My best behavior.
She said my best behavior. Not somebody else’s best behavior. She did not say that. But my best behavior. Mine.
And I believe we can agree, you and I can, that that is a subjective standard. Just like how my favorite song is not your favorite song. Were you to hear it, you probably would not like my favorite song very much.
My best church clothes probably would not fit you, and even if they did fit you, you probably would not wish to wear them. They are not your best church clothes. They are not objectively the best church clothes possible. Not Plato’s Ideal Church-clothes-ness. Nuh-uh.
No, when Dana – who is my wife – came in to talk to me the other day, she was specific in what she said. I even wrote it down, word for word, in the little pocket note pad I keep with me at all times. When Dana came in to talk to me the other day, this is what she said. She said, “Katy, we just hired a new associate. Partner track. And she has invited everybody in our department to her house for dinner tomorrow night.”
Dana is a lawyer, you see, and she works for a big law firm in a very tall building downtown in Houston. From way high up in that very tall building, Dana and all the other lawyers make sure that the rich people and the powerful people who make the all rules get to keep all the property that the rules they made were intended to protect.
And Dana said, “So there is going to be this dinner, and everybody is going to go and to bring their Significant Other. And I very much want you to go with me. But you understand you have to be on your best behavior.”
Now, to you, what she said there might sound a little bit patronizing. A little bit like maybe she was talking down to me. But she was not talking down to me. It is just that Dana has known me for very nearly seven whole years and that sometimes, I can be a bit challenging to bring out in public in polite society.
But I promised, and then we practiced the dinner fork thing again, and on the night of the dinner I put on some makeup and I even took an extra one of those pills the doctor gave me that keep me from screaming in public.
My best behavior. Nothing was left to chance.
And when I had dressed up in my good clothes and taken my pills – which are not your pills – and left the kids with my husband and with his husband, then Dana and I drove to a fancy pants section of town where this new associate lived with this new associate’s fancy pants husband.
So you see, it was all going splendidly and nothing was left to chance right up until the moment the new associate opened the door to greet us. For, when the new associate opened the door to greet us, what up until that moment had looked to be headed for a splendid evening of best behavior and mature adultitude, it all came to a screeching halt.
The thing is, I knew her. The new associate, I mean. Not like I knew the other associates and partners there. Most of others I know from the underground shop where I work. They all come down to buy cigarettes and Coca-Colas, birthday cards, and small bags of designer potato chips called Doritos from me all the time.
No, see, this new associate’s name is Victoria. And a long time ago, Victoria was the first person I ever asked out on a date, which is a private social event intended as a prelude to sex. A long time ago, when I asked Victoria out on this date, Victoria said this: “Ha! Haha! Why would you ever think I want to go on a date with you? Haha.”
I remember that at the time, I was surprised by this response. I did not know what to say. My face got hot and my heart did weird things and I blurted out something like, “Oh, I am so sorry. I thought you… that you were… You know, I thought you were like me. That you liked women.”
And a long time ago, Victoria said this: “Ha. Oh, I do prefer women. But what the hell makes you think that I – me! – would ever agree to go out on a date with a scrawny, bug-eyed dyke like you? Hahaha.”
That experience stuck with me for a while. I did not ask another person out on a date for a long time. Now that experience sort of came flooding back at me as Victoria opened her door to greet us. And now, as Dana introduced us, Victoria pretended not to know me and I pretended not to know Victoria. What else could I do?
Still, when I got inside, I accepted the glass of wine that was offered to me. And the second glass. I think it was a finer quality wine than the bottles I keep next to my bed. But by the third glass, it did not make very much difference.
Everyone seemed happy. The lawyers were telling lawyer stories. The couples were telling couples stories.
Five minutes later, Dana came out to find me. I was standing next to a fountain. I was smoking a cigar.
Dana, she has known me for very nearly seven whole years. She could tell something was wrong. She asked me what was going on.
I said, “Dana, I am going to burn down this house.”
But Dana said, “Katy, do not burn anything. I need this job so we can pay for our home, and for the kids’ school, and for those pills the doctor gives you that keep you from screaming in public. Love is about compromising what you want sometimes. So please, no fires.” Then she went back inside Victoria’s house.
Some more time went by and I was still outside, alone by the fountain. But five minutes later, all that changed. Five minutes later, a whole lot of people were outside, running around and screaming and throwing water from the fountain onto a row of potted plants which had gone up in flames.
The potted plants burned almost like torches. Surprisingly fast, too, actually.
No one was paying attention to me. Yet. But Dana, she walked right up to me. She waved her hands around a lot. She said, “Katy! I thought we talked about this! What did you do?”
And I said to Dana, “I compromised, Dana. Just like you said.”
And I did! I wanted to burn the whole house. Dana wanted me to burn nothing.
I compromised for love. My best behavior, just like Dana had asked.