Argument's Aftermath

Michael Bennett



So I'm a selfish bastard, am I? Ok, then, I'll just move out on your sorry ass to my own mirror-lined efficiency apartment. I will sew a big loopy initial onto all my clothing, just like Laverne in Laverne and Shirley, and I'll write my name on all my underwear in my role as an overprotective mother sending myself off to summer camp. I'll find that old catalogue where I can order boxes of number 2 pencils with my first and last name etched in gold on the variously colored shiny lead-paint finishes. And I'll get one of those Popeel Labelomatics, with which I can print out endless supplies of my moniker onto little pieces of metallic tape that can be stuck to each and every item in my apartment. There will be no YOURS and you have forfeited the right to an OURS; there will only be MINE, MINE, and again, MINE.



So I tell you to meet me at midnight on the corner of 34 th and 7 th. When you arrive, I am standing on the very pinnacle of the Empire State Building (my favorite silhouette in the skyline; you know this). I pinpoint you as soon as you arrive—some supersecret government project in highmagnification-nightvision binoculars—and direct a spotlight to the exact spot so that you are visible to all you friends and family, whom I have also invited. In front of all these people, I accuse you of various crimes (with the help of a special highintensity, ultrafidelity megaphone funded by the same government project): callous disregard for my feelings and self-respect; crushing my already fragile ego ideal; financing a coup to overthrow a small Banana Republic (the store, not a country); and, ultimately, manslaughter—for you have led me inexorably to this desperate act. I then take a perfect swandive from atop Gotham's most famous landmark and, in a final crippling blow, purposefully aim for your favorite cousin.



So I leave you for this fabulously talented total bottom who has made it abundantly clear from Day One that he would, if given half a chance, live only to serve me. But after awhile we both grow tired of his subservience. Plus, he insists on monogamy while not being able to meet all of my needs. He tries to become versatile but has no idea where to put his hands. And this leads to terrible arguments—we're right back where we started.



So I leave you for this prodigiously talented (this is a euphemism) total top who has outlined precisely how my every longing and desire would be fulfilled through total service to his every need and whim. But after awhile we both realize that he is not cut out for total domination and I am far from being naturally passive. Also, my talents turn out to be more impressive than his own, which causes him to flip onto his back faster than an opossum playing possum. This leads to several heated exchanges—oops, here we are again.



So I move back in with my parents and admit that they were right all along: it really was just a phase.



So I hop the next Lufthansa leaving for Stockholm and after a few snips and folds set off on my new career to be the perfect wife. But, come on, no one's perfect. And before long my husband admits to a whole host of deviant desires that are much more complicated than the mostly vanilla sex I had back when I was gay. When we reach the point at which I am using a strap-on with him almost every time, I realize how much I miss my original equipment, which leads to bitter recriminations and my all-consuming obsession to build a time machine and travel back to warn myself before I make that trip to Sweden.



So I hit you upside the head with a frying pan to the comic accompaniment of an exaggerated BOING sound and a Wa-Wa-Wa downward trombone slide as you go stiff as a board and topple backwards like a felled tree, leaving a several foot deep indentation in the linoleum that exactly outlines your body, as twittering birds circle around your head and your eyes turn into giant Xs. The cheesy laughtrack cannot hide my tears, which become so copious that a passing mouse puts out his hand and looks skyward for signs of rain. Returning to his hole and reemerging with a tiny yellow slicker, matching galoshes, and spiky black umbrella, the mouse and I give each other an over-the-top shrug before he disappears in a WHOOSH with trailing line drawings indicating the breeze as he vamooses just in time to avoid the cat that rounds the corner in hot pursuit.



So I report you to all the authorities I can think of—the FBI, CIA, NSA, and AAA; the fashion police; Wikipedia; the dauphin; Oprah; the Surgeon General; the Secretary General of the United Nations; General Electric—for your crimes against humanity in general and me in particular. Filing lengthy forms in triplicate with the help of reams of old-fashioned and much used carbon papers, I grease some palms and back up off some backsheesh to move to the front of the queue and have my complaint expedited at light speed, which means that you are prosecuted even before The Argument occurs, thus avoiding the whole incident.



So I decide that I will make various lists of all your many faults that justify me as being on the correct side of each and every misunderstanding. I start with a list of simple hygiene—1) Suffering from sinus problems as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore, you leave Kleenexes—little packages of snot—that spread throughout the house like a wildfire of phlegm; 2) Addicted to clipping fingernails and toenails down to the nub, but not to accuracy of collection and disposal, you plant little keratin landmines to be stepped upon in bare feet late at night; 3) Out of some perverse fear that flushing the toilet will have a lasting deleterious impact on the water temperature and pressure of your shower, you frequently forego flushing and then forget about it afterwards, causing the bathroom area and, in fact, whole apartment to become a fetid miasma;...This list takes me through the first day and night with no pause for food or drink. The next list is of ingrained character flaws—1) Not fighting fair by always going for the ad hominem attack at loud volume, when you know I can't keep up what with my WASP training to channel anger into internal diatribes while swilling sherry over very tense games of bridge; 2) When all else fails, lapsing into a silence as deep as eternity, retreating into your shell like a fossilized turtle that will never stick its neck out again;...And I go on with this list for another few days and nights, slowly wasting away from dehydration and feeling the early effects of starvation. At that moment, I make a list of imagined responses to The Argument, starting with a fiesta of narcissistic cocooning involving monogrammed clothing and a Labelomatic. And I go on making these lists even after I have cast off my earthly form—lists that circle back on themselves in a Möbius of fear, anger, and doubt, both lacerating and self-flagellating, proving, irrefutably, that any notion of heaven or hell is completely beside the point.


True to our resolve never to go to bed angry, we crawl beneath the covers muttering "good night, I love you"s. In reality, you have forgotten how mad we are supposed to be, and I can't even remember what sparked The Argument in the first place. Heading towards blissful forgetfulness, I roll onto my favored left side so you can spoon me from behind, our bodies following a path too well worn ever to need or want to break free.


Michael Bennett, Professor of English at Long Island University (Brooklyn), has published several books and articles, as well as poems in The Redneck Review of Literature, Downtown Brooklyn, Podium, and Hawk and Handsaw.