March 21, 2011

“I’m Not Worried”

In the beginning, when Clarissa said those words, I still believed that everything was possible, that by some miracle I had found something normal. Dinners with her friends, trips to B&Bs, even bowling — the opposite of everything I had done with the bankrupt artists who had no prospects.

David and his colleagues ponder the meaning of “I’m not worried.”

“I’m not worried,” Clarissa said, and not just once. We had discovered a few issues in those beginning months. Our styles of intimacy didn’t mesh completely. It was hit or miss. We didn’t care. “I’m not worried,” she said with such confidence that it filled me with an absurd euphoria every time she said it. I’m not worried. It was an expression of optimism so solid that even my cup-half-empty personality couldn’t resist it. She smiled when she said it, nodding: not worrying was a given. But soon enough, we found out that it was justified.

Almost two years later while sitting around a table in a windowless room, the walls papered with diagrams, the tabletop deep in flowcharts and sitemaps, I said to my colleagues, “I’m not worried.”

Karl, wearing an antique suit over a creased dress shirt and a thin tie, with a packet of loose tobacco poking out of his front pocket, Karl, he crossed his arms. He leaned back and he stared at the sitemap on which we had drawn several hundred boxes.

Karl shook his head.

“I’m not,” I said again. “I’m not worried.”

Karen, the dynamic idealist, said “I’m not worried either!”

Karl uncrossed his arms and placed them quietly on the table.

“I always get a funny feeling — maybe even a bit disturbed — whenever I hear that from someone.”

“That they’re not worried.”

“Right.”

“Why?”

“My girlfriend used to say it when we started going out. ‘I’m not worried.’ I wondered why she was saying it in the first place.”

“She saw that you were a pot-smoking drinker of expensive scotches, but that she wasn’t — you know — worried.”

“Right.”

“Sure, people might say it when something’s wrong, but they’re expressing confidence that it doesn’t matter.”

“Love conquers all!” said Karen, a newlywed.

“Yes. Does it?,” asked Karl.

“Not really,” I said.

“ ‘It was when she said it that I started to get worried.”

“It’s like bravado.”

“A false hope.”

“But I’m really not worried!” said Karen.

We ignored Karen. “Clarissa used to say it too,” I said. “I remember vividly her saying it. It struck me, but I didn’t know why.”

“Now you do.”

“But your girlfriend doesn’t say it anymore.”

“No. In our case it turned out she was right. But then — long-term — who knows?”

Karen’s face suddenly lost its enthusiasm. She bent her head and without a word went back to work, scribbling on our sitemap.