Blades of Grass

This post is part of weekly series of original short stories.

“The grass is brown everywhere,” she says, taking a sip of her pilsner, which fittingly looks like a frothy pint of piss.

I start laughing. “I love that; I’m stealing it. ‘The grass is brown everywhere.’ So fucking true.”

***

I can never tell if I’m a cynic or a skeptic, probably because I don’t know the real difference between the two, but I’ve decided that the latter is somehow laudable. The former is arguably the worst affliction facing humanity. Once you’ve become a cynic, you start mistaking even the most delicious IPA for urine, and everything everywhere becomes fetid mounds of bile. It’s not a metaphor anymore; it’s the Truth: the bread is the body, Catholic-style. Such a cynical view is largely irreversible. I mean, the guilt alone… Jesus. At least when you’re a skeptic, you know it’s just a resemblance.

One of my old coworkers is the perfect example of what I mean. He would take this truism to a whole ‘nother level: the grass is fucking dead everywhere, and we’ve each been sentenced to re-sodding and watering our square, in vain, for all eternity. Fucking morons. Why do we even want grass anyway?

I remember the moment I fully understood him. We were sitting around his dinner table, which is actually an old conference table from his previous office. A few years back, he’d attempted to go out on his own and open his own legal practice, but then his wife divorced him because he was a workaholic. He’d had to give her the house and most of their furniture in the settlement, and in order to buy a new place and start again, he closed the office. The whole time he’d been working, he thought he was doing his best to fulfill what she wanted in life, which was a big house with tons of nice furniture. Go figure.

But it gets better. This guy was a bit older than me, a partner at our firm, and we’d become fairly friendly, going to drinks and lunches here and there. So he invited me over for dinner one night after we’d been at the office pretty late. We started talking about baseball — the Nats were having a killer season — and he started going off about professional athletes. “You know, they have to be born that way. Not everyone can reach the top, and more people need to realize when it’s time to give it up. At what point are you a minor league player with a family and you need to understand that it’s never going to happen? Geniuses are born. Star athletes are born. Sure, there’s practice that goes along with it. But take Venus and Serena Williams. They’re going to be the best at whatever sport they play; they’re inherently athletes. Their dad chose tennis. They’re born the best. Why doesn’t everybody get that?”

“So you’re saying if you’re not obviously the most talented at something, with little to no prior training in something, you shouldn’t even bother?”

“I mean, yeah, pretty much. Listen, in law school, yeah, I can read and memorize and synthesize. I got good grades; I did well. But I couldn’t hold a candle to the top of the class. Those guys are geniuses. They could spend half the time on the material and argue me in circles. Most human beings are mediocre at their best. I’m way more interested in the people who are naturally exceptional.”

“More than the people who have the drive and discipline to wake up every morning and get in the batting cage and swing, over and over again?”

“Exactly. Anyone can do that and achieve some level of success or skill. But it’s not exceptional.”

The guy was a piece of work. Oddly enough, I kind of miss him sometimes, if only as a refreshing reminder to never become so thoroughly jaded.

***

I take another sip of my beer. “The grass is brown everywhere, I’m cool with being real about that, but I guess I’m inherently optimistic that maybe my grass can get a little greener if I dig in and do the hard work, watering and weeding it and all that.”

“And then leave to try on another plot only after that doesn’t work out,” she agrees.

I laugh and think, “Not bad for a Tinder date.”