It's what you learn after you know it all that matters.
This is my ex-wife, Amanda. And what you're seeing is that look on her face, the expression that says, Go ahead and say it; I know you're dying to say it; just go ahead. I can't wait for you to say it. I dare you. Play that card, sucker.
"I was just kidding," I said. "You think I'd spend our tax return on a dead dog?"
"When people say, 'Just kidding,' they usually aren't." She tilted her head slightly, like a poker player with a winning hand.
"What do you want me to say, then? That I wasn't kidding? That what you want?"
"What I want, Kevin, is for you to tell the truth for a change."
What I wanted to say was, One ounce of truth and you'd require CPR. That was before she left me. What I said was, "What kind of truth are you wanting to hear?" which isn't much better.
"You see, that's my point."
"How about we use that tax money to buy me a Seeing Eye dog."
"See, you're doing it again. See what you're doing?"
I closed my eyes. Picture me doing my best Ray Charles impression. It was funny then.
"You're impossible," she said. "Sometimes I hate your guts." She folded her arms and turned so that she spoke to the wall. "I really do," she whispered, a slight sniffle in her voice.
"You hate my guts?"
"All of them."
"Okay, then." I said.
She turned. One side of her face slid up to form a bad imitation of a smile. "Then we can use the money to buy the tanning bed?"
"No. About my guts. I don't much like them either. Buying a tanning bed is about the stupidest idea I've ever heard." It just came out of my mouth. Just like that.
And now Amanda turned another notch toward the wall. She drew up her shoulders like a diving bird pulls in its wings, and she began the slight trembling to communicate she was crying but holding it all inside, keeping all that suffering from entering the world. Dying, you know, from the inside out.
"I was just kidding," I said. The trembling became a quake. "Okay, okay," I said.
She drew in a fierce breath, creating a kind of gurgling in her nostrils.
"Okay? I can have the tanning bed?" she said in a whisper.
"Okay, I'm going to tell you the truth about something."
"You're doing it again," she said. "You're doing it again."
"First things first. Truth," I said. "You'll like this one. It'll make you feel better. A truth you've never heard. This one's gonna change the course of our conversation. You'll laugh."
"For once you'll let me have my way?"
We were still married, you have to understand, and what I wanted to say was, WHAT? You always get your way.
What I said was: "Truth: There are no ducks in Jesus stories. Undisputable truth."
And now she was boo-hooing.