Storyglossia Issue 20, June 2007.

What Was Meant

by Elizabeth Ellen


She didn't mean what she said. I'm fairly certain of that. Or, if she did mean what she said, she probably didn't mean for what she said to come out the way that she said it. Perhaps she didn't mean for it to come out at all. I remember she turned her head slightly to the left afterward (I was on her right), a gesture I interpreted at the time as regret, though it is possible, in hindsight, that she turned her head to the left to clear her view (she has very long hair, this woman) and the thought of regret never even entered her mind. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. I have not known her long. She is not one of my oldest friends. She is not, technically, my friend at all. She is the wife of a friend. This is the fact I find most irritating. I am often irritated when forced to make small talk with women who are married to friends of mine. I do not like small talk and am not good at making it. I was already annoyed at being left alone with her. This was before she made the remark in question. Perhaps if I had not been so annoyed I would not have been listening quite as carefully to what she was saying and would not now be hearing her words over and over again in my head as though they were an oral grocery list or set of daily affirmations. I don't want to think that she meant what she said. What she said was very unkind. If she meant the unkind thing that she said it stands to reason she is an unkind person and if she is an unkind person what sort of person then is my friend, her husband? I have always believed my friend to be a kind man. Perhaps he too is unkind but is better at disguising his unkindness. I cannot remember a time when my friend acted in an unkind manner or made an unkind remark but maybe this is because I am never annoyed at being left alone with him and therefore pay little attention to the things he does and says. It is possible he has made many unkind comments in my presence over the years. He has very unusual eyes, my friend, the color of molasses, and I often find myself staring into them as though held in place by a visual stickiness. His wife's eyes are not unique. They are blue or green or some combination of the two. They are a color you would expect.

Copyright©2007 Elizabeth Ellen