I'm at this party for a colleague at a West Side saloon the other night, watching people drink and dance when suddenly he sidles up next to me and murmurs:
This is a good friend with a deadpan delivery. He probably wouldn't want me to reveal his name, so I won't. Italian-Americans can be funny that way.
Anyway, he's got my attention, and when I turn his way he's holding up his cellphone to show me a photograph of a dazzling diamond ring.
He's spoken exactly two words, and he hasn't even looked me in the eye yet, but I don't need my Italian-American-to-English dictionary to get the message:
He's about to ask his longtime girlfriend to marry him.
And just like that, I'm into a rhythm of communication I could have sworn was long dead -- talking without verbs.
I used to do it when I was a little kid, speaking with my grandfather at his house on Shepherd Avenue. Grandpa used words as if they cost ten bucks apiece. A typical conversation would go like this:
Grandpa: "You okay?"
Me: "Yeah. You?"
Grandpa: "Sure. School?"
Me: "Not bad."
It was a beautiful thing. When it comes to communication, life isn't always Oprah or Dr. Phil. Sometimes, less really is more.
Now Grandpa's long gone, and I'm the old guy in this conversation at the saloon, but I remember the rules.
Keep it brief. No verbs, unless absolutely necessary.
I give the photo of the ring a good long look. My young buddy's girlfriend is right in front of us, dancing away, oblivious to the momentous occasion on her horizon.
"Nice ring," I say.
"Tomorrow or Sunday."
We're like two Mafiosos, convinced our conversation is being recorded. We don't want to say anything the FBI might take the wrong way.
He slips the phone into his pocket. At last, he speaks a sentence with a verb.
"I'm only telling you," he says.
That's a sweet, touching thing to say. It's also a warning. I nod, and then it's my turn to use a verb.
"Smartest thing you've ever done," I say.
End of conversation.
Well, Matt popped the question to Jenna last Sunday, and that ring looks even more beautiful on her hand than it did in that cellphone photo.
How about that -- I revealed their names, after promising myself I wouldn't.
What the hell. This isn't a crime story, it's a story about two of my favorite people in the world, ready to take the plunge. Even if they get mad at me, they won't stay mad.
And some day down the line, I'm looking forward to Matt saying "Hey, Carillo," and showing me another cellphone photo. A picture of a stork, maybe.
Charlie Carillo is a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." His novels "Shepherd Avenue," "My Ride With Gus," "Found Money," "God Plays Favorites" and "The Man Who Killed Santa Claus: A Love Story" are available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.