"I'm only trying to understand better what bothered you," I intoned in a soft voice. "Can we just go through it one more time?"
That was my standard approach every time I would do something to anger her. Not that I really understood ever what were the real reasons for her outrage when they would happen. Somehow I would always have the feeling that what bothered Claire had nothing to do with what she claimed to be and the actual cause was always lost somewhere in between the lines.
"There is no reason for it. Just leave it alone. It's fine."
She crossed her arms annoyed that I hadn't somehow guessed it right already but I wasn't willing to give up the fight so easily. At least not that fast.
"So straight from the get-go, everything was fine up to the point we started talking about schools and all that". She scoffed at my attempt before I even began but I continued on anyway trying to not pay attention to her aversion. "And then Richard intervened and spoke about how bad parenting could overshadow even the best educational system. And then we all agreed and Joshua joked about Richard's parents, which I found a bit extreme but anyway."
"Do we really have to go through the whole thing again? I experienced the event already. I didn't find it that interesting to want to relive the whole damn thing."
A caustic comment that showed how annoyed she still was at the event. She always got caustic when things bothered her.
"And then you just commented that poverty is the biggest predictor of criminality to which I couldn't agree more, personally speaking."
"I know exactly what I said. No need to remind me" she snarled back at me. Boy, it was hard sometimes to level with this girl and all I was trying to do was just understanding her point of view.
"Fair enough," I said trying to keep it going. "But then this guy James woke up all of a sudden and started his monologue about people's evil nature and how there is nothing to be done in certain cases no matter how much we wish we could help. Is this what got on your nerves?"
"I couldn't give a flying duck, what that guy's thoughts are really," she scowled with a deep snarl that accentuated the lines in her face. She would always twist her forehead and mouth in such a way that it seemed like her whole countenance shriveled to half its original size. But I was sure that the argument that came afterwards was what actually drove her mad to such a level, for this guy James would simply never give up on his point no matter what Claire would throw at him. Statistics, expert analysis, books she had read on the matter, she had done her good part of homework on the whole thing and still, none seems possible of convincing that guy that certain factors exist that lead people down to the wrong path.
"I know. I know you don't care about that guy. I don't either," I said trying to calm her. "All I'm saying is that he was annoying as f*ck, not only for you but for everyone else at the table". "You have the full right to be mad at him"
"But I'm not. I told you he is not the issue."
She was persistent like a black bull alright. And she gave me nothing substantial to work with either for that matter. Not the slightest bit.
"Then what was? You know you can tell me anything."
She gave me the look of disbelief that I always translated as an unspoken accusation to me as if I should have figured it out on my own already and then she simply denied the whole thing once again, that got me right back where I started. "Nothing has bothered me," she said. "I told you I'm just not in the best mood".
I let her relax a little bit while reading her magazine in the armchair with her usual posture of a tangled leg curved around its arm and her back half-open, half leaned on the other side, giving you the impression that she could fall back any minute now. I never understood really why she would stand like that in the armchair, when the sofa was quite there in the open, in its whole glory for someone to lie on. I guess it must have been some sort of limitation, the way cats like it when they enclose themselves into some box and stuff.
I didn't speak for a while, but I got through the events of the night again in my mind, in hope that I might discover something I hadn't spot previously and it could make the difference in explaining how all this happened. It was all perfectly fine as we got there in Richard's house and we got ourselves into some funny mode with the jokes and all the memories from the past that we spit off with the guys. Most of the participants, including Richard and Joshua, were old schoolmates, we got to spend many years together and we would always remember our old grand accomplishments with the utmost nostalgia. The events would often include how Joshua would sneak into the dorms at night, throwing sparkling fireworks and stuff to terror everyone up, and how Richard had fallen into Amy's nets, one time and had spent the night in her room after visiting her to get some class notes. Amy was fat like three normal women packed together into one person and after a guy noticed him, we would give him the hard time for years to come. I guess that's the stuff that were distilled after the gruesome years we got to spend in Berdener Primary school. And that people like to remember as if these were the most noteworthy events of them all.
Then we cracked open some beers and stood by the balcony with the arched ceilings, as the whole west landscape expanded beyond us in the night sky. Richard was rich enough to be able to afford a villa like that, but he was also quite lucky to find a home in such a grand place, overviewing the forest and all, with the mountain tops jutting out in the far end, to make it even more majestic.
Nobody really knows how he managed to get all that money. I mean, he was a smart guy and all, but he was not the school-smart kind of guy or the one that had any sort of sense or discipline in him. The bastard was so coarse that he would arrange drink nights even during the exam periods, and it hardly ever happened that I saw him read a book or having an assignment settled in his whole career.
