He Said, She Said
Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine.
He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good
time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy
themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after
a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs
to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: ''Do you
realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for
exactly six months?''

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a
very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers
him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our
relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of
obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind
of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space,
so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going
the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we
going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of
intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime
together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know
this person?

And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let's see....
February when we started going out, which was right after I had
the car at the dealer's, which means . . . lemme check the
odometer ... Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face.
Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our
relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has
sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some
reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant
to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the
transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's
still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on
the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out,
and this thing is shifting like a goddamn garbage truck, and I paid those
incompetent thieves $600.

And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be
angry, too. God, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't
help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day
warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumballs.

And Elaine is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting
for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting
right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with,
a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about
me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl
romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give
them a goddamn warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right
up their...

''Roger,'' Elaine says aloud.

''What?'' says Roger, startled.

''Please don't torture yourself like this,'' she says, her eyes
beginning to brim with tears. ''Maybe I should never have . . Oh
God, I feel so.....''

(She breaks down, sobbing.)

''What?'' says Roger.

''I'm such a fool,'' Elaine sobs. ''I mean, I know there's no
knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no

''There's no horse?'' says Roger.

''You think I'm a fool, don't you?'' Elaine says.

''No!'' says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"'It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some time,''
Elaine says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he
can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with
one that he thinks might work.)

''Yes,'' he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

''Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?'' she says.

''What way?'' says Roger.

''That way about time,'' says Elaine.

''Oh,'' says Roger. ''Yes.''

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing
him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially
if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

''Thank you, Roger,'' she says.

''Thank you,'' says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted,
tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his
place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately
becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two
Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far
recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back
there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever
understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think
about it. (This is also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.)

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two
of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight
hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and
everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring
every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering
every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this
subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite
conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual
friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving,
frown, and say:

''Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"