I wouldn't say we had become friends, exactly, we didn't go to his house for cookouts or invite him to our house for drinks. Our conversations were usually just small talk; complaining about dandelions in the lawn or gas prices, the weather and such. We didn't really know much about him. He was just a nice guy who lived across the street.
One day, about a year later, Tom mentioned something about his wife, Darlene. We were dumbstruck. Tom had a wife? We had never seen her or heard him talk about her before. How could she have been living there all this time without us having known she existed? It didn't sound like they were recently married and she must have left the house every day because Tom told us where she worked. We considered the possibility that he was a little delusional and she was a figment of his imagination. Unlikely, but plausible. If children can have imaginary friends, why can't adults have imaginary spouses?
It immediately became a casual obsession for us to watch for her. There were two cars at Tom's house and we had seen both of them coming and going, but never at the same time. If the red minivan was in the driveway, the silver coupe was gone and vice versa. We would try to spot the driver whenever either one of the cars were in use, but the windows were tinted in both vehicles making it nearly impossible to get a clear view. The landscaping obstructed our view of the driver exiting the car.
Finally, on a Saturday afternoon, we saw a woman step out on the porch to get the newspaper. She was out and then back in the house so quickly that we weren't able to get a good look at her, but we were pretty sure it was Darlene. Over the next few weeks we spotted her several other times. Strangely, though, we never saw her with Tom. We wondered why they never seemed to be together.
We became convinced that Tom and Darlene were the same person. It seems like a stupid idea, I know, but it was unbelievable the way we could never catch sight of both of them at the same time. One day, in particular, they were doing some landscaping around their property. After shoveling some dirt into the flower beds, Tom disappeared into the garage. A moment later, Darlene walked out of the garage with a flat of flowers. After planting them, she headed back into the garage and Tom reappeared with mulch. This went on all day. Tom in one door, Darlene out the other, never together.
It wasn't really possible that Tom and Darlene were one in the same and we knew that. He was tall, she was short. He had tattoos on his arms, she had none. But it was just so funny how we were never able to spot them together. We don't live in that neighborhood anymore, and I don't know if Tom and Darlene still do. But wherever they are, they're probably living happily ever after in separate rooms.