The word-in-edgewise resolution

When the New Year comes around I always have serious resolutions for the year to come. My resolutions are usually of the expected kind, like for instance to lose 3 kilos, to be more patient with the people who want to tell me things or to finally visit my late mother''s last remaining friend who is still alive. She is 98 years old, and doesn''t hear, doesn''t see and doesn''t know who I am.

This year I have an additional ambition: I would like to be able to get one word in edgewise when it comes to talking to my good friend Mali. Last year I remember that my ambition was to get in three words, but one has to be realistic about one''s expectations.

Mali would say that she has a conversation with me, but correctly put we usually have a monologue. Hers.

"So," she told me yesterday, "I talked to my brother but he never listens and he never answers. He''s been married to that wife of his for 30 years, and she is the only person in the world who matters to him. After all I am..."

"But Mali, she''s your sister-in-law you should-"

"But I am his sister! Blood is thicker you know and all that, our parents taught us..."

"So what do you want him to say-"

"I don''t want anything! I have that pain in the shoulder and he doesn''t care. And I planned that trip to London and..."

"Go see a doctor and ask-"

"What doctor? I saw three. Each one says something else and that guy from the clinic, I told him that my shoulder started to hurt when I
stopped smoking and he said I should see a psychiatrist, what does a psychiatrist have to do with my shoulder? My brother he is so..."

"Mali first you have to-"

"I don''t have to anything! You always interrupt me, why don''t you let me speak?  I talk to you because you are the only one who
understands and gives me good advice and I always listen to you..."

"Yes, yes, that''s why I am telling you-"

"Yes, I know what you tell me, you just tell me too much and I..."

"Mali please, let me put in one word-"

"Later. I still have to tell you that I had a fight with my neighbor upstairs. I wanted to ask her a bit about London, she goes there all the time, but she says that even if she tells me something I don''t listen anyhow so why should she say anything? The woman claims I talk too much! Can you imagine her nerve? Did you ever think that I talk too much?"

"Mali, listen for a second-"

"There is just one thing more I have to tell you; do you remember the blouse I bought last week which I showed you? It''s too small and I took it back to the shop and..."

"Mali, I am going to have a cup of coffee!"

"Fine. I''ll join you, I haven''t finished my story about the blouse, you must listen to this!"

"Look, if you want my opinion I-"

"You''re my best friend. I want you to tell me what you think about my brother and his obnoxious wife. They will visit me tomorrow and..."

"Why do you invite them?"

"Because you know that thing about blood and water, so what can I do?"

I looked around for someone who would be prepared to rescue me. It seems that no one was.

I think of my smart daughter whom I used to teach once and who is now teaching me. During our long phone calls she tells me again and again that I have to learn how to protect myself and how to say no. I start walking toward the elevator.
Mali follows me.
"What I like about you is that you always give me such good advice," she says, "and you know something? I always do exactly what you tell me!"