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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's Get an Interpreter

He did not like women. Not really. Oh, he wasn't gay, though even that mattered little any longer, as sexual activity was not possible. It was more that he didn't value women. He didn't crave their company because he found their company invigorating. He was simply hard-wired to pursue them and did so avidly, a shark moving continually to keep the water running across the gills. But once he snared one in his jaws, he didn't know what to do with it. They weren't as bright as men or as interesting as men or as compelling as men or as worthy as men. They were difficult to understand and not worth the time spent trying to do so. When she pointed out that he didn't really seem to like women, a row ensued. He didn't let on that he'd heard that before, from other people. She wouldn't have been surprised.

His manly accoutrements kept him in the game and competition with other men, whose company was all he really valued. His golf game was good, his big screen TV huge, his sound system remarkable, his car louder and redder than most. He wore good clothing and he wore her on his arm like a wristwatch. When they walked into a room, other men of a certain age gave him an admiring look and sometimes an almost imperceptible nod. If anyone spoke to them, he knew he could rely upon her to give a sparkling response and he wouldn't have to think. She'd remember where the car was parked and the names of each of his new-found men friends. He didn't realize she understood she was so handy and useful - her purpose. He would have been surprised to learn he was so transparent.

He was his mother's eldest and favorite child. The other six seem to have occupied a second level in common, but he occupied a loftier position. It was his mother who told him that women always want something - always. As she taught him this, it never seemed to register with him that Mother, too, was a woman. Because they shared a home until he was more than 55 years old, Mother had many opportunities to underscore her assertion. He would have been surprised to hear it was unusual to live with one's mother for 55 years, thereby avoiding relationships with other women. He wouldn't have believed it. His mother made his good food, kept his home clean and warned him against prowling, selfish females. He hadn't missed out on anything in life by choosing to spend it with his mother.

After his mother died, he began a series of short, failed pairings with women. None of them could cook like his mother. None of them could easily see his deserved position in any pecking order. None of them loved him the way his mother had loved him, and Mother had been right: they all wanted something. He was a man who did not feel many things intensely, but he grew a deep, burning well of anger. His mother was gone, no one would feed him, no one would idolize him, and they all wanted to take from him. With each failed attempt to engage with a female, he became more bitter, and soon he thought of them all as objects - things for which he might have some limited use. He liked the more pliable and less intelligent ones best. They required less effort on his part and tended to be grateful for even small attentions. Once in awhile he met one who could cook or one who was willing to put him on a pedestal. Those were pleasant for awhile.

This one was different. She didn't broadcast her needs through appearance or conversation. She didn't ask for what she wanted, not money or jewelry or meals out or home repairs. If he thought for even a moment that she really wanted nothing, he would relax. But he had the strong feeling she had deep wants and needs. He thought there might be fire hidden behind the ice, but just beyond his ability to grasp. This required him to spend a deal of time thinking and he did not care for that. It required him to guess at what might please her and he knew he was not good at that. If he had ever pleased her tremendously, she had not revealed it with a huge smile and squeals of delight. Whenever he grossly displeased her, she made it very clear in a way that even he could understand. He could certainly move on. The social networking website e-mails announced themselves on his computer hourly. But women of this age tended to look a little shopworn, bodies growing heavy, hair turning gray. This one caused the other men to give him an "Atta boy!" His male coworkers raved about how attractive and bright she was, and how did an old dog like him manage to catch her attention?

When he picked her up for her Mexican food dinner, he was already in a huff. He did not know about Mexican food and the resort had a perfectly good Denny's. Everyone liked Denny's. "If she says one word about my driving, I'm going to put her out in the street," he determined. It wasn't as if he actually hit people. Oh, there was that recent Saturday when he'd had a close call with a big, fat cow who stepped off the curb right in front of him. He'd barely avoided a knock-down there and he knew it. When the woman he couldn't understand screamed his name in warning, his immediate response was "It wasn't my fault!" Not, "Geez!" or "Good Lord!" or "Close call!" No. "It wasn't my fault."

"I didn't suggest it was your fault. I simply didn't want you to hit a woman right before my eyes. This is happening way too frequently. What's up with that?" He'd fumed along silently, noticing that she slowly and silently shook her head from side to side. Pulling into the parking lot at their destination, he asked her again: "Are you sure you won't come in?" She would not patronize the place. "No, I'll wait in the car. It's sunny and warm. I have a book in my bag." It pissed him off. Who the hell did she think she was? And as he pulled into a parking stall, he solidly thunked into the car in front of him, setting the alarm screaming. She didn't say a word, simply looking at him. He slammed his car into reverse and prepared to get out. "Are you going to leave them a note on their windshield?" she asked. He was not. "If they come out and ask me if you hit them, I'm going to tell them the truth."

But now it was time for a nice, celebratory meal. He stepped on the back of her shoe walking inside, causing her to step right out of it. She took it with good grace. Once they were seated, the server brought the traditional basket of tortilla chips, a selection of salsa and bean dips, and invited them to visit the salsa bar. "I suppose that's the salsa bar," he growled. She grinned and pointed to the enormous, festively Mexican sign, "SALSA BAR" located about 6 feet away. He lumbered up, peered at the offerings and returned to say, "All they have is beans and salsa. You know, they bring these chips and stuff so people will fill up on it and not eat their food." She smiled, dipping a chip into the hottest of the salsa choices. "Really? I'd think they would want us to fill up on their pricey entrees rather than their free chips." That silenced him. He busied himself with the menu. "What's botanas?" She explained it meant "appetizers". He thought he ordered his fajita burrito with some panache and felt pleased with himself.

