He said to us that he had a family. He begged us not to do it. I didn’t say anything. I never do. Steve’s eyebrows shot up. They were always uneven. He constantly looked like he was mocking everyone. Steve looked over to Henry.
“No.” Henry said dryly. His voice never has much affect. “You’ve lived alone for more than six years. No girlfriend, no wife, no kids. Your parents are deceased. Anne Marie died when you were in high school. Jonah passed on just a few years ago.” Henry’s voice always sounds like someone too tired to be on public broadcast radio.
“Come on, now,” Steven said, pouting and looking down at the man in the chair. “It’s not like we were going to kill them. Even if they were alive. No. We don’t do those sorts of things. We leave that to the movies. We aren’t going to kill you either, Arlo.” The man in the chair, Arlo, looked at Steven. Then at Henry. Then at me. We each nodded when he looked at us. Henry told him in a flat voice that he was safe. The scared man looked at me again. I focused my eyes on him. I nodded again sharply.
I didn’t say anything. I never do. I haven’t spoken a word in years. It’s my choice for my own reasons, it doesn’t matter. With Henry and Steve I don’t have to talk – they do it all. They’ve gotten to know me well enough that I barely have to gesture for them to respond with the words I won’t speak. They know how to order my sandwich, when I find something funny or enraging, and they know that I won’t speak. It works for us. They have never once asked me why I don’t talk. I appreciate that, and in my own way I’ve let them know that. Henry heard my voice before. He heard it for years. Then, he didn’t. Steve has never heard me utter a word, and I don’t think he would like it to change. He doesn’t do well with change. Neither do I, but I changed into this quickly enough.
It really doesn’t matter why I don’t talk. It’s, what’s the word – inconsequential. All that matters is what Steve and Henry told him, the man in the chair, Arlo. Arlo was still blubbering and begging us not to do things that we weren’t going to do anyway. We’ve seen this enough times that it’s not amusing anymore, now it’s just tiring. I took a deep sigh and rolled my eyes. “He’s right,” Steve said, nodding to me. “This is getting boring. Arlo, Arlo? We need you to shut up for a minute. Okay? Can you do that?” Arlo quieted his whimpering and took to wiping his nose on his sleeves. “Arlo, nobody here is going to hurt you. The worst that we are going to do is get into your accounts and run amuck with your name and your money.” Arlo looked confused. His eyes darted from one of us to the other over and over. “However, there is something you have to do. Are you paying attention, Arlo?” The man in the chair nodded.
I didn’t care what he had to do. As soon as he started paying attention I got to stop. I kept my eyes focused on him, but my mind was a universe away.