There was a guy named Roger who was attracted to a woman named Elaine. One day he asked her out to a movie; she accepted; and they had a pretty good time. A few nights later, he asked her out to dinner, and again they enjoyed themselves. They continued to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them was seeing anybody else.
And then, one evening when they were driving home, a thought occurred to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she said it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"
And then there was silence in the car. To Elaine, it seemed like a very loud silence. She thought 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 thought: Gosh! Six months!!
And Elaine thought: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of a 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 towards marriage? Towards children? Towards a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?
And Roger thought: . . . 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 thought: 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 thought: And I'm gonna have them take a 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 still only August, and this thing is shifting like a damn garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves 600 bucks
And Elaine thought: 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 thought: They'll probably say it's only a 90- day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumballs.
And Elaine thought: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight in his shining armour 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-centred, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.
And Roger thought: 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 said aloud.
"What?" asked Roger, startled.
"Please don't torture yourself like this," she said, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have … Oh God, I feel so …”
(She broke down, sobbing.)
"What?" asked Roger.
"I'm such a fool," Elaine sobbed. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."
"There's no horse?"
"You think I'm a fool, don't you?"
"No!" said Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.
"It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some time," Elaine said.
(There was a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he could, tried to come up with a safe response. Finally he came up with one that he thought might work.)
"Yes," he said.
(Elaine, deeply moved, touched his hand.)
"Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?"
"That way about time,"
(Elaine turned to face him and gazed deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involved a horse. At last she spoke.)
"Thank you, Roger," she said.
"Thank you, Elaine”.
Then he took her home, and she lay on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and wept until dawn, whereas when Roger got back to his place, he opened a bag of chips, turned on the TV, and immediately became deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Serbians he had never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind told him that something major had been going on back there in the car, but he was pretty sure there was no way he could ever understand what, and so he figured it was better if he didn’t think about it. (This was also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine called her closest friends and they talked about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they analyzed everything she had said and everything he had said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They continued 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 drinking beer one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, paused just before a sip, frowned, and asked:
"Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"