But somehow he got into real estate, right after school and got himself a good name in the field as well, and within time, he managed to make enough dough to be able to support a whole stadium on his own if he cared to do so. Not that he ever cared for anything else than himself though, truth be told.
We stood there in the bamboo chairs that looked like a half-open egg cell, for a while and everything was perfectly fine till that point. I remember because I caught Claire swaying in the rhythm of the music while holding the wine in her hand and I know for a fact that she always sways when she is in a good mood. I think nothing was noteworthy in the night for a good while, all since this guy James came along and started shaking things up with his talk about evil and all that. He didn't mean bad but he was one of those guys that annoy others without his knowledge and without wanting to do so really. James was the man that stood out from the whole group right from the get-go if you ask me. He was a little bit too stiff for that matter when everybody else was looking to have fun. He was an eloquent guy alright, with gentlemanly manners and all, but he also was kind of edgy as well, always trying to prove his point and never quite grasping the general loosen-up mode of the room.
We were still making fun, I remember, when we got into the subject, but then he took a serious tone and started throwing his hardcore opinions at us, and then the whole situation changed all of a sudden, taking this heavy tone in it. These are the people you don't really want at your table no matter what because they will always find a way to ruin the fun for everyone and they will do it for no reason but to soothe the strong resentment they carry within themselves. And one has to make sure that he doesn't get pulled over in a conversation with them or he risks wrecking his mood and all, which is I think exactly what happened when Claire tried to put some sense to this guy head, all without knowing the sort of guy that he really was.
"Some people are bound to behave a certain way no matter what happens," the bastard would say. "We think that if we do this and that we can help them find their ways or that somehow we can teach them to be proper human beings, but truth be told, bad will continue to exist the same way that good, will. It's carved into the fabric of the universe that some things are gonna be there one way or the other and that denying this truth is nothing but a short-sight."
"I'm not really sure I can accept what you are implying there James. If what you are saying is true then people you judge as 'bad' have no chance of ever improving and we should all ought to mark them with a stamp and put them in a jail cell or something."
"That's not too bad of an idea actually."
Poor Claire was drawn into this ordeal of a discussion for a long time trying to defend the most self-evident of things and she found it strange that she met such a hard-on wall of a person like James was. They continued for a long time that night and at some point, you could sense the awkwardness around the table as the rest of us were trying to diverge the subject back on track. But they were both too invested in their opinions to back down.
"You know I think I really like what Richard did with the place. I mean with the whole stone walls and all that. Quite impressive".
There were parts of the living room that were literally decorated all the way, with oval, blue dark stones stacked on top of each other, top to bottom and it looked kinda like a fortress or something from a different century. Apparently, Claire didn't share the same feelings about the whole damn thing as I did.
"Yeah, I guess," she said indifferently.
"And also that game room of his was kind of impressive as well. I mean the guy had literally a bowling rack right inside his house. What else can a man ask for really once he gets to this level."
"Ya, I guess that's cool," she said with a long sigh as she turned back into her magazine. But I knew that I couldn't allow the issue to keep on lurking like that forever and had to do something to dissolve the situation or it would take a long time before we could get back to normalcy.
"Can't you just tell me what bothered you so much, for Christ? How long is this gonna keep going?"
"Andrew, I told you, I don't want to talk about it."
"And so what, are we gonna be like this from now on? Is this how we are to handle things and all?"
She gave me the look again and she was hooked up on me alright but at least I knew that she was finally getting closer to speak about it. Which was at least some sort of progress I guess.
"Andrew, will you please stop?"
"I'm just trying my best here. Can you at least give some sort of clue of what is going on?"
"Well, it doesn't seem like you are trying your best. At least not yesterday you didn't."
"Are you really going with this? Last time I checked I was just right there by your side the whole damn time."
"You were, and you said nothing about the issue we were discussing. For the whole night, you did absolutely nothing to back me up."
"Claire the guy was obviously a moron. There is no point in speaking to such people in a serious manner, don't you get it?"
She didn't respond but her face distorted ready to explode from anger.
"Is that the reason why you are mad?" I asked. "Because I didn't plunged along into the conversation."
"Well, it certainly wouldn't hurt," she said scoldingly.
"Claire, honey, it was obvious that the guy didn't know what he was talking about. Why was it so important to you to prove him otherwise."
At that point, she raised up evidently annoyed, and chunked her magazine bach into the sofa in anger. Maybe I should have left matters concealed as they were, I thought.
"For reasons, you'll never understand," she said and rushed back into her room. She was annoyed as hell and kept the attitude for days before letting it all go. I doubt if I had seen her more annoyed than that during the whole time we were together. But I guess sometimes it is a really hard thing to grasp what is going on in other people's minds...