This story shows the relationship between two guarded people: a reclusive American man and a woman from Nicaragua, both of whom agree to not get too close, as previous traumas have made it difficult to openly share. Motifs of excess and frugality—both economic and verbal—are found in this piece, and furthered with references to the philosophy of Ben Franklin.
Sentences Worth Studying
- “I’m industrious, Mr. Franklin, but you didn’t mention what to do when not everyone’s industry is considered equal” (68).
- “Her voice transported me; I took my seat, closed my eyes, and saw palm trees on the inside of my eyelids” (68).
- “FYI: When Gabriela says awesome, she means it. She is in awe of this culture—its need to always invent something new to be bought: the multitudes of breakfast cereals, the scores of cookies and crackers, the multiplicities of jams and jellies, the infinite variations of sugar and artificial sweeteners” (72).
- “Google obliged me. I wrote down the statistics, then I broke the data down into an easily digestible calculation that I could share in casual conversation on the rare occasions that I leave my house” (75).
- “Gabby and I are happy living on our own little island of the unspoken, and because of this we’re also willing to indulge each other when one of us requests something that the other wouldn’t normally do” (79).
- “Helen was caving; he shoulders were curling in, as if she were trying to protect her body. I did not want to be forced into noticing stuff like this. I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted these potluck people to leave. I wanted the whole world to remain outside my front door” (84).
- “But this was a fantasy of the future, and the only dark forces conspiring of the night were the ones that had conspired to group these women around my dinner table to worship at the Altar of Neighborliness Gone Horribly Wrong” (86).
- “I understood now why she had worn coveralls; she was the kind of woman who was always ready to dive into whatever work was needed, even if it was emotional. She unclenched Helen’s fist and stuffed another tissue in it” (89).
- “I was raised in a home which kept communication to a minimum, and that was more than okay with me. I didn’t want my mom or my dad to sit down and tell me what had put them in their bad mood, or to explain the workings of their hearts and minds. Other people’s parents were Talking Things Through all the way to divorce courts. My parents just got on with The Job of Living. And most of their living was about work, with the occasional night out” (90).
- “It is difficult to distinguish between the silence of shock and the silence of wisdom” (93).
- “There are nights when my worry works me up into such a state that it spills out and I shock myself by crying. Actual sobs” (94).