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Do you think my wife is pretty?

No.

Oh. Okay.

Was that a trick question?

No, I was asking you straight out if you thought my wife was pretty.

I wasn’t sure.

Do you then, knowing now that I’m asking you straight?

I’m not changing my answer.

Okay.

Sorry.

No, it’s fine. But if you were to ask me if I thought your wife was pretty …

Okay …

… I’d say, Yes.

Okay.

I’m just being honest.

I don’t have a wife.

I’ve seen you with her all the time.

That’s not my wife.

Is she your sister?

No, she’s my mistress.

A mistress?

A mistress. It’s an entirely different thing.

Yeah, a mistress. Yeah. You like her?

I like her fine.

Have you considered taking her as a wife?

A few times.

Have you brought it up to her?

One time.

What happened?

She respectfully declined.

I’m sorry. Why? If you don’t mind me asking.

I sort of do, but, it’s because she has a husband already.

Oh.

Also she says I’m not “husband material.”

That’s awful of her.

She’s probably right. I don’t have a wife, she has a husband and many other lovers. So she would know better than I would.

So you’re just one.

Yeah. I’m on a calendar. Every first Tuesday of the month at 3:45 PM, for an early happy hour, and every last Thursday of the month at 11:20 AM, for an early lunch.

Seems too complicated and unfair to me.

Maybe it is, but it’s also very hard to find someone who places as high an importance on structure as I do. It’s like every relationship, it has tradeoffs.

I think my wife is pretty anyway.

That’s good of you to say.

And I don’t think we have any tradeoffs between us.

That’s also good of you to say, if also not very realistic.

You know, I thought maybe I’d be offended by you not thinking my wife is pretty. But actually I’m kind of okay with it. I appreciate the honesty.

I try to be honest.

Maybe I place importance on honesty in the same way that you place importance on structure.

Could be.

And there’s also the added security knowing you’re not interested in my wife.

Well, I didn’t say that.

Come again?

You asked me if I thought that your wife was pretty. I answered that I did not. But I don’t place as much importance on prettiness as I do on structure or as you do on honesty. Now if you were to ask me if I thought your wife was charming or erudite or challenging or inspiring or hard-bargaining or subversive or spirited or a bit enigmatic (just a bit), we’d be having the same conversation, but you’d maybe feel less secure — depending on what you asked me.

You think my wife is subversive?

No, I don’t. But I place higher importance on subversion in a woman than I do on prettiness. Unless that prettiness was part of her subversive quality, then I’d have to factor that in.

How do you function?

Until very recently, pretty well.

I think I’m having delirium.

Why do you say that?

I keep looking up at the sun and seeing her.

Your wife?

No, my lunch lady from middle school. She’s behind the sneeze guard, with a spoonful of tater tots in one hand and a spoonful of Jell-O in the other. She’s dressed for Halloween. She’s got cat whiskers painted on her face and cat ears sticking out of her hairnet. It’s not a lot of effort but cutting holes in your hairnet is probably against regulation. That left an impression on me.

You’re not supposed to stare at the sun. Stare at the sky, there’s plenty of it.

I’m bored with the sky.

Well pretty soon the moon is coming out and you can stare at that all you want.

The moon agitates me. I look up at the moon and all it does is shine back every inadequacy I’ve ever felt. It’s like it keeps tabs on me, going back to my very first moment of inadequacy.

When was that?

When I was three. I had this white blanket from when I was a baby. I became pretty dependent on it. I would not let it go. I felt safe with it. Even when it was all ratty and knotted up and looked like a chew toy, I wouldn’t part with it. One day I was in the backyard with it. In the sandbox, minding my own business. Then my older brother comes running around from the front of the house, his arms stretched out and a bedsheet tied around his neck. He was playing Superman. He kept running around the house making whooshing sounds. And every time I’d see that sheet flowing in the breeze behind him. I looked down at my ratty blanket and felt disgusted. My brother seemed to be telling me that “I am me and you are you; and you will never go higher than you already are.” I tossed the blanket over the fence and never saw it again. I did try to scale the fence and retrieve it, but my mom got me in time. Anyway, pretty soon I got a new blanket, but it just wasn’t the same. I guess you could say I was an early adapter.

I guess it happens to all of us eventually.

Maybe I’m still lucky. I bet some people are born inadequate.

Probably.

I don’t think my brother ever said that to me, that I would never be higher than I was then. I don’t even think he thought it. But the moon says it to me every night. And, at least in this instance, the moon is right.

“What? Who cares?” –Me

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