Wednesday, January 13, 2016


The question stops me in my tracks. It's one of those mistake-on-top-of-mistake things that Stan has all but patented. One mistake is easily dealt with: it quickly registers that he got something wrong, and without a word you correct it in your head. With two mistakes, though, your brain grinds and whirs, generating a list of all the possible permutations of his words that make a modicum of sense, while some small section of gray matter wonders if it'd be slightly easier to date a monkey.

We've worked up an appetite from some rather vigorous bedroom activities, and now I'm in the kitchen thinking about what I can make for lunch. Stan is propped up by pillows and texting someone. He stops typing and grimaces and I know exactly what's coming. It happens every minute or so when he's texting. I silently damn the program that inserts wavy red lines under words it doesn't recognize. "How do you spell 'fictitional'?" Stan finally asks.

As usual, there is no easy answer, and I'm not sure if Stan even expects one at this point. We've been dating for three months, which has been long enough for me to spell out my frustration with his queries. Now all my answers come with baggage attached. In this case I say, "You mean if 'fictitional' was a word? Or do you just want me to pretend it's a word and tell you how it would be spelled?"

He's taken aback. "'Fictitional' isn't a word?" he asks, as if he's just discovered there's actually no sea mammal called a "whale."

I don't know why I'm so irritated by stupidity when I'm not thrilled with intelligence either. There aren't a lot of positives to intelligence -- I have yet to meet someone who wants to converse in Latin -- yet there's one serious negative: you get extra pissed off by idiots. And when, as they say, 50% of the world has a lower IQ than the average, that's a long time spent pissed off.

I've always been judgmental, too. When I was five, I was pulled out of grade school to take an intelligence test. The teacher showed me a drawing of a tree with the sun high above in the sky. Oddly, though, the tree's shadow fell on the wrong side.

"Do you see anything wrong with this picture?" the teacher asked.

"Nope," I said.

His eyebrows raised. "Really?"

I gave it another quick glance. "Looks fine to me," I confirmed. "Though whoever drew it was clearly an idiot."

I take a deep breath and look at Stan. I'm the parent helping the high-schooler with homework who doesn't just want to parcel out answers. We want to prompt them to think, though in this case the word "futility" might come to mind because the student is a hunky, forty-year-old Greek man who manages the produce section at Piggly Wiggly. "Tell me this," I say. "What's the difference between 'fictitional' and 'fictional'?"

This does its job: it gets Stan to thinking. He resumes typing and I pull a frozen pizza out the near-empty fridge and throw it in the oven. "Maybe in my next life I'll be smart like you," he calls over, though I'm not sure if it's reassurance or an accusation. "Maybe we should date after I'm reincarcerated."

Once again I'm knee-deep. "Reincarcerated"? Is that what happens when Buddhists have babies in jail? Now there's yet another layer of questioning thrown atop the chaos: is any of this even worth thinking about? Or should I ignore everything Stan says and stare blankly at him full-time? I'm not sure that would work: I can't picture us standing at the altar and when the priest says, "Do you take this man?" I'd suddenly snap out of it and say, "Wait a second ... what's going on?"

I'm waiting for the pizza to finish, watching the "425" temperature readout on the digital display, when Stan comes up behind me and puts his arms around me. Instantly I melt. I'm the real idiot here, I realize. Because what really matters? It's not what's in somebody's brain, but what's in their heart. I'm about to turn around and hug him and kiss him and tell him that I'm the moron in this relationship when he glances up at the stove and freezes.

"HOLY SHIT!" he yells. "I HAVE TO BE AT WORK AT 4!" He runs back to the bed, grabs his floor-strewn clothes, and throws them at his naked body seemingly at once. They're not even remotely secured around him when he rushes out the door, a blur of bare stomach zipping past.

I keep smiling and staring at the digital display, not a thought in my head. After four minutes it goes "beep beep beep" and the pizza is done. I take it out of the oven as the display returns to the correct time, which is 12:19.

1 comment:

jeesau said...

I think we are from the same tribe. My Irish husband often massacres words and then reforms them into his own little mutants. Depending upon when it happens, I am either charmed or irritated out of proportion.