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Monday, July 17, 2017

(3) "FOOD IS NOT IMPORTANT TO ME," SAID RUTH.

March 20, 1960
     Harken, Babs, to the latest Ruth episode.
     I took her to church and there I heard one of the finest sermons I’ve heard for many a long Sunday.  I suggested we have lunch at a steak house not far off.
     “Food is not important to me,” said Ruth.  “I will go home and get something, myself.”
     On the way to her place she asked to stop to see the Websters for a few minutes.  I took her there and after she had told them what was on her mind, we were about to leave when Bess said: “I suppose you’re going to lunch somewhere together.”
     “No, I said.  “I’m taking Ruth home and then I’ll go somewhere.”
     “You’re not taking me home!” said Ruth.  “I want to go with you.”  So we got into the car and started off.  Ruth began to dissect the sermon.  I would have liked to ponder it quietly but she wanted to talk about it.  Talk, talk, talk.  She took it apart and put it together again as a child might take an intricate, delicate clock apart.  She ruined that sermon for me.  John’s carefully worded talk fell apart at the seams.  She masticated it and fed it to me as a robin stuffs predigested food into her fledgling’s beak.  I got so weary of the sound of her voice that I suddenly decided I could not sit with her through luncheon.  She would fiddle with her fork and talk while I ate.  Then I’d have to sit at least an hour while she tried to finish her dinner, her teeth being poor.
     “I’ll drop you at the cafeteria,” I said, as it was near enough to her apartment so she could walk home.  “I’m not hungry, and anyway, I’m going out to dinner tonight.  I’ll have a glass of buttermilk at home.”
     Ruth got out and I drove on.  As soon as I turned the corner I headed for the steak house and there I sat in blessed peace and silence.  When I got home the phone rang.
     “I’ve been calling and calling,” said Ruth.  “Where were you?  I finally phoned your landlady and asked her if your car was in the driveway.  She said it wasn’t so of course I knew you had gone somewhere.”
     “I said: “I changed my mind after I left you and decided I could think about a story I’m incubating at the moment, and eat at the same time.”
     “Well, I wouldn’t have gone home without eating, myself, if I’d not thought we could have dinner tonight together instead of having lunch.”
     “I told you I had a dinner engagement,” I said.  “I thought you would dine at the cafeteria where I dropped you.”
     “So you went to lunch by yourself.  You told me you were going home.  It’s obvious I can’t believe what you say.”
     I said: “I have a right to change my mind.  And I wish you would not call my landlady. I don’t like having you check up on me.  It’s infuriating!”
     Cooed Ruth with a sob in her voice: “I did it because I’m interested in you.  I was worried.  I thought something must have happened to you when your phone rang and you didn’t answer.”
     “Well, don’t be interested in me, Ruth.  I don’t check up on you, so why should you do it to me?  After all I’m sixty-six years old.  If anything happens to me, you’ll be informed of it by the police, you may be sure.  Just let me alone.”
     “In other words you want me to let you think only of yourself and never consider me.”
     I have finally decided that next year when I come back I shall attend another church.  Then I wouldn’t be in the position of having to drive Ruth to church and inevitably have my Sunday ruined.  She riles me and makes a scene almost every time we are together.  She derides television and everyone who watches it, no matter with what discrimination, condemns wholesale every religion except Unitarianism, and sees the whole world through ugly dark glasses.  I fight her pessimism constantly.  If she sees a butterfly, she ignores the wings and stares at the worm.
        Why should she think she has possession of me just because she happens to be the sister of my husband . . . .

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