I got mad at him last night because he made fun of a bad joke I'd made.
"That was a bad old-cell-phone joke," he said, staring at me with mock sympathy. Or disgust. I'm not sure which.
I sipped my drink and scooted away from him on the couch, and when I didn't say anything, he said it again, "That was a bad old-cell-phone joke."
"I heard you the first time," I said to the television, too pissed to look at him. My face was blank, intent on watching American Idol and not him.
"I was just checking." He looked at me, waiting for my response. I lit a cigarette instead and refused to look at him. "Don't be mad because you made a bad old-cell-phone joke," he prodded.
But I was, and I don't know why. Something about it made me cringe. And he was making it worse by repeating my failure over and over again. And, so, I was mad. We'd just had a nice outing at the movies, in Milford's one and only ancient movie theatre, where they keep the temperature down to roughly four degrees and the seats too close together to ever get comfortable. We brought along beef jerky, a sack full of candy and ate through the entirety of The DaVinci Code. We laughed when he slapped my face with Twizzlers, when we complained about the early onset of hypothermia we were suffering through in the theatre. We had a great time. Then, we got home, sat down to watch the recorded finale of American Idol, and suddenly, I was mad.
Perhaps part of me was embarrassed - Normally, I would've said "Yeah. That joke sucked. I know." But the sting of humiliation forced me into anger instead. But part of me was irritated. I don't like when I'm made to feel like an idiot, and that's what Billy's comment did to me. There I was, ready to share a laugh, and there he went, telling me I wasn't funny. It made me cower, and the only way to cover my shriveling confidence was to be mad. And part of me actually, truly was. I was indignant. How dare you tell me I'm not funny? Why be such a dick about it? Why not just not laugh? Why rub it in, continue to say it, make me feel more ridiculous with each passing moment? Just let it die. Why do you want to make me feel like shit? I know he thought he was being funny, but couldn't he tell that I didn't see the humor in it?
"C'mon," he said, "don't be mad." He put his hand on my leg, took my hand from its clenched position in my lap and laced his fingers through mine.
I continued to watch the screen, breathing my way through my not-necessarily-warranted anger. Somewhere between Katherine's and Taylor's first songs, I felt the attitude slip away. I held his hand a little tighter, laughed along at jokes made the contestants' expense, actually looked at Billy when he spoke to me.
During the last set of songs, I was intent on listening. Having been a staunch Elliot fan, my favor had defaulted to Taylor. I was hoping Katherine would fuck up, so I set my ears to search for flaws in her performance. And, as she took the stage, Billy began the loud process of recalling an old conestant's name.
"It sounded like McPhee, didn't it?" I leaned in toward the television. "Mc....Mc....McVee? McVeigh? Something like that?"
"Shhh," I instructed, as Katherine launched into her first notes.
"Yeah, I think McViegh..." He was so loud. Must we shout?
"SSSSHHHH," I commanded again. For emphasis, I put my finger over his moving lips.
Still, he continued. "Yeah, McVeigh. Or McVee, something like that....MELISSA! MELISSA McVEIGH!"
In my head, all I could think of was how much I wanted to hear the competition. And there he was, doing the one of the things I hate most in this world: Talking over the TV. I could feel the irritation building in my chest, the tight feeling I get when I am so frustrated it becomes a physical feeling.
"Shut. Up." I said, louder than I'd meant to.
His face contorted into what was unmistakable disgust. "What is your problem?" He said. "What happened to you?"
And now, he was mad.
What I couldn't, can't, figure out, is if it was just reciprocal anger. Or warranted. Yes, I was a little bitchy last night. But I never snap at him, I never give him shit. I'm not saying I'm a saint, but it's not like I'm a whirlwind of emotions, bound to change at any second. Yes, I get sensitive, and yes, there are times when I'm touchy...But, overall, my mood is pretty placid. And my offense was not so horrid that it demanded an actual fight over it. But, somehow, there it was. A cold war. Because, at that point, I become too proud to apologize for something I didn't feel was so terrible. And he'd refuse to admit he was wrong.
And, so, we were at an impasse.
We went to sleep shortly thereafter, without so much as bumping into each other. I tried to open up the lines of communication by claiming my usual spot on his chest, between his ribs and his arm. But the way his hand laid limply over my back told me he was far from calling a truce.
This is so stupid. But I guess for a couple who rarely, if ever, fights, you have to expect that one was bound to erupt over absolutely nothing sooner or later.