At my high school graduation, a friend of my mother’s gave me a basket she’d woven out of sweet grass. The woman tried to tell me the story of how she’d done it by hand, and the significance of the gift, but I barely gave the basket a glance before running to the picnic table for more burgers and soda. Later, my mother took me aside. In a pained voice, she told me about the impolite, vain, narcissistic boy she’d seen dismiss her friend and the gift she’d put so much effort and thought into.
I still have that basket. It still smells sweet inside. And I still feel ashamed when I see it.
Just over a year ago, a few weeks before I realized my marriage was going south, I was leaving work in a hurry. Andi was waiting outside to drive us over to our book club. As I clocked out, a co-worker put her forearm under my nose. Eric Carle had visited Books & Books for a signing. This co-worker, who runs our children’s section, convinced Eric Carle to draw the Very Hungry Caterpillar on her forearm, then she went and got it tattooed.
“Hey, check it out,” she said, smiling broadly.
“I saw the picture on Facebook,” I said.
Her face fell. My tone said it all; who cares? I don’t have time for this nonsense with your stupid little tattoo. It didn’t help that a co-worker saw the exchange and burst into laughter.
“Fuck you,” our children’s manager said, and walked out.
I'm sorry, I called out. I love you, I called out. It’s out of jealousy, I called out. She didn’t turn around or even break stride. Our co-worker laughed the whole time. I’m just as dismissive as I was when I graduated high school, only I don’t have the excuse of being nineteen anymore.
Maybe dismissive is the wrong word. Try rushed. Never giving the present its due because I’m living five steps ahead. It’s how the accident happened. It’s how I hurt people, all unintentionally. It's my least favorite thing about myself.
You know that children’s manager was Becky, right? Otherwise known as Cleopatra.
A year later, and I’m not speaking with the wife who picked me up. A year later, and I’m going with Becky to Tattoos by Lou to watch Mo Willem's Pigeon become permanent.
My, how the world turns.