Define “good”. I bet cha you can’t. Well, not precisely. Not on the dot, not really.
You will grapple with your memories of what it must’ve felt like — to be “good” — but you won’t really know what moved you, to be that way. To make that choice. Maybe it was something your parents have taught you (or whoever made up for your parents). But all you will manage, at best — is to spew out a few other ambitious words, or juxtapose “good” against antonyms, equally as vague and forsaken.
“It’s the opposite of that… You’ll know it when you see it!” you conclude, perhaps impatiently.
Maybe, you’ll have better chances at recollecting memories of when “good” was being done to you: Because it’s always easier to accept, than to give it. Not many protest when they are submerged into someone else’s “goodness”. (Well, at least, not until the self-loathing kicks-in, and they start splashing around in it, like a hysterical woman in a jacuzzi, making a fuss about her hair.)
Some of you will go full-fledged to religion or philosophy: Someone surely must’ve written about “goodness”, even if they’ve forsaken it right after. Oh maybe, poets have captured it, that wretched lot of humanity!
“I know this, I know this!” some of you will slap your foreheads and snap your fingers in space, as if trying to remember a name of an actor from one of those black-and-white movies we’ve all agreed to treat as a masterpiece. Or that tune — “What’s the name of it? I know this, I know this!” — and it’ll get stuck in your head for hours after.
And many of you will smile, while searching for the answers. Yep. Experts say it takes extra muscles to smile — another degree of an effort, fully committed. Willing. Kind of like “goodness”, no?
The other day, I had frantically reached for the definition of “my goodness” to the woman, who, on this planet, besides my motha, has known me the longest. For years, this relationship was based on having nothing to prove to each other; and having nothing to need. No matter my own idiotic choices throughout our history, she had never offered up a judgement: Because she is “good” like that.
As before, she took her time answering, just so she could do it precisely. On the dot. Because she is “good” like that! She couldn’t have known that my urgent need for her reassurance had come from an accusation by a scorned lover. (Oh my goodness!) I waited for her response.
In the mean time, I went off to stumble around my day in a state of some sort of walking sleep. I bounced between my commitments, occasionally pulling over to the side of the road to jot down lists of “good thing” — things I was grateful for; things that I was hoping to discover later, just so that I could be grateful again.
I stopped by a girlfriend’s office: She had been missing me, she said. Always a stunner, this time around she looked even sharper.
“Sorry, I’m such a mess,” I said in comparison, pulled up my dress, then zipped up my jacket to hide it altogether.
“Nah,” she said, chewing on the black cherries I’ve brought her. “I dig this look on you.”
She was busy. I drove off. In traffic, my phone lit up with her name:
“U r always so good to me!” said the text.
I felt dizzy. Pulled over. Jotted down a few things. Remembered I needed food, got myself to the closest store. In the “Canned Goods” aisle, I suddenly felt the urge to weep: Months ago, in the same store, in a similar aisle, my departed lover had confronted me — with goodness:
“Look at you,” he had come upon me unexpectedly. “Smiling at strangers.”
Clutching my random future purchase, I stared at the labels. A gorgeous girl with a headful of Grecian curls reached around me:
“‘Scuse me,” she smiled. I smiled simultaneously despite my face feeling exhausted. Sorry: I’m such a mess. I watched her choose a can of hominy beans (not chickpeas!) and smiled again:
She looked back — “Yes?” — and smiled. (Damn: That’s pretty!)
“Your tag’s sticking out,” I said, and without waiting for her to feel embarrassed, I reached for the back of her neck and fixed it.
In my car, I took a few bites of the food: Not feeling it. Jotted a few more “good things” down. Started the car, pulled out, waited for all the pedestrians to cross. (They tend to look so disoriented, in this city.) Started driving, pulled over again. Got out, grabbed my lunch; walked over to a man reading a newspaper in the bushes, with a nearby parked shopping cart.
“Hey, Keith,” I said.
Keith raised his face. Sweat was dripping off his face and onto the newspaper. He looked unusually bewildered.
“You want this? I just bought it. Not feeling it.”
I unloaded my hands into the shopping cart, and without waiting for him to feel embarrassed, got back into my car.
Three locks to get into my apartment: One down, two to go. Matching the keys to the keyholes, I was trying to keep myself upright.
“V!” a kid stormed out of his apartment down the hall. He always storms out — out! around! — and he speaks in exclamation points. Already in the midst of some anecdote, as if we didn’t have a couple of days since seeing each other last, he was making me laugh. But I was still playing the matching puzzle of the keys to the holes.
“Where are you going?! What are you doing?!”
I laughed. “I gotta do some work, silly goose.” (In truth, I was just anxious to find the definition of “my goodness” — precisely, on the dot — on the screen of my laptop.)
“Well, lemme take a picture of you!”
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m such a mess!”
“Nah! You kidding! I dig this whole look on you!” — and without waiting for me to feel embarrassed, out came the kid’s iPhone.
He stormed out. I decoded my locks. In the darkness of my apartment, while I was waiting on my laptop, the phone lit up with a text:
“…and you deserve all the best! All the best!”
Experts say it takes extra muscles to smile — another degree of an effort, fully committed. Willing.
Kind of like “goodness”.