A script for empty nesters in the new millennium
By Maria Johnson
[A pair of empty nesters sits in the den one evening after dinner, watching TV. An electronic three-note ping issues from a cell phone somewhere in the room.]
HIM: Was that your phone?
HER: [reaching for her phone on coffee table]
Let me see. Huh! Yes!
[She smiles as she reads a text from her son.]
HER: He responded to my text.
HIM: He responded to your text?
HIM: I sent him three texts about the game the other day. He never responded to me.
HIM: What did you send him?
HER: A picture of the dog.
HIM: What was the picture?
HER: The one of him curled up in the raised bed.
HIM: Let me see.
HER: [holds up phone up so he can see]
HIM: That picture?
HER: Yeah, it’s a good picture.
HIM: [staring at the dog asleep on the floor]
HER: I love the way the dahlias frame his face.
HIM: Yeah. So what did he say?
HER: He said, “hahaha.”
HIM: He said “hahaha”?
HER: [obviously satisfied]
[It’s the following week. They’re riding in the car. His phone pings while he’s driving. She picks up his phone from the console and reads the text.]
HER: Oh! It’s him! He says, “Sounds good.”
HER: Wait, what sounds good?
HIM: Sunday night.
HER: What about Sunday night?
HIM: I’m taking him to dinner while I’m in town for the conference.
Yeah. I’m taking him to dinner.
HER: Why didn’t you tell me?
HIM: Because you’re not going to the conference.
HER: Why not?
HIM: Because you didn’t want to. I asked you if you wanted to go with me, and you said no.
HER: We’ll see about that.
[She texts back on his phone, “Should we ask Mom to dinner on Sunday night?” Another ping quickly follows. “Sure.”]
HER: I’m going to the conference.
[then, scrolling through his texts]
How long have you two been talking about this? Oh, my God. You’ve been talking to him for days.
HIM: Look, it’s no big deal. It’s only one dinner.
HER: [looking forlornly out the window]
How could I have not known?
[A few nights later. They’re lying in bed. He’s reading a magazine. She’s reading her phone.]
HER: [laughing out loud]
That’s really well done.
HER: This parody in The New Yorker. He sent me a link.
HIM: He sent you a link?
HER: Yeah. Hold on. I’m replying.
[She taps, laughs some more and hands her phone to him.]
Here, read this.
[He reads silently, hands back her phone, picks up his own phone and starts tapping.]
HER: Who are you texting?
HIM: I’m sending him a link to this column in Scientific American.
He’ll like this.
[A minute later, his phone pings.]
HIM: He says, “That’s great.”
HER: That was fast. His reply, I mean.
[She stares at her phone, waiting for an answer to her text. None comes.]
HIM: It’s a good column. Want to read it?
HER: [sighing and rolling over]
[A few weeks later, they’re eating dinner at home, just the two of them at a small table. They’re catching up on the events of the day.]
HIM: The guys want to know if I can play golf the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Do we have anything planned?
HER: He’s coming home that weekend.
HIM: What? When?
HER: That Friday. He’s flying into Raleigh for a wedding. Then he’s spending a few nights in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Then he’ll come here and work from home the rest of the week.
HIM: Really? Who’s getting married?
HER: You know, Garrett from high school. Baseball-playing, rock-climbing Garrett? Who went to South Carolina, then followed his girlfriend to
Chapel Hill, and now they’re both accountants, and she works in New York, and he works in Connecticut, and they’re going to live in New York after they get married?
HIM: How do you know all of this?
HER: I talked to him.
HIM: You talked to him?! With spoken words?? On the phone?? When did this happen??
HER: Today. He called me.
HIM: He called you?!
Yep. We talked for, like, three minutes.
HIM: [drops fork]
HER: He sounds good.
HIM: That’s nice.
HER: He sounds happy.
HIM: Fine. Why did he call you?
HER: I asked him to.
HIM: He never calls when I ask him to.
HER: Well, I guess the twelfth time is the charm. Also, I mentioned that my mom was in a car wreck.
HIM: Your mom was in a fender bender two weeks ago, and no one was hurt.
HER: Correct. As he now knows.
[She gets up and walks to the stove, humming.]
Do you want more risotto?
No. Where’s the dog?
HER: Outside. Why?
HIM: [standing up and reaching into pocket for phone]
We’re gonna take some pictures. OH
Maria Johnson communicates with nonmillennials by email. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.