My husband has a very unique gift: people talk to him. I don’t just mean they converse; I mean they open right up and confess to murder! You have no secrets once you shake hands with John. Somehow, despite your best reservations, your mouth loses its filter and all your well-hidden motives tumble out.
It makes him a darn good reporter. (Or a terrible one, depending on who you are. Recently, one of our local legislatures grudgingly but good-naturedly called him The Troublemaker, which made me bust my buttons.)
I confess, I did not notice his talent immediately. But the hidden nature of this skill is part of its effectiveness. If you fully realized what you were saying, you’d probably stop talking. Ask him someday about the woman who told him, fully on the record, that her last words to her deceased husband were “Fine, go drop dead, then.” That’s not the stuff you admit to if you’re thinking about it!
Suffice it to say, we don’t have many secrets in our marriage. At least, not from my end.
I am not the only person to notice John’s sleuthing ability. After viewing a photo where he’d posed a group of gang members around candles at the vigil of their now-dead comrade, John’s editor looked up from her computer and said, “So…pretty much everybody is okay talking to you, huh?”
I, like most people, do not possess this talent. It’s probably my tactlessness. Or my inability to hide judgment from my eyes. Or my avoidance of confrontation. For me, a typical conversation goes something like this:
Random Person I Met in College: “I think we descended from aliens but it’s a complex thing to prove. They’ve laced the food supply with a gene that keeps them invisible to us.”
At this point, I’m thinking Would you like more weed on that granola, sir? But this comment is quickly funneled through my Midwestern Mouthguard, which insists nothing mean or inflammatory cross my lips, so all that comes out is:
And that word just hangs there in the room awkwardly. The guy shifts back and forth in the silence, feeling judged. He’s right to feel that way, because I’m in the middle of some hard-core judging. Moron is everywhere these days.
But therein lies John’s secret: lack of judging. Because he finds interest (or, at the very least, humor) in everything, there never is that awkward silence period. People confess to him because once they start talking, he never gives them reason to stop.
John and I ran into friends while out shopping a couple nights ago. We don’t know them very well, but she and I started talking and somehow ended up in slightly controversial territory. Territory less black-and-white than alien ancestry. As soon I saw the ‘I Really Disagree With This’ written on the wall, I looked around for my smooth talking hubby. Usually in this scenario (yes, it’s happened before) he’d slide in like the proverbial White Knight to rescue me. He’d act all fascinated and intrigued by her very cliché point of view while I smiled silent but stiff next to him, like some bimbo without opinions.
But this time, I couldn’t catch his eye, couldn’t pull him from his conversation with her boyfriend. I panicked. I knew awkwardness was about to commence. In a decision so quick I didn’t actually consider, I squared my shoulders and decided to take a page from my husband’s playbook. After all, I’d see him do this plenty of times. So I took a deep breath, grinned wide, looked at her and lied:
“That’s so interesting!” I said.
I feigned ignorance on the topic and peppered her with questions as several little voices yelled “traitor” in my head. But she seemed to feel appreciated and we parted without baggage. It was a refreshing surprise.
After we left the store, I looked over at my husband and took his hand. “You make me a better person,” I confessed.