Buck can’t hear worth a damn, so he uses a Polycom conference-style phone and if I’m near the area we call “the lodge,” his daytime hangout and work space, I hear those conversations unless I have ear-buds in for music or an audio book.

The man’s voice on the phone this morning was one I know, although Buck and I haven’t seen him for close to two years. I’ve always thought of him as a nice guy, a family man, not too educated but country-smart, and cheerful, with an easy laugh. The last time he was at the house something had changed. When we asked to be remembered to his wife, a dear bright spark of a woman, his face closed. He looked like he wished the floor would open and swallow him up. He nodded and was gone.

I later learned from her that he had left her for another woman, broken her heart, and no longer had a relationship with their children or grandchildren, either. We used to call it the mid-life crazies.

His voice floated thinly in the room from Buck’s phone. It was painful to listen to its melancholy tone. He would start a sentence, then stop; start another, then stop. “She sent word to me once or twice. But I guess that’s water over the dam.” He didn’t explain this or say who “she” was. But it was clear to us who he meant.

I think the affair ended and now he is alone, full of regrets and all his money pissed away. She, I know, has made her peace with it and moved on, heart still bruised, but not bleeding like before.

I saw a recent photo of her on Facebook. She is beautiful now in a way she wasn’t before. I don’t understand it, but it is undeniable. He has probably seen it too, that luminous goddess quality, and felt a self-wielding knife twisting in his belly, a sibilant voice whispering, “She’s gone.”

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