“Epiphanies,” she said. “All you are interested in is epiphanies.”
They were in the kitchen. He was still in his suit and hadn’t committed to sitting down. She was wearing baggy sweat pants and an oversized shirt that said “World’s Best Mom” on the front. On the back it had the logo for a health fair sponsored by a local hospital chain.
“What’s so bad about epiphanies?” He said. “How can you live without epiphanies?” He opened the refrigerator and squatted down to inspect the contents.
“Oh, there’s nothing wrong with epiphanies, but that’s not where life is lived.” She paused. “Life is lived in those broad plains that come between epiphanies. You can’t just sit around waiting for an epiphany and being grouchy and sullen till the next transcendent moment arrives.”
“I don’t sit around waiting for transcendent moments.”
“Of course you do, you specialize in waiting for those moments.”
He reached into the body of the refrigerator and extracted two plastic bags. He plopped them down on the counter and went back to the door. For a moment he was bathed in the light of the refrigerator and seemed like a supplicant in prayer. He took out a large jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise.
“The regular stuff doesn’t interest you,” she said. “When is the last time you gave one of the kids a bath and just sat there with nothing in your mind but the splashing water and how to find the soap that gotten away under the suds?”
The woman had long fingers and she drummed them on the butcher-block table. There was a white milk stain on the shoulder of her shirt.
“Last night, as it happens.”
He took a piece of ham from the plastic bag. He held it up by its corners as if it were a T-shirt fresh from the dryer. The meat was so thin it was translucent. He laid it carefully down on top of the bag it had come from.
“Oh right. Last night all you had your mind on was that stupid new client who couldn’t even show up on time for his meeting but he has got problems and crises galore and all you could think about was how many deadlines there will be and how many nights you’ll be buried in your little womb of an office with stale cups of coffee and pizza boxes everywhere and lots of little worker bees running in to get directions and you can sit there with your feet up and make up projects for them to do until its time for your next epiphany.”
He did not say anything. He took a piece of swiss cheese from its bag. He laid it on top of the ham, neatly.
“Its so sad.” she said. She sighed.
Now he had another piece of ham and he laid that on top of the cheese. “Its not sad,” he said. He did not look up from the stack of ham and cheese and ham.
“Its not sad,” he said again.
Now he began to roll the stack. He worked intently. A sushi chef. “It is not sad just cause I’ve got something to do that I like. If you ask me its sad not to have something to do that is worth liking.”
He rolled the ham and cheese into a tight pink tube the thickness of a cigar.
“Oh it’s sad alright.” She stared at the tube of meat and cheese as if it were a body part.
“I know, I know. You can only have a life if you are bored and tired and operating only on one lobe of your brain.” He stuck the rolled up tube into the Hellman’s jar. The jar was only half full so he had to get his hand well into the mouth and waggle it around before getting the mayonnaise on the ham to his liking.
Now he looked at her. “Tell me, you just tell me, what’s so attractive about a job where everyone spends their time thinking about how to brown nose the boss and petrified of their next presentation cause it might not project the right winning attitude for the Circle of Excellence. You tell me what so goddamn great about that.” He pointed the mayonnaise covered tube of ham and meat and cheese at her like a finger.
“I never said it was so great. Besides,” she said, “it’s not like that at all. That just the way you see it cause you need to be all puffed up with self-importance just to get through the day.”
He took a big bite. “Oh it is like that. That just how it is. A bunch of brown nose asses who don’t try to do anything productive cause they’ve got to figure out how to look like they are being loyal and energetic and magnetic and that takes up all the time in the day until they punch clock on their way out.” Another big bite. There was only a stub left. He held the stub like it was an hors d’oeuvre he’d been given at a cocktail party.
“You are so supercilious. So smug. You think that you can charge in here and put down me and my job cause you are such a big deal.”
“This was your idea.” He was licking the mayonnaise off his fingers.
She pushed back the chair. She stood up. “This was not my idea.”
“You got just what you wanted,” he said.
“This? You think this is what I wanted? Ha! You have no idea what I wanted. You’ve never had a clue what it was I wanted.”
“So tell me. Tell me what big plans you had that I spoiled. Go on. Lets hear them. Lets hear about the big plans you had.”
“You ass. I never had big plans. I only had hopes.”
“Oh you had plans alright. You had plans for me and you can’t get over the fact that I don’t fit so neatly into those plans and now you just don’t know what to do.” He slammed the refrigerator door shut.
She was quiet for a long time. “I used to think that someday you would grow up and when you did you would finally get it, but I no longer think that. You will never grow up. This is just who you are. A man with …” she struggled to find the words to finish the sentence, “…a man with…” she looked at him intently, “… with mayonnaise on his face. Yes, that it. A man with mayonnaise on his face.” She sat down hard, trembling. And then she was deflating; the air let out of her tires.
He wiped his face with the palm of his hand. Then he began to laugh. “Is that the best you can do?”
She did not say anything.
He snorted. “That’s the best you can do, isn’t it?”
He walked out of the room, taking off his suit jacket as he went. As he left the room he called back over his shoulder, “well, I’ll tell you, it’s a real epiphany. Yup, it’s a real epiphany.”
– Jay Duret