For a while we talked about Maine and the pace of life there. Then the conversation moved to parapsychology. Andy showed me an article he kept folded in his wallet; it was about some enfant terrible who’d flushed her kitten, Henry, down the toilet, ruined the family TV, somehow caused the refrigerator to burn up, and slipped the family car out of gear so that it rolled down the driveway and banged into a tree ― a rather typical Herald feature, I thought. Andy said the spirit of another person, a vicious person, was inhabiting the child’s body. I asked how he knew. Andy explained that the human mind has a third eye that tells you things like that; you can tune into it when you’re relaxed. Aha, I said, finding my journalistic footing. Like the way the Herald has an Eye? No, the third eye Andy had in mind was more like the eye Carlos Castaneda had when doing peyote, something that enables you to read between the lines of a newspaper clipping and know that a dybbuk has taken up residence inside a three-year-old.
I tried to get the conversation back on terra firma by asking if he had a place to stay in Maine.
“I have a girlfriend ― I’ll move in with her,” he said. I inquired politely if they would be getting married. He shook his head. Emphatically. “Never get married,” he said. “Take it from someone who has been married. Never get married.” I asked why not. “Just never do,” he said, perhaps a little offended that I wasn’t immediately willing to adopt his creed as my own. “I was married for nine years,” he said. “And then we broke up. I don’t know why.” He mulled it over a while. “But I’m glad it’s over. Really glad. Oh, sure, it’s great to have someone to do the laundry and clean the house and do the dishes and cook the meals. But uh-uh.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about the nuptial nihilism he preached, but now I was convinced that a third eye did exist, for mine had just given me an insight into why his marriage had broken up.
“Live with them,” he said. “Never marry them. And I’ll tell you another thing: stay in their apartments.” Feeling a bit obtuse, I inquired why. “That way you don’t have to worry about rent or anything. It’s their problem then, you see.” No argument there. We fell silent.
“Now, I’ll tell you something,” he said by and by. “When you do something for someone and they say, ‘Thank you,’ you say, ‘Welcome.’ Not, ‘No problem’ or ‘Nothing to it’ or ‘Glad to’ or ‘My pleasure.’ ‘Welcome.’” I asked why “Welcome” had it over the other colloquial courtesies. “Because otherwise you’re lying. Sometimes it is a problem and you weren’t glad to. That’s why you say welcome.” I nodded. As a newspaper person, I certainly could appreciate the need for precision in day-to-day matters.