Here's the thing: Greg, the love of my life, the fire of my loins, etc., is reading a Vonnegut book. I didn't ask him to read Vonnegut. There are a lot of things I've asked him to do over the years, but I've never done that.
I asked him to watch a Woody Allen movie. He did.
I asked him to open up our relationship. He did. We both got crabs from a guy from Mobile.
I asked him to move to New York. He did. And then he cried the first night we arrived. "I want to go home," he wept, over and over. We didn't go home. We made a new home.
Here's the thing: Asking someone to read Vonnegut, for me, is like asking someone to breathe. "And so it goes" is, to me, like an inhale, and "hi ho" is an exhale, and it seems rude to tell someone--Greg, for instance--to take a breath. Certainly, I don't mind dragging a person several states away from where they were born, or helping someone gather pubic lice, or foisting Woody Allen upon them. But telling someone to breathe?
The first Vonnegut book Greg decided--on his own!--to read was Slapstick.
"It's not his best," I told Greg.
"Then I'll try something else," Greg replied.
"The intro changed my life."
"But you said it wasn't his best book. You just said it."
"The introduction changed my life. I don't remember much about the rest of the book."
"Should I," Greg asked, "read it or not?"
"Here's the thing. That book is considered the worst book Vonnegut wrote. People shit on it."
"It changed my life. I'm just saying. I am not the person to ask. There's a part where he talks about having a dog, and how that dog gives him unconditional love, and then he adopts his sister's children because both she and her husband got killed."
"So you're saying I should read it."
"I'm saying it changed my life. Unconditional love. It's hard to come by. So many conditions."
Listen. I get that he's not everyone's favorite author. I get that everyone, really, has an author of some kind, and that author hits a nerve, and the nerve reverberates, and when the reader comes to die, that author is still there, twanging away on the nerves.
Good. There are worse things to twang away on the nerves. Guilt, for instance. Rather than thinking "And so it goes," or "Frankly I don't give a damn" or "Call me Ishmael" or "The rest is silence," a person's nerves could twang this at the dying brain: "I should've said I love you to that one person," or, "I should've been more understanding."
When I die, I hope I'll think this: "The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be not to be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn't want to be used by anybody."
I also hope I'll think this: "Fuck I'm not ready yet."
Greg, after he finished Vonnegut's most awful novel with his most greatest intro, said this to me: Hi ho.
He also said this to me: I think I finally understand you.
Here's the thing: Telling someone you've lived with for 10 years that you 'finally understand him' is both a good and bad thing. It's like telling a molecule on your big toe that you finally understand it. It's been there quite a while, this molecule, and it's clearly there no matter your understanding.
Not gonna fuck off, this molecular big toe-manship. Understanding or not, that molecule is firmly planted into the big toe Greg looks at each morning when he second-guesses his need to get out of bed. That molecule is happy to be with Greg's big toe even when the toe is plunged into black socks, shoved into a leather shoe, and forced to bounce toward a train station.
I think I finally understand you, Greg said.
Busy busy busy. Understanding one another is what we all do. Realizing we understand: there's the thing.
Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.
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