The Silent Friendships of Men

What I enjoyed most about my conversations with John Campbell was that they hardly existed. We spoke--at the post office, at the village store, whenever he pulled over to the curb on his bike--two, three times a month. But we said very little. In the still, blank autumn afternoons like these, our silence abetted the season. One of us would open with some typically male, moderately hearty greeting; the other would follow with an observation about essentially nothing, like the lowering sky; the other would grunt or nod; John would pedal away, and that would be that.

When he died some...