Five Facets of the Weighted Die
1. Missing Work
He had, at different times during his working life, told various lies in relation to his health. But these lies, awkward though they had been, were never gratuitous. Certainly, no one could deny that there were limits to his mendacity. To give a few examples: he would never call in sick simply because he was hungover (unless the hangover was debilitating enough that it necessitated his doing so); he would never exaggerate any minor ailment from which he might be suffering (unless he felt that his productivity was being silently impugned by a manager or supervisor, and so needed in some way to be accounted for); he would never contravene the injunction that in the event of his contracting a gastroenteric virus he refrain from returning to work until forty-eight hours after the symptoms had disappeared (unless he happened to be working under a temporary contract, and so would – by deferring to the injunction – sacrifice two days’ pay). Sometimes, the lies he told might to others have seemed to be somewhat perverse. If, for instance, he was feeling particularly stressed about something, he would often call in sick for a couple of days as a preventative measure – not because he wanted to protect his good health for its own sake, but because he wanted to ensure against the possibility of his having to miss work due to sickness. The truth is, he hated to miss work on account of his being sick, and would do so only if he felt that there was no other recourse. By extension of this hatred, another part of him wanted to prevent the possibility of having to work through any sickness (in his experience, working through sickness – difficult as it was – was only marginally less undesirable than missing work on account of sickness). How unfortunate he had felt, then, to be seen drinking coffee and reading on one of the days of his ostensible sickness – a sickness, it shouldn’t be forgotten, that he had, by drinking coffee and reading, been so nobly trying to prevent.
2. G♯ Minor Major Seventh
A friend of mine once claimed to have perfect pitch. Naturally, I decided to put him to the test. ‘Turn around,’ I said, as I began to count the keys on the piano. I played the note. ‘C4,’ he said immediately. ‘It’s middle C,’ I corrected him. He looked at me disdainfully, before replying ‘Exactly! C4.’ Irritated, I stabbed at a random note. ‘B Flat 8,’he said. ‘I told you to turn around,’ I chided him. ‘No looking.’ I counted the notes on the piano from middle C, and realized that I had indeed just played a B flat. ‘And don’t tell me the octaves,’ I added. ‘Just the notes.’ I played another note, this time towards the far right of the piano. ‘A10,’ he said, ignoring my imperative. This time, I didn’t even bother to check to see whether he was right. Instead, I splayed my fingers to play what I imagined would be a chord of monstrous dissonance. As soon as the chord began to resonate, I felt a surge of power, which was reinforced by my friend’s ensuing silence. ‘Ha!’ I said. ‘Didn’t get that one, did you?’ ‘G♯ minor major seventh,’ he said. I got up and went into the kitchen. My friend followed me. ‘What’s wrong?’he asked me. There was a wine glass on the table. I held the stem and gave the bowl a fillip. ‘What’s that?’ I asked him. Before he could answer, I opened one of the cupboards. The wood creaked for want of oil to its hinges. ‘What’s that?’ I asked him. He said nothing. So I clasped hold of a chair by its stiles and began to push it across the kitchen floor. The four legs threw out cacophonous chords, which were constantly modulated by the various asperities and lubricities and fosses of the tiles. ‘What’s that?’ I asked him. He looked at me with an expression that seemed to say, ‘Er … what are you doing?’ (even the filler, I felt, was implied). ‘What’s that?’ I asked him again, continuing to push the chair. ‘Well, come on! What is it?’
My husband says that we should stop sending their children birthday gifts. For several years, we have been extremely generous to these ungrateful children. We have not only spent a lot of money on them, but have also put an inordinate amount of time and thought into the appropriateness of each gift. And yet, on no occasion have we received a phone call or letter thanking us for our generosity. But I cannot agree with my husband’s proposed course of action. To the contrary, I see the children’s lack of gratitude as all the more reason to continue sending them gifts. It is my hope that these children will somehow come to realize that they cannot continue to live their lives without starting to acknowledge generosity such as my own. As soon as they realize this, and start sending me thank-you letters, I will stop sending them gifts.
4. An Odd Question
In retrospect, I admit that it was indeed an odd question for a grown man to ask his elderly mother. But she has to hold herself accountable for my having asked it; it was she, after all, who gave birth to me. I asked her the question while we were sitting down in the living room, during one of my fortnightly visits. As was typical for us during these visits, we had exchanged few words. This mutual reticence had always irritated me – not because I wanted us to become more loquacious with each other, but because, on the contrary, I wanted us to approach even closer to silence. But wait – I have been guilty of a misnomer; for any seeming ‘reticence’ between my mother and me was always charged with a terrible kind of speech. Even on those occasions when we didn’t say a single word to each other, I always felt as though we were embroiled in a protracted argument. The ideal mother, I supposed, would be one with whom a son could be genuinely silent, and not just apparently so. But how could I ever be genuinely silent with my mother? She had too much to answer for about which I was reluctant to ask. And she knew it! We sat in our chairs, our muteness freighted with insidious, unresolvable dialogue. The room began to seem like an affront to my sensibilities. Why had my mother never redecorated it? Why had she never purged the knickknackatory of its kitsch, or the trophy cabinet of its pinchbeck? I couldn’t shake the notion that by growing up in a house like this, I had been denied the opportunity ever to become nostalgic. I looked at my parents’ wedding photo. It occurred to me that I was now twice the age that my father was when he married my mother. I, of course, have never married – my unmarriageability was woven into my conception. ‘Mum,’ I said. ‘Yes dear,’ she replied, as though my suddenly initiating conversation with her was perfectly normal. ‘This is awkward,’ I said. ‘But I have a question.’ She shifted in her chair. ‘What is it, dear?’ she asked. ‘Well … When I was born, was there … Was there any confusion?’ She looked at me, as though perplexed. ‘Confusion, dear?’ Just for a moment, it seemed that things between us finally approached something like true silence. But it was too late. ‘Confusion about my sex, Mum.’ My mother looked at me with what may well have been genuine shock. ‘What an odd question,’ she said.
5. The All-Important Ritual of ‘First Haircut’
The grandmother, being a hairdresser by trade, thought it only natural that she should be the first person to cut her granddaughter’s hair. The mother, however, didn’t want the grandmother to cut the granddaughter’s hair – not yet, at least. The grandmother wasn’t sure how to interpret this. Did it mean that once the granddaughter’s hair had grown to a length that the mother deemed appropriate for cutting, the grandmother would be given permission to cut it? Or did it mean that the mother was unwilling, in any circumstances, to entrust the all-important ritual of ‘first haircut’ to the grandmother? If the latter was true, the grandmother would be very upset; for it would mean that the mother haboured either professional or personal misgivings about the grandmother’s suitability for the job. But the grandmother couldn’t ask the mother directly what she had meant; for over the years, the grandmother had come to learn that certain seemingly innocuous questions were apt to incense the mother, to the extent that relations could sometimes even temporarily sour. So the grandmother simply waited until the mother fell asleep and then took out her hairdressing tools to give the granddaughter her first haircut. The next morning, the mother asked the grandmother what the hell she had done. The grandmother looked down at the floor, and said nothing. Inwardly, the mother was furious; she wanted to elicit from the grandmother the precise reasons for so flagrant a transgression. However, she decided instead to let the matter go, having realized that eliciting these reasons from the grandmother without betraying something of herself in the process – an already difficult task – had been made doubly difficult by the fact that the grandmother had done so wonderful a job on the granddaughter’s hair.