So I was wondering if maybe you’re putting a load of crap into that one idea that’s bothering you so much, wondering if you could Screw Up so very Importantly.
What I mean is this: suppose it is bothering you that you have to cut the grass, clean out the garage, fix the swing set, and figure out how to pay for the new driveway, and you think jesus god I can’t possibly keep track of all that AND take care of it without a cigarette,so you pick a fight with your wife over whether or not her parents like you—are you with me here, Lester?
Because that thing about her parents is just the one thing—I mean, you can keep track of whether or not her parents like you. No list required. And, in fact, you aren’t even talking about anything at all, since it’s one of those ridiculous fights you make up when you need to divert your troubles from one area of your life to another.
And you know this, so you think, this is beautiful. I don’t actually have to keep track of anything AND I’ll get a cigarette, if I can figure how to storm out of here in a huff,and it gets to be this Importantly huge fight where vile (same as evil, veil) things are said on all sides that are neither relevant nor true.
It starts, say, with you saying right out of the deep blue sky, even though—especially since–you know you might be about to get some, because she has just asked you to take a shower—it starts right here, Lester, with you saying,
Your parents hate me and never wanted you to marry me!
And she says that’s because you ran over my dad’s golf shoes and you have been thoughtless and inconsiderate to my mother every time you’ve seen her!
That’s because she just never thought I was good enough for you!
Well, maybe she was right!
Maybe she was! But she didn’t have to dump gravy on my head last Thanksgiving just because I set the table with the forks on the wrong side!
Yeah, well, your mom should have taught you how to set a table properly!
Well aren’t you little Miss Debutante.
Yes, as a matter of fact I was a debutante.
Of course you were. I had to take you away from BRAD.
What’s your problem with Brad?
He’s an asshole, that’s what.
Well he’s my mother’s hairdresser now, and how dare you.
How dare I you say—HOW DARE I?
You with me here, Lester? And you notice that you still do not have a cigarette, and you still have a load of shit to do at the house, and goddammit you just do not want to deal with it. So then you have to say it. You just have to say it. You say, Importantly,
Look, I think we should watch separate TV’s.
When really that’s the last thing you want, because when it’s all said and done, you want to smoke your goddamn cigarette and come in and watch a sexy movie with your wife, but now there’s this big thing about the whole separate TV’s, and don’t you think I should at least consider a career in fiction?
I need you stay with me here, pal—so you’re irritated about all this little shit and you think it would be easier to make up just the one thing, but by this time you have sort of forgotten what’s going on and here you are having a vile ( evil, veil) fight with your wife about whether her parents like you or not, which is silly to argue about since really it has nothing to do with your marriage, and SHE loves you and YOU love her and really the parents are a just a handy foil.
Every couple must have their fake issues. It’s part of the sacred covenant of marriage. One must never forget the importance of having the fake issues. I mean, come on Lester, you can’t possibly really talk about all the real shit—who has that kind of time?
One must never forget that the fake issues are fake, either, and that in their own Importantly Fucked Up way, they help you stay close to each other. In this Importantly Fucked Up way, your marriage is better off with the fake issues.
Maybe you might wonder why this thing is bugging you in terms of what’s going on right there in river city where The Stuff That Matters lives and grows and busts open like a pink peony and is huge and gorgeous and smells good, even if it has ants crawling on it. They fertilize the flowers. I mean, you know what they say, no buggy, no pretty.
Of course this is patronizing AND condescending, and I do apologize, but I kind of like the story and the whole idea of the fake issue being a part of the sacred covenant between a man and a woman, required so that they don’t BLOW each other UP because you forget to put trash bags in the trash after you take it out, and once you left the seat up when you were drunk, and once you forgot to tell her about a money-machine withdrawal Fastcash-Forty-Bucks,and that last time you wanted to and she didn’t, or was it the other way around, and, and, and, you see, Lester: it is just as important to have the fake issues as it is to have the Hot Married Sex.
Now that I’ve written this, I see that “fake issue” should have been the Fake Issuethroughout.
–Jennifer Woodworth, 201
Thanks to Bellow Literary Journal for first publishing “Screwing Up, Importantly” in their August, 2013 issue.