Thursday, May 11, 2006

It isn't Shakespeare but there are lots of words: the dreadful result of free writing blame Natalie Goldberg

Tuna sandwiches may not be romantic but add a little curry, lots of black pepper, raisins, some mayo and crunchy romaine, slap it all between two pieces of excellent rye bread and serve it wearing your fabulous new sky blue tunic (with the cleavage) to a man who knows for sure that lunch will end in the bedroom, and it works fine as an aphrodisiac.

Alright. I’ll admit the romance did not come out of a tin of solid white tuna packed in water. And this is not about sex or romance. I’m not sure what it’s about, but I’m certain there will be a lot of words involved.

Back to today.

Mushy with the relief of doing something (anything) other than being at work or racing around trying to launch the beginnings of a career to feed myself after my impending retirement, I tell the Scorpio, “You’re such a nice man.” We are wearing a sheet. I am feeling, to say the least, kindly disposed towards him.

“Actually,” he replies mildly, “I’m not.”

Well, I know that. What would I be doing with a nice man? I’m not a nice woman.

“Yes, yes,” I say, “You’re moody and dark and irritable and stubborn and opinionated and a regular pain in the ass, I know. And you are too blunt and you’re given to hypochondria. But I don’t live with you, so that’s part of your charm.” This how I give compliments. You see? Not a nice woman. “You’re terrific at sex, though – and funny,” I add, in case the rest sounds a tad harsh.

I am so comfortable with this man. And I realize that it’s precisely because “nice” is something he does only when it feels genuine. It often does feel genuine to him and to me too, for that matter - but I prize honesty more. Weedy is right, nice isn’t the first adjective you’d use to describe me.

None of my close friends are nice, either. They are all quite comfy with large parts of their own shadows. Me? I’ve got to an age where life has worn much of the nice right off.

And good riddance.

Nice is what gets you on committees, taking minutes and attending ego-feast meetings that accomplish little or nothing. It buys you the attention of every pan-handler on the street. Nice, traveling to a prison visit once, got me a one hour lesson in bigotry from a shuttle driver who ended his monologue with, “so, this fella you’re visiting…he’s a colored fella, is he?

Come to think of it – there’s a little scouring left to do. Some of the nice is still stuck there like gooey candy floss. And it’s visible, apparently.

Just this week, waking up in one hell of a belligerent mood, Nice got me the sordid details of a complete stranger’s car-wreck marriage at the bus stop. Nice kept me pretending attentiveness while my brain was screaming, “Shut up now! I’m not even awake yet.” Nice was the fuel this stranger used to continue droning on until – 40 minutes later, I staggered off the bus with mosquito thoughts eating my brain.

The worst of it was, it was all the nice I had left for the entire week. The stuff is rationed these days. There isn’t enough to stretch over, say, an entire work day.
There isn’t enough to last past arrival – when I discover “the system” is dead as a doornail and am launched into the daily routine by listening to a patron complain bitterly about the policies of other libraries (which he expects me to do something about, thanks.)

So today was a real vacation. No need to lie or flatter or pretend attention to things I don’t care about. Two moody, tactless, cynical, people blissfully enjoying each other’s weird company.

It was a nice day, is my point. If in fact I have one.

(Echoing sound of chair scraping the floor as the remaining reader – the one who foolishly believed there would be a point, or was too nice to leave in the middle – sneaks to the exit.)