Rob O'Donnell stood by his front window, waiting for his wife to come home from work. Suitable take-out meals were getting more and more difficult to find. Vegan , lactose-free (although neither he nor Marci were lactose-intolerant, he simply disapproved of dairy -- and every other -- form of farming). He was undecided on gluten, but thought it was better to play it safe. One local restaurant offered "free-range" asparagus and cauliflower salads, which Rob found satisfactory, at least philosophically, if not gastronomically.
By both choice and chance, they were childless. "With the way things are going in the world," Rob would ask, "is bringing another hungry life really a good idea?"
He went over the whole spiel in his head, there was no room for discussion. He knew his own heritage. O'Donnells, O'Neals, a few O'Malleys, and the odd O'Brien, so much so that his address book had run out of spaces under "O." And after college, and a few hazy St. Patrick's Day celebrations, he had stopped imbibing in any substance; he would not be a cliché.
Marci's ancestry was more of a mystery. Some Swedish, some Polish, but that was on her mother's side. Marci's father was something of a mystery. The question came up as she walked through the door.
"Uh ... hello," she said, coming home from work and puzzled by such an abrupt question. "I would have to call my Aunt Judy, she'd know. But couldn't we eat first?"
"Full-blooded Lenape," Marci said, ending the phone call.
"Le what?" Rob asked.
"Ind ... er ... Native American tribe, used to be called Delaware. So what is this all about?"
"I've been thinking about it all week," Rob said. "We really have no right to be here. Look at how we've treated African Americans, women, gays, Native Americans. We white folk all need to go back to our native lands."
"Speak for yourself, Kimosabe," Marci joked. "I have heard my father was In ... er ... Native. Tall, black hair, and according to a jealous aunt, well endowed. So where do I belong?"
"That qualifies you to stay. Meanwhile I will have to move to Ireland."
"Qualifies? Under whose rules?"
"I've traced some great grandfather, or something, to County Limerick."
"Another form of poetry you don't get, along with free verse, sonnets, and epic poetry."
"This is serious," Rob insisted. "We see what the white man has done to screw up this country. It would be best if all descendants of immigrants moved back to where they came from."
"Well, apparently mine crossed over from Siberia a long time before 1492, and no way in hell I'm moving there -- way too cold!"
"Don't you see?" Rob said, pleading. "It's the right thing. All my life I've been concerned about social justice. Now is the time to act in accordance to my principals."
"I was watching the news, late last night. Something inside me just snapped. I guess it's been building up."
"But what about us? What about those vows we took? To satisfy your family, I might mention."
"You were right, religion is slavery. Marriage is a way for men to control women."
"I never said that," Marci said, fear and anger mixed together in her voice. "I simply pointed out the fact the the word 'religion' is rooted in the Latin word for 'bound' -- and I think that had more to do with sex-play than any statement on faith; horny priest and naughty nun, most likely."
"Is everything a joke to you?"
"I wasn't joking," Marci said, her anger growing. "But nothing's funny to you anymore."
"How can people laugh at cruel, racist, sexist, homophobic jokes? Jokes that make fun of the disabled?"
"I'm a woman, and a blonde, and I find a lot of dumb blonde jokes funny. Haven't you ever found any Irish jokes funny? I'm sure you must have an uncle or so who walked into a bar with a couple interesting companions."
Rob sat down on the sofa and gazed out the window. "There is too much suffering in the world, and we turn that suffering into a joke. What kind of monsters are we?"
"Human beings," Marci insisted. "Top of the food chain. As far as we know, the highest step in evolution."
"And what if there's one higher? How will it look down on us?"
"Hopefully," Marci said, standing up, "with a sense of humor."
"Humor will destroy the world," Rob said, blurting out another of his maxims.
"Or humor might save it," his wife replied. "People take themselves way too seriously, nowadays. The internet, really, seems to be nothing but a bunch of whiny college students who think reading one book, taking one course makes them an expert at a complex topic. I think life-experience counts for more than a stack of college textbooks."
"Textbooks written by people with that experience."
"Or an ax to grind."
"Keep a people down, and what do you expect? African-Americans to look fondly at the Old South? The LGBT movement to accept Corinthians or Romans?"
"Well we both had some collegiant experimentation there, and I certainly didn't find it a life-changing experience. You?" she asked, sounding a bit concerned.
"Sadly no," Rob said, shaking his head. "But I'm sick and tired of feeling like the only one standing naked in the freakshow."
"What the hell is that supposed to even mean? And what about the love we both claimed to have for one another. Doesn't that count for anything?"
"It does," Rob admitted. "But love is a complicated luxury. We have to thing of the bigger picture -- which is more than the emotions of two people."
Marci was silent for a long while. "Then this is it?"
"I don't know. Yes I do. I'm afraid so. I'll call our lawyer in the morning."
Marci drew a deep breath, thinking things over. "I'll want the house, the SUV, and a monthly stipend of one-fourth your paycheck."
"Under unreasonable circumstances."
Within a month, they were divorced.
During the trial, Marci did get one last jibe at her now-estranged husband. "You never had a drinking problem, but you stopped drinking, afraid of being labled the 'drunken Irishman.' Yeah, clichés may be a problem -- especially when you become one without realizing it. Rob, you are a cliché -- the classic over-educated, guilt-ridden, politically correct liberal. Get over yourself!"
Author's Note: Editorial policy does not allow me to describe Rob's deliberately painful ending, perhaps an admission that his wife had been right all along. Marci grieved for nearly three years. Gradually, she recovered, started dating, using a slightly racist -- but very funny -- joke as a litmus test for potential husbands. She also briefly returned to her early experimentation, only to find women as equally messed-up as men. She eventually cancelled all of her social media accounts, and is still single, but happy, having rediscovered how much more useful a computer could be without having to be concerned about "followers."
Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-06-01
Image(s) are public domain.