Saturday, September 17, 2011

Option 7

It was only a button, a button separated from its garment, lying in the palm of his hand, eyeing her, accusing her, the flat black pallor of the button reflecting his attitude, not his face, but his attitude. His face was impassive as always, smoothly handsome, sharp nose, ice blue eyes, lips too full for a man of his age, a bit of grey perfectly streaked above his ears.

Her mother mistrusted handsome men. “Don’t go out with a man prettier than you, “ she would say and then laugh because she had done just that, gone out with handsome men. “My Hollywood years,” she said and then let it drop that she had kissed Cary Grant, or was it Clark Gable? CG. Those were the initials. All Marcia could remember, but her mother hadn’t married them, just kissed and told.

Marcia had married her own CG, Charles Goodwin. It was a strong name, a handsome face, slight charm, but . . .

There’s always a but . . . a button this time, off his suit coat no doubt, middle button, her fault, held steady in the palm of his hand. She considered her options.

Option 1: Duck her head in silent apology, sew the button on quickly, hand him the jacket, the briefcase, get him out the door. Over. Done with. Problem solved.

Option 2: Wait for him to speak, to explain why he is standing before her in his starched shirt, black tie, creased slacks, holding a button in the palm of his hand at 7:08 in the morning, 12 minutes before they both should be on the train.

Option 3: Pretend she doesn’t see him or the button, finish buttoning her own suit, apply mascara, blush, lipstick, step around him if he is still there, and make the 7:20 train.

Option 4: Same as 3, but tell him where the sewing basket is.

Option 5: Say what in the hell do you expect me to do with that fucking button? and then proceed to option 3.

Option 6: Same as 5, but without the f- word.

She quickly reviewed options 2 through 6—option 1 was never seriously considered—wondered what a mediator would suggest, something with an “I” statement, no doubt, as in I don’t have time to sew on your button. No, that’s too close to accepting responsibility for doing it.

I keep the sewing basket . . .No. We keep the sewing basket in the closet in the family room.

Or they sew on buttons at the cleaners.

The mediated sentences are helpful without accepting responsibility, but so dissatisfying when CG is still standing there with the accusatory black button in his hand.

Wait. He’s about to speak.

“Is this yours? I found it under the bed.”

Option 7: Remember that the obvious, early solutions may be based on incomplete information or false assumptions.

© 2011 Kathleen Coskran