Roger met Elaine on a dating site; 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, until, after a while, neither one of them was seeing anyone else.
And then, one evening as they were driving home, a thought occurred to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she said out loud:
“Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”
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 was thinking: Gosh. Six months.
And Elaine thought: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of 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 toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?
And Roger is thinking: … 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 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 87°F outside, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600…
And Elaine thought: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. Gosh, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.
And Roger is thinking: 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 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 warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their….
“Roger,” Elaine said out loud.
“What?” said Roger, startled.
“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she said, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have … Oh, I feel so…..” (She breaks down, sobbing.)
“What?” says Roger.
“I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. “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?” says Roger.
“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine says.
“No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.
“It’s just that … It’s that I … I need some time,” Elaine says.
(15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, 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?” she said.
“What way?” said Roger.
“That way about time,” said Elaine.
“Oh,” said Roger. “Yes.”
(Elaine turned to face him and gazed deeply into his eyes, causing him to feel very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last, she spoke.)
“Thank you, Roger,” she said.
“No—thank you,” said Roger.
Then he took her home, and she lay on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and wept until dawn—while Roger got back to his place, opened a bag of Doritos, turned on the TV, and immediately becomes engrossed in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he had never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind told him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he was pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figured it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This was also Roger’s policy regarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine called her closest friend, and they talked about the situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they analyzed everything she said and he 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 playing racquetball with his friend Norm one day, paused just before serving, frowns, and said: