The Norm of Evil

Published October 23, 2014 by Sandee

I told my neighbor once that I want to be Kathleen when I grow up. “Oh really!” He said, looking at me sideways. Though we love her, she has a reputation for being — mean. Kathleen’s old, 87, and lives two floors down from me. She never married and rides her bike everyday. I gave her the bike helmet my dad bought me fifteen years ago. I was too vain to wear it. She still uses it. She’s feisty, independent and has a foul-mouth. She’s pretty with a pixie cut, sharply-defined chin and clear eyes. Kathleen came from Ireland in the ‘50s and has a slight brogue. When I’m running to and from like most people, she’s ambling along the street with Molly Malone, the tiny dog she named after a prostitute. “Oh hurry, hurry, hurry! — It’ll be the death of you, dear!” She’ll screech after me, her way of expressing the slight she feels when “we youngins” don’t have time to shoot the shit with her.

Her voice sweeps up in cadence at the end of her biting observations. I found her “observations” at one time quaint and refreshing. “Ooohhh what a little cunt that one is!” She’d say referring to the old French woman Hélène who lived in this building. I sort of agreed with that observation, but later decided that Kathleen had too many “observations” about people and that perhaps I didn’t want to be like her. She was too damn mean.

On her way to church, she told me about the woman she took to emergency one night. “Oh, Sandee she’s ab-solutely looney tunes! I picked her up and she was dripping in jewels as if she were going to the ball – when we were just going to the fucking emergency room.” The woman happened to have just walked by. Kathleen more or less talked about her in front of her face. “That’s not nice, Kathleen,” I said.

Another time she said she hated the banality, “Have a nice day.” I told her that we could use it as a euphemism for “fuck off and die.” So then I’d see her while I was rushing in and out the way she hates and I’d say in passing “Have a nice daaay!”

Yesterday she had the sweetest demeanor. I hadn’t seen her in a while. I hugged her. I know she needs love. She just gets on my nerves with that negativity shit – to the point where I avoided her last summer. She said, “I don’t know why I’m so happy all the time now.” There was a trembling vulnerability about her. We talked. “I was even humming earlier – that’s not me — for God’s sake Sandee, I think I’m going senile!” She said. Before I finished laughing she asked if I had planned to freeze my eggs, switching the subject quickly the way old people do often because of the ticking clock. “I hate eggs,” I told her. “These eggs.” She pointed to her stomach. “Hell no. I hate kids – I mean I don’t hate kids, I just never thought I needed any,” I said. Perhaps she was advising me on the regrets of not seizing time.

As we departed, she told me that I was the second person who’d hugged her that day. Finally, she said she got a diagnosis from the doctor. She had dyscrasia, she explained. But she said she felt healthier than a horse. “I’m ill,” she said, however. She didn’t look the least bit. I told her to please call or come up anytime – she has my keys. “Get a second opinion,” I advised. She was so pretty, small and delicate, possibly the side-effect of the news. It was a definite departure from her norm of evil.

33 comments on “The Norm of Evil

  • Sandee, I think whenever we’re faced with our own mortality, we’re compelled to be a less turdish, or if you prefer, evil. It sounds like Kathleen might be one of those oldsters who could reach 100, even with a diagnosis of dyscrasia. At 87, you’re bound to have something.

  • So I had to go and look up dyscrasia, because that’s what we hypochondriacs do: look up diseases so we can imagine we have them. It didn’t sound great, but it might not be horrible. I don’t know. I refuse to learn anything else about it because I don’t need any more diseases to imagine. I hope Kathleen is just too stubborn to let it get to her. Give her a hug from all your internet friends.

    • You too — with the hypochondria — hahaha! I’m getting lots better. It was really bad for me oddly enough through my teen to late twenty years, then I learned to breathe and understand that I wasn’t the center of the earth — not that all hypochondriacs have that particular strain — I considered mine to be a form of narcissism.

      Now I probably should be going more often to doctors but I don’t — I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum now!

      How sweet, Mary — I certainly will give her a hug from you guys! And I hope your mom’s doing better…

  • Kathleen certainly has a lot of fire! I want to have her zeal for life when I’m that old, if I can make it that long! It’s interesting that an illness has her in better spirits and that’s she less mean. Maybe she doesn’t take living for granted, as it’s so easy to do.

    • That’s the reason I used to say I wanted to be like her — her zeal. She’s a spitfire all right. But last year and this summer she was really getting on my nerves, saying all this negative stuff about people and “fuck this” and “fuck that” and what not. I’ve known her for over twenty years and it was worse than ever this period. She’s still my buddy though.

  • This was well written Sandee. Interesting how you kinda want to duck from her and then invite her up any time… That’s such a real emotional divide for humans trying to navigate personal space-comfort and openness to another person’s pain (no matter how well or long one knows a person). “Pity hugs” are a weird thing… I wouldn’t want one. It’d be too late at 87 years old (if I’d treated everyone so horribly) to expect kindness from them in return anyhow. And even if people pick favorites to divulge all the smack talk to, the negativity and expectation that the listener concur with or accept the smack talk can be the same as being smack talked about, especially after long cumulative effects.
    She’s lucky you actually have sincere love for her and that you’ve made some room for her.

    (And hey, thanks for “liking” one of my posts the other day btw… It was always nice to see you’d visited. I figured I should mention I’ve taken all my work down now tho! And am not going to be posting anymore, but it was special to encounter you and your writing voice and I appreciate how receptive you always were to my comments. I enjoyed our dialogue prompted by your creative expressions/ writings. Anyhow, keep on keeping on and happy blogging to you always. 🙂 )

    • I must admit, I see some similarities in our personalities — though I don’t think of myself as mean — just the feisty and independent part 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words Katherine!

      • Yeah, you’re not a meanie, Sandee. Maybe you’ve got your heart on your sleeve sometimes (no offense) but I’ve only ever found you to be a kind hearted (and feisty independent 🙂 ) person when reading your work and comments. I always liked how you try to meet everybody with respect but don’t just take on everybody’s opinions as your own.

  • The reason she’s this old is because of that attitude. Studies indicate that’s the case. When the pulmonologist told me that I had less than a year to live, he added that I’d probably live longer with my attitude. I think he meant you can’t kill a bitch like me with a hammer. I didn’t pursue the thought… I feel fine. I think I’m a bit softer now just like your buddy. There is still that fire in the belly though. When that’s gone, I’m dead… Chuckle… You write such wonderful posts, you know. Guess I’m gonna have to read the book since I have limited time left to do it. One thing that bothers me about this blog is the damn cakes. Why the cakes? You don’t seem like a cake baker to me. And the pink. You don’t seem like ruffles and pink to me either. strange. I love the new gravatar, by the way. 🙂

    • Carla! So good to hear from you! You are so sweet! Oh boy — that fb was something. I got on it initially for guerilla marketing but it turned into the thing that I feared — a great waste of time and worse — the psychology of it all — whew! I might go back on it if I can get the last two things I sent out to publish printed — I’ll want to trumpet that in — hahaha! I do still intend to blog as well. I hope you and your family are well! Thanks so much for reaching out!

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