Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 2, Part 1

Toward the end of summer, 2008

There he was: pixilated and miniaturized on his own television, chasing after someone else’s game like a dog chasing cars. His striped referee uniform suddenly struck her as ridiculous, Boy Scoutish, or worse, hall monitor-like, the official garb of some nominal post conferred out of pity. He inhabited it like a proud little boy on Halloween, for whom uniforms are the mantle of adulthood. The black and white stripes, which in this context meant he could only ever be a neutral observer, had historically meant prisoner.

“At least they’re not horizontal stripes. That would be a disaster,” Lynette hissed, smirking with wine-stained teeth that probably would have mortified her had she seen them. “Especially with that gut of his.”

Amy took a sip of her wine and smiled, hoping Lynette would get the hint. As usual, the smile felt rusty and strained. It seemed that her mouth, these days, was capable of only the crudest reflexes of self-preservation—frowns like twitchy, synaptic dead-ends, sighs that felt like screams , gummy, alienating rictuses. She could no more have managed a genuine smile than a wild animal could; it wasn’t in her nature anymore.”

Best, then, not even to try.

“Look at you.” Lynette somehow managed to completely misinterpret Amy’s grin as a desire to be kissed. She moved closer and brushed back Amy’s hair. The look on her face was gentle now, and Amy felt her own hypocrisy—she wanted to kiss Lynette almost as much as she wanted Lynette to leave

This would be a good kiss, unlike others recently.

Their mouths met warmly, with a slow, sad exchange of consolation. But they broke apart when the lights suddenly flickered, as if they were going to go out. Amy’s house was deep in the valley, in a suburb called Thousand Oaks, but she’d heard on the news that there’d been another series of power outs over the weekend in and around West Hollywood.

L.A. was the second largest city in the richest country in the world, yet the DWP couldn’t manage to figure out what was causing all these black outs—an absurdity, as far as she was concerned.

For a moment, she almost wished the power would go out, so she wouldn’t have to listen to her husband’s voice, now booming again from the TV.

Lynette inclined her elegant chin toward the monitor, where Greg stood straight-backed, serious, clearly exhausted. “He looks like he’s about to keel over,” she said. “Jesus, is he dying? What a schlub.”

What people never really understood was how much exercise Greg got on the field. He was continually in motion, keeping up with the players, following the ball others fought over, that he couldn’t touch. Most evenings, he came home exhausted, aching, and fever-chilled by his own evaporating sweat. “People seem to think the referee just ends up in the middle of the action by magic,” he would sigh, causing her to bury her head deep into the goose-down pillow, turning a sharp shoulder blade into his familiar tirade. “They really don’t give a damn how I get there.”

Amy had never wanted to be one of those shoulder blade-turning wives, the kind of women in movies who she’d always, always hated. Those bloodless women who didn’t know how to say the one thing that mattered most, whose unspoken thought was so oppressively loud it practically showed up as a subtitle.

But that was what she’d become, and she didn’t entirely blame herself. If she were to voice her thoughts, they would be cruel beyond belief. So she kept quiet and let this virtual stranger, Lynette, say all the terrible things for her.

She had met Lynette at a pottery class that may as well have stated in the brochure that it was for dowdy, listless wives in search of self-improvement. Several misshapen bowls later, Amy hadn’t found self-improvement, but she’d found in Lynette a lightning rod, a conductor for the scorching rage she, herself, was becoming too tired to sustain.

“Oh, look at him up there, with his decisive hand gestures,” Lynette scoffed as Greg made a call against Clemson for holding. “He looks like a flight attendant pantomiming safety instructions.”

Actually, this was true, and Amy was amazed she’d never noticed it before. Greg might as well be pointing out the nearest exit row. He might as well have been telling the people sitting there that if they felt unable to carry out those responsibilities, they should request a different seat. Did anyone really ever make such a request? Who’d admit to being unable to handle their responsibilities, before they were even faced with them?

“Holding,” Greg said loudly; his purposeful voice was an official one, and free of personality or personal intention. “Five yard penalty plus first down against the defense.”

Loud, male boos rung out like a laugh track. Amy wondered why the boos of men somehow sounded more convincing, more substantial, than those of women She actually couldn’t remember ever having heard a crowd full of women booing; she couldn't even begin to imagine what it would sound like.

Holding: she'd once joked that it sounded almost romantic, years ago. Now, she saw it for what it was: an unfair tactic of holding another player back, detaining them from the ball; foul play. Punishable by a setback in yardage, a stopping of the clock.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 of Chapter 2 tomorrow!)

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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