. If we’re doing it right, it requires time alone to think. I like to garden. I design gardens in my mind and when we get out of here we will look for a house where I can realize my designs – that are now drawings. But doing this has required uninterrupted time, mulling things over and reworking specifics. And I write alone a lot. Another solitary pursuit.

But, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought Jeff would come closer to me on the vert scale and require social time. Perhaps while I was away it made him appreciate something about me that he hadn’t before. Maybe ‘talking’ is something he needs now too. Or maybe it’s just to know there is someone there to listen when you have something important you want to say. Or even, nothing important at all.

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