Who’s afraid of ennui?

My first boyfriend was perfect on paper. He was the quarterback of my high school’s rival (edgy!) He was an all-star point guard. He was the pitcher for the city’s baseball team. He was polite to my parents, when I sanctioned any sort of dialogue between the two. And he drove a motorcycle.

But he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, which I discovered on a date driving into the Big Metropolis of London, Ont. to see a movie. I can’t remember how we got on the topic of dinosaurs, but I do recall him turning to me and saying, “Yeah, but how do we know dinosaurs existed? Like, actually lived?”

Not knowing where to start, I probably patted him on the shoulder, thought about him in his baseball uniform and escaped reality in the dark theatre where we probably watched Home Alone.

He also had a part-time job at a gas station. One summer afternoon, some girlfriends piled into Patti’s minivan to get ice cream. Somebody suggested we visit “Chet,” my boyfriend, at the station. We pulled up. Patti put the minivan in park. I was about to get out. As Chet approached the vehicle, Patti shifted into drive and sped past him. (You know that classic old gag.) Survival instincts kicked in and I clutched my ice cream cone with dear life and allowed my body to roll out of the minivan and tumble along the pavement.

My elbows and knees were bloodied, and I was terribly embarrassed. But not a single drop of my ice cream cone had been sacrificed. I had saved it.

This memory came flooding back to me last night. I’d just poured two glasses of a brunello that the Beast purchased with a $50 work bonus. Twin Peaks was queued. The pizza box was positioned on the coffee table. We were ready to devour its contents. With a slice in hand, I attempted to close the box, but one of the little cardboard corners was jutting out so I had to extend the lid back to free it. In doing so, I knocked over both the bottle of brunello and the Beast’s glass.

Instead of saving my pizza slice, which instinctually came crashing up against my white T-shirt–sauce-side up–then was thrust down to the floor, I went for the precious wine. Screaming, I fell to my knees and crawled to the other side of the coffee table, grabbing the bottle of wine and saving most of its contents. But the Beast’s glass was a goner.

In that moment, I realized that I’d really grown up. The need for inebriation, it seemed, had trumped the necessity of food.

We cleaned up the wine stains, chuckled, and continued on with dinner. Then a frightening thought occurred to us: It was 7:30 p.m on a Saturday night and we only had 3/4 of a bottle of wine to share.

“I could bike to the LCBO after this episode,” I offered.

“No, that’s crazy,” the Beast replied. “We’ll be fine.”

When the brunello was gone, however, the Beast had a change of heart.

“If you go to the LCBO, I’ll tidy up,” he offered.

Because there are no dishes when we eat take-out pizza, this meant sweeping the pile of crust crumbs that accumulate in front of the Beast and wiping up my hot chilli peppers oil stains from the coffee table.

“Deal,” I said. I went upstairs to put on a bra. The Beast followed me. He insists on playing music, as though our life needed a constant soundtrack for ever occasion. He chose Lady in Red. We danced, as we often do, not together–but for the other, to see whose dance can elicit the most laughter.

Then he played The Thunder Rolls.

“Whoa, what song is this?” I asked.

“Are you kidding me? It’s Garth Brooks!”

Our bodies began to move–separately, but symbiotically. I was like an ancient Maenad possessed with passion and really good rhythm. With one hand I strummed an imaginary guitar. With the other, I tapped an imaginary snare drum.

Then I went to make a move on the Beast.

“You have pizza sauce all over your face,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said, trying to find that sweet spot on his neck. “So what?”

What happened next was a first–not for me (I say it on a weekly basis), but for him: “I’m too full of pizza,” he said.

Defeated, I rode to the LCBO and purchased two bottle of white wine for under $20. Then we watched three more episodes of Twin Peaks.

Have we become a modern daycversion of George and Martha? It’s a thought that occurred to us when we watched Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf one night last week.

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“You know, Mike Nichols might be the one of the most underrated directors,” the Beast said as we started the film with slices of rhubarb galette that I’d made.

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“Oh yeah. He directed Mrs. Robinson, right?”

“Or The Graduate, as it’s known to normal people.”

The film, starring, of course, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, hit a little too close to home. Our trials, however, are not nearly as tragic: we know nothing of the trauma of not being able to conceive a child. Our afflictions consist of malaise, over-drinking, self-obsession and the occasional existential crisis, which we attempt to remedy by eating oysters and sipping on martinis–expensive pursuits that are easily accessible to us, thanks to our bountiful disposable income not eaten up by day care and diapers.

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Our suffering is mediocre, and we have no interest in modern remedies–Yoga, spirituality, therapeutic crystals and herbs, acupuncture or The Secret.

For now, there is only dance.

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5 responses to “Who’s afraid of ennui?

  1. I feel this may appeal to you at this moment. Never mind the techno, it’s all about the words:

  2. Thank you for giving me the giggles on a Sunday night.

  3. This just brought a big smile to my face. You were bloody but not a drop of ice cream was spilled! I would’ve save the wine also!

  4. Connie Keeler

    Again, thanks Jess. You started my day with a grin!

  5. Delightful as always! We recently watched The Graduate, which prompted some quick research on Mike Nichols. I was shocked to discover he directed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It seems like an odd fit. As my boyfriend said, “he seemed to have been connected to cool stuff in the ’60s, but since then…”

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