irrational by ingridfnl

28 Feb

“She’s failing? What happened? You should be sitting next to her when she does her homework,” Sam says to his ex-wife as they leave the parent-teacher interview.

I should be? How is this my responsibility? You’re the math teacher.” she replies her voice strained, angry and sad. “Four years. Four years we’ve hardly seen you and you think that you are in a position to lay blame?”

“Professor,” he counters, “I’m a professor not a teacher. I teach advanced probability theory not multiplication and division. I can hardly be expected to teach her basic math. You’re a book-keeper. That’s right up your alley. I make regular payments. In fact, I send you more money than the agreement.” He hears bitterness try to slap away his guilt.

Marie snorts. “Advanced probability theory,” she mimics. “Whatever. You’re right. It’s all me. Everything in the world is my fault. If I did things differently I would stop war too. And as if money is the issue here. She wanted you. She asked for you. I ran out of promises to her a long time ago.”

He says nothing in reply. He can’t deal with Marie when she is this irrational. They continue walking towards the door at the end of the long hallway towards the school exit, their heel strikes echoing. Sam feels her hurt silence and the thunder of an ultimatum building in the distance.

In his head, he chastises himself for his idiocy and needless superiority–for his own irrationality. He doesn’t know where it comes from, why he can’t just shut up and why he never seems to edit himself. He covers his guilt with accusations. He knows this about himself. He hates this about himself.

He knows she is a good mother–a great mother. He is the one who was absent. Himself. The last time he saw their daughter he was surprised by how much she had grown, like some distant uncle, and felt ashamed. He felt unfamiliar with her and he was disoriented by the fact that the tiny baby who had once filled him with wonder had turned into a beautiful eight-year old who he hardly knew. He came to this parent-teacher interview to make things better but through the appointment, felt like he’d faked it through the interview, talking about a little girl he hardly knew, pretending he’d been there.

He finds himself saying, “I’m sorry. You’re right. I wasn’t paying attention to how Grace was doing in school. I’ve been all wrapped up in myself. I lost my way… I know I need to be a better father. I know it has been a long time since I’ve been a father.” It was the apology he’d never made pouring out of his mouth. His pride wants him to stop but he keeps going, “I let you carry too much of the burden for too long. I hardly know her. I’m sorry. I know I’m an ass.” It was everything he’d thought but never said.

Sam keeps walking, head down, when he realizes Marie isn’t walking with him. He looks back at her where she stands dead in her tracks about 50 feet behind him, her mouth ajar, tears in her eyes.

And Sam, for the first time, is glad his mouth speaks for him, “I want to do better. I want to be better.”

4 Responses to “irrational by ingridfnl”

  1. jadamthwaite February 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    I’m glad that Marie heard Sam apologise. I was so worried when she wasn’t walking with him that she had missed it!I really like how you used the maths as a catalyst for this rather than as the essence.

  2. jmforceton March 1, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    Excellent story. It reads natural and true to life.

    I know a couple of professors who think they are pretty special. One in particular should read this story.

  3. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    I liked that he got out of the trap of simply recognizing his own failings in his head but not acknowledging them out loud or doing anything about them. It was a very beautiful confession.


  1. awarded by ingridfnl « the character project - April 18, 2010

    […] Related stories: Probability and Irrational […]

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