Once upon a time when we were young, life was so exciting we couldn’t stop talking about it. Life was about auditions and romance, and you wanted people to know how excited you were about their ideas, and that’s how talk started.

Manhattan was our hot house for ideas and plans and talk. Like Paris in the ’20s, money was scarce, and we all shared living spaces and food, ideas and talk. Then Ernest Hemingway talked to Scott Fitzgerald, and Scott talked to Gertrude Stein, and a new literature was born.

The ’50s. We talked about movies and plays, clothes and love.

We lived in a huge concrete and glass village populated by artists, actors, dancers, writers and painters. Who were our senators, the president, even the mayor? Nobody remembers.

We sat around in our walk-up apartments, ate take out Chinese, canned soup and bread, and talked in cheap Italian cafes and coffee shops, and when we found each other, we sat in warm circles and we talked some more.

When She and I found each other one winter on an escalator in a department store, we connected like perfect instruments. I loved talking. She loved listening.

Those were the halcyon days when everything moved so quickly. We argued about Hemingway and John Dos Passos. I thought then that I was unique and brilliant. She loved me, so she agreed, when all along her head embraced wisdom, and her fingers painted my future.

We remember births, weddings, deaths and paper cuts, but not talk. Everyone seemed so bright. I can remember the parties when talk reddened faces, got hands waving in the air, raised voices, provoked laughter and tears. I think now we should have made notes.

Then, as when one of those home movie projectors goes crazy, the celluloid strips of our lives flash ahead like crazy. We fell asleep while talking, and when we woke up we were somewhere else.

Kay Joly Devine looks at her husband J.P. Devine as they prepare to take questions form the audience at Community Voices at Ostrove Auditorium at the Diamond Building at Colby College in Waterville on March 26, 2019. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

On a Los Angeles winter night in 1983 we sat in the garden of our Hancock Park home, a stucco red tile roofed house we acquired by luck and a bit of inherited money. We sat and talked and listened to the avocados from our neighbor’s tree drop into her pool with loud splashes, frightening the palm tree rats that had come down to drink.

We had no pool. But we had a wonderful house and we had each other. We sat there and listened to the avocados fall and talked about our daughters in college, and the LAPD choppers circling around looking for a killer? A burglar?

Talk on those days was rarely about health. We looked young and fit. Health? Change the subject.

With friends we talked about Richard Nixon’s pal, H.R. Haldeman. He lived down the street and who had just come home from prison to walk his dog Rufus past our garden.

One day, when the Santa Ana winds grew too hot, we talked about moving to Maine and what snow looked like, and then more people got murdered, and H.R. Haldeman took Rufus and moved, and we looked at one another in the twilight. And everything changed.

One morning we awoke to see leaves that had color and then snow not made of movie cornflakes.

We made some friends, mostly people who went to Waterville High School with She, and who wanted to see how much Broadway and Hollywood had changed her.

When they saw that the years had not touched her pure Maine heart, and that I was not really a movie star, they wandered off and we made new, stronger friends who talked to us about important things like the humidity, ticks, gnats, crab grass and raking leaves.

Then one day we met for coffee and talk turned to colonoscopies. Colonoscopies?

This week, while madness rages in New Hampshire, five women, two retired teachers, a registered nurse, a grandma and a Colby woman, sat at a table in Starbucks talking about breast cancer, arthritis and the price of prescription drugs.

Talk. It never stops, it just changes. It simultaneously divides and unites us.

The survivors of our years now sit with us at the Last Unicorn and Eriks in Waterville, the Olive Garden and Panera in Augusta, and after a couple words about Trump and Pelosi, the talk turns to arthritis, knee and hip replacements, colonoscopies, eye exams and moles.

Around us now are empty chairs once filled with those who shared our talk, touched our pained hands, felt our fears and laughed with us.

And so, we discover that even through all of it, the memory of them gives us more to talk about.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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