This is a work of fiction.
The pizza is wonderful, but I’ll have to go on a diet for the next year to offset the calories consumed.
I’m also disappointed that the quadruplets don’t allow me to meet their parents.
Purple takes a tray up to them, and I don’t hear anything they say, because she closes the door behind herself.
Red, Blue, and Yellow don’t make small talk while we eat, and I am unable to think of anything to say except how good the pizza is, which they acknowledge with nods rather than words.
I offer to help wash the dishes, but Red gives me a strange look, which I take as a no.
The door opens, and Purple comes in.
She looks at Red, who nods.
Red says, “It’s going to take all night.”
“Creating your character.”
“Um, oh, okay. Should I go home and come back tomorrow?”
“No,” Red says. “You can sleep here.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose.”
“None of that crap, please,” Red says. “We told you we aren’t like that. We haven’t talked to outsiders since we were four. We said you can sleep here, so what’s all this about not wanting to impose?”
“I don’t know. It’s just something people say to be polite.”
“Okay, we’ll play your polite game,” Blue says. “Yes, we’re sure you can sleep here. We imposed our will on you. We’re the ones who ordered you to come here. We are not being polite. This is serious, not some frivolous game outsiders play.”
She points to a door.
“That’s the living room. There’s a couch in there and you can sleep there or on the floor if you want.”
Yellow says, “Is it like who can be the most polite?”
“What? No, it’s . . .”
But she’s right. All our little sayings, all our little bits of fancy phrases are just what she said.
“I never thought about it. It’s something I’ve grown up doing and hearing. I’ll try to stop. I’m not even the worst. Some people do it so much, it gets annoying.”
“We know,” Red says. “Maybe that’s why the teachers thought we had attachment disorder, because we couldn’t play those stupid games.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I say. “So, like, it’s kind of early to go to bed. What do you do after dinner?”
“We can’t do what we usually do with you here,” Red says. “Purple asked our parents what they do if outsiders come to visit. Mom suggested singing, dancing, or playing music. Do you like to do those things?”
“I don’t know how to play any instruments, but I do sing. I also don’t dance, but I like watching and listening.”
“Does it scare you if nobody talks?” Blue says.
“What do you mean?”
“Mom’s afraid of people who don’t say anything,” Blue says.
“No, I’m not afraid, but if I don’t know somebody, yes, I’d prefer to talk. I notice you can talk without words, but I don’t know you, so I can’t join in. I could talk to Aunt Bev a little like that, but not as deeply as I think you do with each other.”
“So if we sing, is that the same as talking?” Blue says.
“Yeah, because we’re singing the same words and it feels like we’re communicating, but it’s easier because we don’t have to think of things to say.”
“Is that part of that politeness thing?” Red asks.
“Maybe, but I’m not sure. It might be more fundamental. If you don’t talk to people you don’t know, you don’t get to know them.”
“Do you want to talk to us or listen to music?”
“Talking to you is interesting. How about we talk for a while and then sing. What songs do you like?”
“Probably not the ones you like,” Yellow says. “We sort of let music take a back seat to other things, so we’re not as advanced as we should be. We like Christmas songs, but only the old ones, and we like some old records our dad inherited.”
“Oh, that’s interesting. I’ve never seen a record.”
“Come into the living room, and we’ll show you,” Red says.
“First, I’m going to get a drink of water.”
The living room has no windows.
The couch is black leather. It’s huge. The carpet is light gray and it’s spotless.
“Your living room is very clean,” I say. “Part of the politeness game is complimenting people on their houses, but this is genuine. I can’t keep mine dust-free. How do you do it?”
“With a vacuum,” Red says.
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