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Gary had met her about three weeks before.  He was 24, just off the boat from Ireland.  She was 30 and a hairdresser or a waitress or something. We teased him about a drifty look in his eye, pains in his lower back, typical carpenter bullshit…..”there’s advantages to seeing an older woman Gary, she’s more stable, and she’s so grateful”, looking at the circles under his eyes “she’s only using you for sex man”.  He took it all with good humor, but he was moving slower.  He called her Friday at lunch, probably to talk about plans for the weekend.  He spoke softly anyway, but he was speaking so quietly into the phone that the labor foreman and I could barely eavesdrop.  It was clear he was talking to a machine though.  He hung up and left the office.

“Boy, is he moving slowly”

“Yeah, you’ve got to sight on a stick to see him move at all”

“I’ll fix this… ” The labor foreman picked up the phone, pushed re-dial, and got the same machine.  Speaking in a straight voice:

“Hello, this is Joel.  I’m Gary’s boyfriend.”

Then with just a hint of fey, “He’s tired all the time, he can’t concentrate.  I know what’s going on… and I’m tired of playing second fiddle… ”

Slightly hysterical, “Just leave my man alone!”

click.

Monday morning, “So Gary, how’s things going with what’s-her-name?”

Red faced, “It took a long time to explain.  She didn’t believe it was just a joke”

“I’m sorry man, I’ll call her up and explain everything”

“Noooo, tha’s all right, you’ve done about enough.”

He took her back to Ireland to meet his folks about two months later, found a better paying job, and married her.