I shouldn’t mix my drinks, but the Patersons had damned fine wine with the first course, a wonderful Ice Wine with dessert, and the brandy afterwards blew my mind. I should have said no to the Scotch before dinner, but for crying out loud, it was twenty-year-old Lagavulin.
So, yes, I said something wrong. It wasn’t meant to come out wrong, but Jeannie flew into a rage. She didn’t appreciate that the world through a haze of some really superb alcohol need not make sense. I was just being sociable, and besides Bill raised the topic, whatever it was. I should not have blurted out the first thing that came into my head. It wasn’t funny. It was…I don’t remember.
All the way home she wouldn’t look at me in the cab. She was biting her lip and looking out the window. If I turned my head to read the name on a shop or catch a better glimpse of someone I thought I knew because everyone looks like someone I know after having a lot to drink, she’d say, “Just shut up!”
As we turned off the main street into the warren of smaller avenues where we’d just bought a house together, she muttered, “Men are such pigs,” and I replied “Oink,” which I think earned me the lifetime suspension. We hadn’t bought a couch yet. We were going to do that the next day, so I slept on the living room floor. Her last words to me as she went upstairs were, “Don’t you fucking well throw up on the new rug.”
I didn’t. The problem is that I woke up sore. I couldn’t remember what I’d said and I wanted to apologize, but when I asked her, she just glared at me. “You don’t even remember? Don’t you know your real self comes out when you’re drunk? Deep down, that’s what you’re really thinking, isn’t it? That’s what you’re really thinking, so just shut up.”
I phoned the Patersons. Mike answered. “What did I say?”
“You don’ remember?”
“No, I don’t. Can you give me a hint, a stage prompt or something so I know what I need to ask forgiveness for?”
“I don’t want you as a friend, anymore,” he said. “Judy says she doesn’t want you around,” and he hung up.
Alright then. I’ll just shut up. But even after Jeannie had moved out, called the lawyer, and accused me of being the sort of human being who didn’t deserve a decent burial let alone the right to walk the planet alive, I still don’t know what I said, and no one is going to tell me. I feel like a complete pig. They don’t keep track of what they say, and I’m certain they don’t talk, not even if someone trains in what they’re supposed to say.
Jeannie would get angry at me when I’d just stare straight ahead. She’d say, “What are you thinking?” as if she really cared, and I’d say, “Nothing. I’m not thinking anything. I was enjoying a mental tundra, the space, the wind drifting across a vast nomadic plain without a soul in sight.” Then she’d get angry because she’d say it was insulting that I was in the same room with her and I wasn’t thinking about her and that I needed to get in touch with my feelings. Here’s the truth about men: forty percent of the time we aren’t thinking anything and we enjoy it. Another forty percent of the time we aren’t feeling anything. It’s not like we’re psychotic, it’s just that we turn off the personal observation mechanism and enjoy the bliss. Some people pay good money to take mindfulness courses, but a lot of men just come by it naturally. Jeannie would call me a liar, a liar of the worst kind, a liar of the inner self. I’d tell, the gospel truth, I wasn’t thinking or feeling anything and she’d get angry and wouldn’t speak to me. And I wasn’t going to ask her what she was thinking when she wasn’t speaking to me. I could guess the answer.
I realize that my role in the world is to refrain from saying anything at all. I hurt people when I am not paying attention to what I say. That’s wrong. There used to be a time when a person could just blurt out whatever and get away with it. That’s past. Gone. Kaput! I remember reading Jane Eyre in university and the author, whatever her name was, raises the point that women are not permitted to express themselves, that they’re all Cinderellas waiting for a fortune in Madeira port to stumble into their lives.
There are others in the room. They live with what I say. So should I.
The problem is there aren’t any fairy tales for men. There never have been.
We had our chances to stop and think about what we were saying and doing and we blew it. Blah, blah, blah. And half the human race are now registered failures at being human. We deserved it. We went on with our merry lives, with friends or so-called friends offering us more, pouring us another glass, uncorking something new and exciting, and, shit, we just went with it.
And because of that, because we acted like pigs, we can’t say anything. Nothing. Men have said more than they should have said and we came off as idiots. If we have even a remote shot at being human beings, we must wait in silence. It’s our place now, and there’s not even an echo that will put up with us if we’re alone in a deep, dark cavern. The age of men has passed.
But man, I got to tell you – and just this and then I’ll shut up completely – that wine they opened during dinner, the second one, was amazing. I am going to wrack my brains, though I probably don’t have any according to my ex and my former friends – and see if I can remember the name of it, perhaps go to the liquor store, describe the label to them, and see if they know what I’m talking about or maybe even what it made me say. In vino veritas. The truth has got to come out, and I know it’s in there somewhere.
Bruce Meyer is the author of books of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and non-fiction. His stories have won or been shortlisted for numerous national and international prizes.
Follow Bruce on Twitter:@bruce_meyer