As an English major there are two major types of writing: critical and fictional. There’s a bit of irony involved between the two. The target audience for literary criticism is educated folks–basically nerds like me who like to read what other people say about so-and-so’s story so that they can prove them wrong. Fiction, on the other hand, isn’t for hoity-toity folks. It’s for people who just like to read made-up stuff.
The irony is that, for literary criticism, you have to spell everything out. Set up your argument and show every little detail. For fiction, you are required (in order for it to be “good” fiction) to trust your readers to “get” what you mean.
I realized tonight I was talking to the wrong audience.
Of all the things I wanted to say when he showed up, with his girlfriend in tow, talking about blogs was NOT really at the height of my priorities.
I had a set up in my mind. As soon as he got out of the car, I would say, “So. Tell me what this is REALLY about.” But I heard the cats crying, and that was the end of anything rational like that going through my head.
We did touch on some of the things that I wanted to say, but I censured myself. There were things between the two of us that had nothing to do with his girlfriend. And, while I could understand this “two is solidarity” thing, and he really was asking for my take on his integrity, I refrained from going into the whole spiel although I was tempted, tempted, tempted to. I’d like to think I did it because I’m a better person, but I really have to wonder if I did it because I really, really, really prefer him to have a girlfriend.
“It’s important to me that you realize I did my best. I’m fulfilling my obligation, my commitment.”
His best, meaning, dropping them on my doorstep half-hairless, starving, and with ear mites, teeth problems, and ass issues.
I told him I felt utterly betrayed. I told him that I didn’t even know if he was coming.
“Not coming? How could you think I wasn’t coming?”
I told him that he didn’t have that great a track record of keeping promises with me.
“But I kept some!” he said.
Right. I agreed with him but said that the broken ones are the ones I remember the most. Maybe because they far outnumbered the kept ones. I wanted to tell him “Sure you kept promises, but just the ones that didn’t really require that much integrity.” I did discuss anger. About his high drama with the words “leukemia” and “kitty aids.” I did discuss flea loading and the time required for flea anemia to take place. While I didn’t have specifics, I could say with authority (that is, parrot a vet tech) that it takes a decent amount of time for enough fleas to suck enough blood that it makes them anemic. And I talked about flea anemia being a sign of gross, gross neglect.
But I didn’t talk about specific broken promises. Not with his girlfriend there. Part of me wants to warn her, but I think I said enough without being vindictively specific that, if she’s ready, she’ll get the message.
Instead we talked about his blog.
“You don’t read my blog? I can’t believe that you don’t read my blog.”
I explained the negativity, the superiority, and the utter lack of anything relevant to my life. It’s vile and petty, like its author. I told him that I wasn’t interested in negativity, irrelevance, or superiority. (I did preface that by saying that, “Although I know I’m elitist at times, I don’t think I’m maliciously elitist. I try not to be intentionally maliciously elitist.”) I wasn’t interested in vileness and pettiness. But when every single entry every single day contains negativity, superiority, vileness, and pettiness, I have no interest in it.
“In fact,” I said, clearing my throat, with feeling, “I’m actively working on getting all of those qualities out of my life. I just have no interest in them.”
“But it’s funny!”
Funny like short-bus jokes are funny, like racial jokes are funny. I acknowledged that he could be brilliantly funny at times, but that his entire tone was disgusting, and couldn’t managed to get through the voice of the writing to care about what he was writing about.
That’s what I told him. I was thinking, “I’m not reading it because it doesn’t interest me. I don’t read stuff that doesn’t interest me unless it’s grade dependent. Let’s face it, if I found your life all that interesting, I’d be living it. Because, as of the weirdest day of my life, I had that option.”
But I didn’t. Instead, I talked of being an English major, of literary interpretation. I talked about the gap between what we try to convey and what we actually convey, and the big void of what we talk around. I talked about the obviousness connection between what we mock and what we’re afraid of. He wanted specifics which I didn’t have, because, well, I had stopped reading his blog a while ago.
“But I still can’t believe you don’t read my blog.”
“Honey,” his girlfriend said, shifting from foot to foot. “I stopped reading your blog a while ago too.”
He didn’t want to leave. He wanted to keep talking about his blog but I had to go see if I could bathe the cats. Which I couldn’t do–they were too scared to do much of anything.
But I sat in my parents’ garage and read part of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening to them. I re-read the part I had read earlier yesterday, about how Mr. Pontellier was courteous as long as his wife displayed tacit submissiveness, but lately he had become rude. (Paraphrased because I have no idea where it is).
And how it stuck with me, because I know Mr. Pontellier personally. He left last night with his girlfriend, leaving behind a woman who refuses to swim out into the Gulf and some very ugly babies. Some hairless, itchy, starving babies that, before the end of my reading to them, had both come up to me and let me feel them purr.
I have no idea how I’m going to house them when they’re healthy.
I have to meet with the Bear at 11:00, but in the mean time, I have to become an expert cat-bather, medicine-woman, and go run get some flea spray. And food, food, lots of kitty food.
Because it’s Friday, and I work tonight.
And I am off to play medicine woman.