Long ago when my family lived in Virginia, I had a friend (who, incidentally, doesn't send me Christmas cards) to whom I always said the wrong things. Our conversations were kind of like recurring nightmares. In one particularly bad conversation, I asked her about her plans for the weekend, and she said her family was going camping in the Shenandoahs. I responded, “Oh, you’re going this weekend? . . . Bummer, we’re busy; we won’t be able to come along.” A moment of silence passed as both she and I silently pondered why I would say such a thing, given the fact that she had extended me no invitation. Nor would she ever invite me to spend time with her family. Ever.
Attempting to shift my friend’s attention away from my social retardation, I described what I had done the previous weekend (as if she cared), after we had returned from a long road trip. “I still feel a bit overwhelmed,” I said. “I always feel that way when I get back from a trip, you know, like I’m always trying to make—catch . . . up . . . I mean—” I stuttered, struggling to maintain my train of thought.
Maria now looked utterly confused. “You were trying to make ketchup?” she asked.
And I’m like, “Um, what? I mean, catch up, like catching up—not ketchup. . . .” Maria was staring at me as if I were some pitiable housewife so far removed from the joys of modern industrialization that I would spend my days engaged in chores like building up my family’s ketchup supply.
The saddest part about this whole story is that Maria didn’t even laugh. She just accepted me for the dull wit I was, perhaps wondering what it would be like to live such a life as mine.