Photograph by Rus Bowden
I felt I really felt it, what she was going through. Her troubles with Tad. I said, "It's not your fault."
Her eyes disagreed. We sat in Au Bon Pain.
"It's not your bad," I added. She'd done something that had, perhaps, been interpersonally sub-optimal, but the details hardly matter... the business with the coffeepot... you could just as well insert your own event... I'm interested in interpretations.
She shook her head. "You know I need to own this," she said. "There's a pattern. It's something I have to deal with. Why it keeps happening. Over and over."
I knew what she meant. I'd heard it before. Tim, Tom, Tad. She buttered her brioche. "I understand how you feel," I said. Maybe that wasn't quite right. Did I understand? "But the way I see it," I went on, "it was just a really human thing."
Was it disgust sweeping across her face, like a bad weather event in the Midwest, destroying wheat, tossing cars, dispersing rubble in the violet air? A tornado or two, people make it through. But one too many really bad weather events: the damage to a community can be permanent.
"People trivialize everything that way," she rejoined, gazing down with her espresso eyes. "No one takes responsibility. It's disgusting."
This seemed a bit harsh. So was the light in Au Bon Pain, reflecting off a van, which passed like so many idiomatic expressions. No doubt pain can feel good—in small doses. It's all about dosage, I thought, tearing open a small yellow packet of Splenda: who doesn't love a small catastrophe? She did, I thought, but I wasn't sure of our underlying weather. Fancying myself a true friend, perhaps in fact being a narcissist, perhaps both, one minute one, one minute the other, or both simultaneously, I pressed on: "I guess I just think he bears some responsibility, too."
"Who is this really about?" she hit back. She knew Tad and I had "issues." The show he'd promised to put me in. Maybe I was bringing that into the conversation. Maybe I wasn't. It's not as if when you speak you know what you're doing.
"I don't think that's fair," I said, as if calmly.
"Well, what is?"
I ignored this. Of course I didn't, not inside. Where no one ever ignores anything. Not in the long run. I put on my sincerity: "I just think you're being kind of way too hard on yourself."
She put on hers. "I'm just trying to talk about what I'm really going through. And it's not easy to talk about. I know you're trying to be helpful. But that kind... I dunno that kind of... stuff... just isn't what I need right now."
"I'm sorry," I said. "My bad." Fuck you, I thought, on semi-automatic. I looked at her, adding another layer of sincerity to my gaze, achieving, I thought, the "authentic" look, which, though not as fashionable as it once was, many still wore.