Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 8

Well, I’m writing on a Sunday again, but this time only one week since the last entry. Something happened last night that I need to describe while the memory is still fresh in my mind.

Last week, Doug invited Shivvy and me to have dinner with him and his wife, Angie, in their apartment.

We didn’t have far to go. Doug and Angie live in the same building I do, but they have a one-bedroom since they’re married. I was going to bring a six-pack of beer, but Shivvy insisted I buy a bottle of nice white wine. She even went with me to the liquor store to make sure it was nice enough. When we got there, Doug and I had beer while Shivvy and Angie drank the wine.

Angie seemed very pleased to see us. She said that life here was kind of dull for her between waitressing, Doug studying all the time, and her not knowing anybody since she wasn’t a student. It looked like she had gone to a lot of trouble making little appetizers (I know there’s some French term for them, but I can’t think of it). Shivvy commented that although their apartment was a lot larger than mine, it was also a lot neater.

Doug and I mainly talked about neo-radicalism and how we each hoped to extend it, leaving the two girls to chat by themselves. I know that sounds kind of sexist, but it wasn’t our fault that they didn’t want to talk about neo-radicalism with us. It looked like Shivvy was helping Angie in the kitchen anyway.

Dinner was excellent! Angie had made jambalaya for us, and we toasted her for it. For the vegetable, she had fried up okra. I’ve never liked okra before, but the way Angie cooked it was terrific.

Angie said that since she and Doug really didn’t have a social life, she wanted to make this dinner special. Doug denied that they had no social life. Just last weekend, he reminded her, they had gone over to Barrington Briggs’s house for dinner.

“You don’t mean Professor Briggs, do you?” asked Shivvy incredulously.

“That’s the one!” said Doug, clearly quite pleased with himself. “He told us to just call him Barry.”

I have to admit, I was not happy to hear this. To tell the truth, I was jealous that I hadn’t been invited too.

“What was the occasion?” asked Shivvy. “Were there a lot of people there?”

“It was just us,” said Doug, with what I thought was an artificial nonchalance. “No special occasion.”

“Maybe he invites each of his students over in turn,” Angie added, apparently trying to soothe me. She didn’t succeed.

“What’s his house like?” asked Shivvy.

“Oh, it’s real nice,” said Angie enthusiastically. “He’s got a lot of interesting art work.”

“He calls it `neo-radical art,’” chimed in Doug. “It’s all by artists from nations struggling for freedom from oppression.”

“Is that what it was?” said Angie. “He should come by where I work. We’re all oppressed, and I’m sure we could draw him a picture too!”

We all laughed at this. I don’t know why, but I was surprised that she could say something so clever.

“Jeez!” exclaimed Shivvy. “I can’t believe Briggs actually lives in a house. We all thought he lived in the library or some place like that.”

We all laughed at this too. Shivvy saying something clever was no surprise at all.

“Actually,” said Doug in a more serious tone, “I think he invited us over because he’s interested in my critique of Faircloth and the neo-liberals. He’s wrestling over precisely what angle to take on them in his new book.”

“Oh yes,” I said, trying to act knowing. “I remember he mentioned that at the International Relations Association conference.”

“Right. I’m helping him with some of the finishing touches,” Doug added.

I was getting increasingly jealous. “You’ve seen it?” I realized what a stupid question this was as soon as I had asked it.

“I could hardly help him with the finishing touches if I hadn’t,” Doug responded, with more than a hint of condescension.

Apparently sensing that this line of conversation was not promoting sociability, Angie tried to change its direction by saying, “Oh, Doug! Barry wasn’t just interested in hearing about your old critiques. He was interested in my ideas, too.”

Doug stared at his wife for a moment, and then in a highly sarcastic tone, responded, “Of course, he was interested in your ideas, Angie. We all are, I’m sure.”

Poor Angie. The sweet smile on her face of a moment ago was instantly replaced by a look of utter pain. It was clear she was about to cry, but she got up from her chair and ran into their bedroom before doing so.

I was stunned by what had just happened. I didn’t know what to say. As usual, though, Shivvy did. “As a matter of fact, I am interested in her ideas,” she said. She then got up from her chair, went over to the bedroom, and closed the door behind her.

“Oh, shit!” said Doug when we were alone. “These Southern girls are so damned sensitive.”

“Maybe, but that really wasn’t a very nice thing to have said to her,” I responded. (I think I said that. If I didn’t, I should have.)

“She started crying over something I said when we were at Briggs’s place, too. It was really embarrassing.”

We talked desultorily for awhile about Trizenko’s situation, but both of us were really listening for any sound coming out of the bedroom. “Maybe you’d better go apologize,” I said after awhile. (I think I really did say that. I should have said it sooner. But then again, I shouldn’t have had to say it at all: he should have just gone and done it right away.)

Just as he was getting up, the bedroom door opened. Angie came out with Shivvy behind her, with her hands on her shoulders. Doug hurried over, and said, “I’m really sorry, honey,” in a much quieter and meeker tone of voice than I was accustomed to hearing from him.

“We have dessert!” she announced brightly, ignoring him. “I’ve made pecan pie!” She and Shivvy then went into the kitchen and made a show of bringing the pie out and serving it up.

We all—especially Doug—told Angie how great it was, and she thanked us nicely. The strain, though, was still there. As soon as we’d finished our pie (which was awfully good), Shivvy and I left them to what we were sure was not a night of bliss.

On the way back to my place, Shivvy told me about what transpired in the bedroom. Angie completely collapsed into tears, and complained bitterly about Doug. Before they came to Charles, he had treated her more or less as an equal, but ever since he had started the program here, he treated her disdainfully and generally took her for granted. She was also terribly lonely since she didn’t know anybody here except the people whom she met at work and through Doug. The former did not exactly share her interests in international relations, and the latter did not take her seriously. And with Doug talking to her in front of others the way he had in front of us, nobody was going to take her seriously either. Besides Shivvy and me at the party we had and again tonight, Angie related, Prof. Briggs was the only person here who had bothered to talk to her.

How sad. Well, I’m sure Doug and Angie will work things out. Despite what happened last night, I know that Doug is a really humane guy. He’s a neo-rad, after all.
I am puzzled, though, as to why it is that Doug has managed to get so much closer to Briggs than I have. What am I doing wrong that Doug is obviously doing right? I’m going to write up that critique of Saltz and hand it in to Briggs as soon as possible. Maybe then he’ll invite me over for dinner too!

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