Sometimes being right isn’t enough


June 23, 1980


I called her a bitch because she has humiliated me in front of my friends.

“What the hell do you know anyway?” she said, putting down the newspaper to glare me.

The nearly empty school cafeteria echoed with her mocking tones, but anyone who was there, heard it, including Roland and a handful of people from the dormitory rooms we all called “The Morgue.”

I mumbled my bitter reply and turned and rushed out, knowing that if I stayed I would have said a lot more a lot louder, which I would later regret.

Roland followed behind me, as I started to finally rant about how little that girl knew and how I did actually know what I was talking about.

But I knew how deeply her comment got to the truth, and how all my life I was the guy who was one step behind the socially cool people, and always had to play the rebel in order to cover my humiliation.

Here, on campus, for once in my life, I thought I had become one of the cool people – not the way cool people were in high school, but rather part of the literary elite, the special breed who got to parade around with great aspirations for the future.

I acted like a literary god, and should not have.

And as ignorant as the girl was, part of the total ignorant classlessness of the middle class families that sent her here to find a husband or a future career, she and others like her were the kind of people I came from (perhaps a step lower on the food chain) and for whom I professed to write.

This did not stop the vitriol spewing from my lips, which filled the cavernous plaza of the student center we passed through at that moment.

I kept thinking of things I could have said, and even debated going back to say them.

I bid Roland good bye with a wave and took the long walk out to Lot Six where I had no need to park with so few students attending this pre-summer session, but liked the remoteness of the area some people called the airport because it looked like a series of landing strips.

I got to my car and it was so hot inside that my legs stuck to the seat when I sat, and I cursed myself for wearing shorts even though the weather justified them.

Sometimes being right isn’t enough, I thought, and recalled all those arrogant slick kids from high school I’d hated, and suddenly realized I was acting just like them, and this made me feel even worse.

Then, I got the urge to go back and apologize to the girl, and shook this thought off quickly, knowing it would resolve nothing. She would not understand the apology. She would only think she was right in the first place when she was not.

The problem is, sometimes you can be wrong even when you’re right.

This made me laugh as I started my car – but it was a bitter laugh.




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