The dude’s name is Philip, and I hadn’t seen him in more than two decades. 

When I ran into him here in Lewiston, it occurred to me that Philip had been one cool cat back in the day, but I couldn’t quite recall what it was about him that made him that way. 

“Philip!” I cried when I spotted him. “Holy cow, how long has it been? Twenty years? I think the last time I saw you, we were drinking in the funeral home parking lot after Timmy died. Geesh, that was a grim time. Wow, 20 years. Hard to believe. So, how’ve you been, man?” 

Philip listened to all this in silence. When I was finally finished, he nodded, barely perceptibly, and said: 


Ah, yes. Philip, the man of few words. It all came back to me with that one quiet utterance. Even as a teen Philip was one of those guys who listens and watches but only speaks — and then briefly — when asked a direct question. 


Enigmatic. Mysterious. Cool. 

Back in the day, in awe of Philip’s quiet way, I once vowed to be more like him. 

“From this day forward,” I declared, finger upraised to the heavens, “I, too, will become a man of few words. I, too, will speak only when I have something of substance to say and then I will utter no more than is absolutely necessary! No more chattering on and on about nothing when solemn silence will do.

Like Philip, I will become a student of the world, observing quietly and speaking seldom. From this day forward, I will cease this annoying habit of speaking aloud every single thought that flickers inside my head. From this day forward, I will . . . Hey, where did everybody go?” 

As it turns out, becoming a Man of Few Words is easier said than done. I mean, a guy has so many thoughts rushing in at any given time; to not express them can be actively painful. 

I asked Philip once how he managed it, but of course he didn’t have anything to say on the subject. When I told him that I was going to try to become more reticent, more taciturn, more Phil-like, do you know what he said? 


He said: “Cool.” 

Of COURSE that’s what he said. In those giddy days between high school and adulthood, that one word was among the very few you could ever get out of Philip, and it didn’t matter how exciting or depressing the news. 

“Hey, Philip! I’ve just received word that the entire cheerleader squad is after you. Every single one of them wants you, brother, and they are competing hard over who gets to go with you to the prom!” 

Phil would think about this a moment, maybe nod once if he was in an expansive mood, and then he’d say: “Cool.” 

I remember once the apartment where Philip lived with his mother and two little brothers caught fire. Most of Philip’s stuff burned up and he had to go live in some really cramped little place with a whole bunch of people he didn’t even know. 

“How you doing with all this?” we, his concerned friends, asked him. 


Philip appeared to think the question over for a second or two. Then he nodded crisply and said: “Sucks.” 

It was as close as he ever got to babbling. 

I tell you, that kid was made of strong stuff. Or maybe he wasn’t. Maybe Philip was just shy and lacked confidence, never daring to venture a thought of his own for fear of ridicule. Even his best friends had no idea one way or another because Philip sure the hell wasn’t going to tell them. He’d just sit there smiling and watching as every other knucklehead in the room talked nonstop about absurdities of every kind. 

I’ve met a few people since then who are as quiet as Philip was and I always find them mysterious in a way that’s almost intimidating. 

Once, at a fire scene, I shuffled up to a man who had just carried a woman and two dogs out of their burning home. 

“Amazing!” I said to him. “What heroics! I’ve never seen anything like it! Tell me, what was it like in there as you were in there risking your life to make this bold rescue?” 


The man thought about it, nodded just so and said: “Hot.” 

Seriously, “hot” and “I’m glad they’re all right” is all I got out of this daring soul who had just performed a Hollywood-level feat.

Damn, but I want to be that guy. At least a dozen times over the course of my adult life I’ve made efforts anew to become the cool quiet type. But I don’t think I have it in me. When there’s action afoot and things get interesting, I’ve got to talk about it. I’ve got to share every wild thought galloping across my fevered brain lest my skull crack wide open from the pressure of it. 

I’ve got to rant. I’ve got to rave. It’s who I am. I TRY to go quiet sometimes in certain situations, but you can see at once that it’s causing turmoil within me. My eyelids begin to twitch. My jaw quivers and I may even start to drool. My hands tremble and my feet dance up and down on the pavement like I have to pee. 

“What the hell is the matter with you?” someone will finally say, just before I go into full convulsions. “All I did was comment on the weather.” 

When Philip and I parted ways after our recent meeting, I still didn’t know practically anything about where he had been or what he had been doing over the past two decades. He, on the other hand, knew every single thing about me, up to and including my footwear preferences, because I had babbled 20 years worth of information in one tsunami of words. 


And you know, now that I think of it, you, the eight people who read this column, also know too much about me because my garrulous way definitely spills over into the written word as well as the vocal. 

But not anymore. Oh, no sir. With God as my witness, I will become more laconic, more aloof, more quiet. Like the mighty redwood tree, I will witness the ages in studious silence, absorbing everything yet never expressing a single thought that doesn’t contribute to the sweet grandeur of the forest. 

Mark my works, I will be as quiet as the grave. I will remain as silent as the “Q” in fish. 

You know. Starting tomorrow. 

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