Even in the urgency of a bar’s “last call,” a woman can smoothly counterfeit a sentimental landscape that will help her overlook the alleyway or the cheap hotel where she will wind up on any given night.
Women do not declare love at the last minute based on sexual hysteria as men do. They are more agile. They invent pardonable poetry to envelope their poor decisions.
I was bunching up the line for homemade rhubarb and cumin pies at the Farmers Market Wednesday while explaining to two friends that I was making real headway on this “diversity” thing. My tactic, I told them, was to invite people of “difference” over to my house for dinner, so we would grow to be more like one another and not so “diverse” anymore. Well, nothing, it seems, empties little minds like jealousy. They said I had “diversity” all wrong, and without missing a beat, my first friend meanly offered that I should go on her new diet, which had done wonders for her.
This exchange hurt me and made my dinners seem small. My other friend, now hobbled by her resentment of me AND her friend’s new diet, briskly offered that she has eaten nothing but beets for four years and was down twenty pounds. I snidely assured her that I hardly noticed the red stains around her mouth. I paid and left, feeling reasonably childish.
Feeling unsettled and wounded that my winning strategy on this diversity riddle was not at hand, I asked my friend P., who is incapable of being mean, what I was missing here. She softly explained that “diversity” meant conceding to people’s differences without interfering or adding pressure for them to change. “So, the aim is to keep people different?” I quizzed her, now crestfallen. ” “Why yes,” she said, “because different is better.” Nailing it like a edict on a tree. Well, knock me over with a feather!
Then I remembered a line I never really could figure out until this moment, “Let no man’s light be so bright that it casts a shadow on another man’s day.” I have gone back to the market the last couple of weeks looking for the “beet” woman to apologize for what I said, hoping she was still recognizable after all the hard soap scrubbing she indeed has endured because of me. Fortunately, the people I had invited to dinner called and canceled. Out of respect, we never rescheduled.
I never saw my father work. He processed checks all night, by hand, at Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh. Occasionally he would impress me by bringing home canceled checks from someone else’s account to show me the big number on it. My mother was a manicurist in a hotel. She worked all day. At night she would do my nails. It is why my wife works, and I do not.