“I guess the truth is that most of us are inherently selfish. Selfish, greedy human beings who--who pine after what they will never have, bring other people down to feel better about themselves, and who in the end only truly, really care about them and no one else.”
The cigarette, which she already lighted, came in contact with her chapped lips. She inhaled the smoke almost violently, trying to let out some pent up aggression. A slight pink tinge blossomed her cheeks. She carefully removed the cigarette from her mouth and blew, the whitish smoke dissolved into nothingness. “That’s my point.”
He stared at her intently for a millisecond then flapped down on the bed. “Christ. I’m married to a complete pessimist.”
She did not take too well with that statement. Her fanciful, almost paper doll-like expression quickly morphed to one of exorbitant aggravation. “I am not a pessimist, I am a realist. They are two completely different personality types; learn to separate them.”
“I disagree. They are, technically, the same thing.” He decided to sit up then, wincing only slightly at the strong pain comfortable at his upper back. “In this world, being a ‘realist’, as you so proudly define yourself, means always expecting the more bleak outcome of a certain situation because that’s what realistic. What is pessimism, then? The exact same thing!” He laughed a throaty laugh, the kind she used to hate (or, pretend she used to hate.) “Realist is just a more hieroglyphic, sweet way of saying pessimist.”
“Well then, prove me wrong.”
“A realist doesn’t just look at the negative outcomes of a situation. They also take the time to see the positive outcomes as well, and they acknowledge that both are equally possible. They’re thinking down two different highways--not necessarily choosing a path. Therefore, we are much more adapted to thinking then you short-sighted ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’, who think they have to be one or the other and not a mix of both.”
Satisfied that she had settled this tedious and incredulous debate, she was ready to turn to her left side and turn off the bedside lamp, a surge of triumph sweeping herself until
“Okay, fine. Let’s say…hypothetically, I do agree with your definition of a realist
(she was growing ill of that damn word)
and how different it is from the definition of a pessimist. But just a minute ago, you were making a cruel generalization of all humans, saying we’re all just a bunch of selfish assholes. Not some humans, all humans. You were clearly not taking into careful consideration that some humans, while flawed, are also good and sometimes remarkable. Now tell me how that’s not being a pessimist.”
A pregnant silence followed his words, and he knew--knew--he had her stumped then, had completely dejected her side of the debate. His wife was a clever, brilliant, and insightful person who had a tact for sharing her opinions in such a assured way that at first, it was as if no one could debunk her. But she was not the only smart person who lived in this tiny house.
The consistent hsssss stemming from the radiator, becoming louder during frequent periods, was the only sound either of them could hear in their squared room for a couple of minutes, and he wondered for a moment if he had gone too far.
She tapped the ashes of the cigarette on the ashtray before stumping it out all together. She looks positively pensive, resigned. Her elbows laid on the mattress, her eyes looking straight ahead. “I like to believe I’m a good person.”
“You are a good person.”
“Then why don’t I feel like it half the time?”
Her eyes are blue. He’s known her for seven years and yet there are still times when he’s overtaken by the fact that her eyes are blue. When she was down and he didn’t know what to say, he’d always look at those eyes as if the answer was held inside them somehow, safe and waiting.
She turned her head to him then.
“You had a bad day. You got pissed at the world for a little bit.” He shrugged. “It happens. But I’ve known you for seven years, been married to you for five of them, and I can honestly say you’re…you’re good.”
She turned away from him.
“You’re alright. I reckon most people feel like they aren’t good, half the time. It’s just human nature. We can have great moments of viciousness and great moments of compassion the next, and it can royally confuse the hell out of us.”
“Now who’s making the generalization?”
And that’s how he knows they’re okay, that they’ve successfully drove through the hurdles of another day. “I guess I’m a walking, talking paradox. Thought you knew that by now.” He glanced at the clock, saw the time. Past midnight. “Thinking it’s time we get to bed?”
She turned off the bedside lamp finally, and they both laid on their backs. He’s about to drift off into another dreamless slumber, his eyelids closed, when he feels her staring at him and he opens them.
Her eyes are alight with an ease, the right tip of her mouth visibly struggling not to turn upwards. “You know, I’m going to file for those divorce papers tomorrow.”
It was an old joke. He knew how to play along.
“You always say that. But you never do.”