Eavesdropping in Four Parts

From Spring Cleaning, published in 2015.

Eavesdropping in Four Parts

Part I.
I sit:
The conversation I’ve been taking in
from the next lunch table but one
Two ladies seated there.
Very easily heard since we are
all of us squashed together
eating lunch with each other
in this trendy
very small
little restaurant.

Part II.
I hear:
He is sluggish
Can’t get up in the morning
He eats
hard-boiled eggs, coffee, and butter
and he works out every afternoon.
It’s a special diet.
Eat like your grandmother
and you’ll be far healthier.
And now he lives in Pittsburgh.

Part III.
I reflect:
It certainly is a special diet and
it turns my stomach to imagine it.
My grandmother died of
of her sugar fat and fried food regime.
I’ve been to Pittsburgh already and I don’t
want to go again

Part IV.
I conclude:
Those two ladies don’t know
I’ve gotten nothing out of this
eavesdropping session.
My lunch was quite good, though.

“Eavesdropping”, acrylics, 2013, 36″ x 24″


11 thoughts on “Eavesdropping in Four Parts

  1. Perhaps we all need to make a better effort with our public conversation so that people eavesdropping can learn something from us or at least be entertained. I am not a big eavesdropper unless someone’s voice is so dominant that I simply cannot avoid listening in or if they use a word or phrase that triggers something in me and makes me want to hear more. I have an ability to just turn people’s conversations into white noise I think because I spent a lot of time in workplaces trying my very hardest not to be caught up in gossip or office politics. If I genuinely knew nothing then I could not be asked to offer an opinion on anything.

  2. I listen. If it’s audible, I’ll check it out. People, be warned! For myself, I try to talk about things in public that I don’t care if others hear. There is that feeling of confidentiality when talking in the midst of a crowd. At the show this weekend, two ladies stopped in front of my table, three feet in front of me, clearly seeing me, and discussed a shower to which one of them had been invited, disinvited, reinvited, and then she bowed out when the hostess said having here there would make her , the hostess, uncomfortable. How I longed for more details.

  3. Like you, I tend to be very private and certainly wouldn’t discuss something personal in a public space. I seem, however, to have always worked with people who are a little too open, oversharing details from their personal lives and broadcasting their opinions freely, however tactless or controversial. That was why I taught myself to tune it out. As I stated before, however, sometimes something makes it through the filter and engages me for some reason and then, of course, I get sucked in. It is like tuning into a drama on the radio when the radio has just been mumbling on in the background.

  4. Yes, like these two women. Couldn’t have been more clear they didn’t care who heard (because it never occurred to them anyone was around besides them, I think!) As for oversharing, now, that is different. Really good eavesdropping has to be interesting or leaving you hanging, or that kind of thing. And then there are those people who are actually speaking to you and are oversharing, boring, droning on, and you do the opposite of eavesdrop, you actively close your ears. This also happens at shows a lot. People want to tell you their art endeavors or whatever. ugh.

  5. My favourite piece of eavesdropping happened many years ago when I was at a barbeque lunch with a group of fellow university students. In one of those unpredictable silences in a conversation of nearly 20 people dropped the words “… the last time I was in Mombassa I bought some wonderful beads”, delivered in a plummy English accent. Thankfully the conversation rose again as my friends and I collapsed with laughter at this unexpected revelation.

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