Out walking with his wife, they bumped into an old acquaintance of hers. On the edge of the conversation, not knowing the anecdotes or past history his wife knew, he was quietly observing this stranger. The woman was slender, fashionable, and spoke quickly, the way teenagers excitedly gossip. Though just introduced, her name had somehow slipped his mind. His wife knew her from university, or maybe high school; this detail had just been mentioned, but it too had slipped his mind. He quickly recognized his inattention and chastised himself for it.
He knew his dislike of this woman was the reason for his poor attention. From outside the conversation it had been easy for him to rapidly deduce that this stranger was utterly vapid, a woman as deep as the over-bronzed surface of her skin, who read celebrity magazines as though they were news, who bought herself the latest designer hand bag with two months salary. If she did not actually cause all the world’s ills then at least she could be a charming poster child for them.
He belatedly recognized his ill-will and chastised himself again.
It was hopeless. He was supposed to be less judgmental, less of an asshole. He had brought this up with his wife last week confessing to her that he felt he was becoming waspish and mean decades before his time. She had agreed, and then asked him what he was doing about it. He didn’t know, but told her he wanted to be more kind, more accepting. A person is simply where they’re at in life and its shameful for me to demand they be anywhere different—this was what he had told his wife. She agreed again. He pledged to her that he would try to be more kind, and no longer let judgmental thoughts run wild in his head but instead put a few kind ones there in their place.
But, by God, it was hard.
Out of the corner of his eye his wife caught his attention. She had been making some kind of unnatural gesture with her hand as she talked. Coming back out of his own head he realized she was trying to rescue him: he had been staring at this woman—what was her name? Sarah? Saman— San… Sandra? Yes! Sandra!—for far too long.
Sandra also noticed his wife’s gesture and her attention and her eyes turned to him. On his face was still frozen his expression not of attention, but of scrutiny, coloured with even a twinge of disgust. At once she read on his face that he didn’t really like her, or that he wasn’t sure if he did and was still making up his mind. Embarrassed for being so obvious, he looked away. Immediately everything amongst the three of them became awkward and strange.
Sandra turned her eyes back to his wife, said something pleasant and flat, a goodbye, then left them both without addressing him again. He had failed miserably; he admitted so to his wife. She said that unlike before he was now at least aware of it.