small talk

Agatha (not her real name) and I went to college together, but we didn’t meet until much later, at the home of a mutual friend who had invited us both over for a St. Patrick’s Day feast. My notes indicate that we had corned beef made in a crock pot, Irish soda bread, and dessert from a now-closed Sicilian bakery in Andersonville. Also that we talked about the Duggar family because then, as now, they are never far from my mind, apparently.

Alex Chilton died that night. I might have gone home from dinner to stay up late, scrolling through Tumblr, liking everybody’s posts of the same three Big Star songs over and over again.

In the years since, Agatha and I have hung out a bit more. We don’t quite have the lady dates I tend to have with my other gal pals (I really don’t like the phrase “gal pals” so if you have another one, please feel free to share it with me). Which is not to say that we don’t do the same kind of things. If there is one kind of date I do well, it’s the lady date I think it is that we spend virtually no time on small talk before we get right down to some tough shit.

I’m not sure how our conversations ended up like this, where we’ll go straight to “So what new fucked up thing has your father done now?” instead of starting with “Did you hear we might get some sun at the end of the week?” or idling at “Where did you get your lipstick?” I hate it but I love it and it makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just drag my ass into therapy already.

(And I know the answer to this is yes. I know. I’ve always known it.)

This could be Agatha’s point. She gave me the name of a therapist last fall, a name buried somewhere in my email archives between trip planning notes for Ireland and ebook files I like to mail to my Kindle. I don’t remember the name, or where it is, but I know exactly where to find it.

Last week we went to a play, an edgy adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” that I did not particularly care for. I asked her if we could take off after intermission and she agreed. We walked a few blocks away, Agatha walking her bike and me stomping unsteadily in these clogs I refuse to stop wearing because I think they make my ass look better in jeans, to get a drink at Rogers Park Social (drinks were good, so you should go). We only stuck around for the one cocktail, then I walked her home. East to Sheridan, then further east to the lakefront path that winds through Loyola University’s campus.

We talked about health woes, and our parents, and then I sort of took a turn where I said that I sometimes (read: often) found it difficult to bother with looking after myself at all when I felt still felt sad and a little lonely and just weird all the time. What’s the point, I wondered, if I felt like I was doomed by genetics and unfortunate circumstances and just my dumb shitty luck. Maybe I’m just lazy to do this work with no guarantee of success or impact on the rest of my life.

Agatha, decent soul that she is, was alarmed to hear me this. I didn’t understand the alarm. And maybe that’s the problem. I get the alarm, the concern, intellectually, but in my heart, it’s taking a little time to sink in. And I didn’t know what to say to try to make her or me feel better. Which she wasn’t asking for. And then I asked if we could stop talking about it. And we did.

And then I felt better.


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