The server arrived with their meal saying, "Very hot plates!" He picked his up with both hands to move it closer to himself. Yes, it was very hot. "I don't like rice. Do you want to take mine home with you?" She had rice of her own, she stated. He knew from the look on her face that he was doing something wrong. Trying to divert her attention he asked, "How's your meal?" She said it was excellent. "What is it?" As she explained, his eyes glazed and he kept up the attack on his burrito. She was watching him closely. He knew she was! What the hell? She had never seen anyone tuck into a burrito, tearing open the tortilla as if it were a paper wrapping, using a knife to push aside the onions, peppers and seasoned pan drippings. She idly wondered exactly what part of the meal he might actually be consuming. "The beans are real good," he said.

As they walked out of the resort, she trailed a little behind trying to figure out exactly what she was seeing. Once she understood, she said, "Your cloth napkin is sticking to the leg of your trousers with static electricity." It made him very angry.


  1. Ba ha haha, the napkin bit was a nice touch. :-)

  2. @ CramCake ~ Good morning! I surely do thank you. It pleases me to please so early in the morning. It's rainy and chilly. I grinned at your "ba ha haha". Now, more coffee. I've been writing for 2 hours!

  3. yes i loved that touch too it made me laugh ...xx

  4. @ Artymess ~ Poor "he". Oh, wait! I can't honestly feel sorry for "he". "He" brings out negative feelings in me, not love for fellow man. Perhaps I need to work on myself. ;~} Perhaps "she" should have simply let him walk around looking foolish and let him discover it when he undressed for bed in his lonely home that night.

  5. We're all abit f'd up aren't we?

  6. @ Tag ~ Ha! If you mean human beings, I'd say "YES" in all capital letters. If you meant only males, I'd say "not fair". Yeah, we're all just more or less lovable messes.

  7. This is different from earlier installments in that for the first time you go into "he's" thoughts. Or do you? Is a third-person omniscient narrator telling us what "he"'s thinking, or is this all still's "she"s point of view, i.e., "she"'s opinion of what's going on in his head? You don't have to tell me now if you don't want to.

    In your reply to artymess, you mentioned that "he" goes to his lonely home at night. I can't help but think she must be somewhat lonely, too, or why else would she stick with him?

  8. @ Kirk ~ Very good questions - you help keep me on my toes. BTW, it was you who reminded me in commentary to the last installment that we hadn't yet heard from "he". Upon reflection, I will say that the spin this time is from "he" and the narrator. However, I've got to say that while "he" understands little about himself or anything else, "she" understands just about every human thing there is. This doesn't make her better than he in any way. They're just different. One clueless about everything, one who wishes she didn't understand everything. I can't say yet whether I think she's lonely. She has that problem with taking problems/confrontations by the horns, preferring to let things "work themselves out" even though things don't work themselves out very well. It may well be that she simply doesn't want to wrangle and hopes he'll go away, she not lonely at all. We shall have to see.

  9. "His manly accoutrements kept him in the game" - love this line - wish I'd thought of it!

    You've got that writing bug walking a sugar trail, Les - great stuff.

    I'd drop the line in brackets "Hence the name, she thought" - you don't need it, the comedy is stronger without it. And that bit is funny!

    I like your style. It's fab. I like the details, the food, the little observations that you don't flag up but are the things that make this piece feel spot on.

    Looking forward to the next installment!

  10. @ Rachel ~ There is only real sugar in the house right now, no false stuff in the yellow paper packets, so I was nursing along the bland cement that was my oatmeal without pleasure. Then I began to read your comment and it all slid down without further notice. I'd never heard "walking a sugar trail", but it was certainly ironic for the circumstances!

    I'm chuckling that you especially enjoyed the one line (accoutrements) because the one-liner is sometimes a bane to me. In fact, it is a collection of one-line brilliantines that has made me try poetry. If I can't build a story around some of them, maybe I can make a stanza of a poem. We shall see.

    OK, so: right now I am utterly DRIVEN to write. Good, bad, treacle or vinegar, I have to write. I'm writing for money, keeping up with (extensive) daily correspondence, writing for pleasure on blog (trying out fiction, while still doing my stream of consciousness and free association thing). Oh, yes, there is a little modest poetry in the works as well.

    I thank you for both the praise and the critique! I thank myself for my mental and emotional balance today that makes me want (and able to handle) both praise and critique. I am going to consider what you said about ["Hence . . "] You may notice it missing in the future. I want to luxuriate in critique and advice first, however.

    BTW, observations and small details are how I live, see and process. Food is my old frenemy, so I can always wrap it into whatever I am thinking about. I'm really just writing the way I really AM. And so, when we [all of us good guys ;~} ] go off to establish the idyllic village, I wish to apply for the job of wordsmith and story-teller. "L. Morgan, Wordsmith - Linguistic Appetizers a Specialty"