On Women

by JP Kemmick

There was a man, married and unhappy, who fell in love with a woman not his wife. Hers was not the first pretty face to have so captured him, either before or after his marriage, and he knew it would not last.

He did not like women and in the company of other men expounded upon womanhood's many deficiencies, but he also did not like men, who were stupid and more often than not overly proud of their stupidity. It could be said that he did not like people.

But, oddly, he found himself liking this newest woman, who seemed alert to the ways in which other women—that is all other women—before her had failed. She seemed to take a keen challenge in avoiding such pitfalls; she kept her sentiments in check and avoided chiding him for his baser, and unavoidable, instincts; she did not ask of him unreasonable things and, in giving of herself, did not overextend to the point of saccharine sweetness.

It was so beguiling to the man that one day, as they were walking through the park, the leaves alive with a gentle breeze overhead, her arm in his, he stopped to consider and then voice a question:

“How is it that you are a woman at all?” he said. She looked gently alarmed at the question. “I have known many women,” he continued, “and it would seem you share characteristics with none of them.”

“But surely I am not so unique,” she said. “I know of many women just like myself.” And in her refutation, her gracious refusal to expound upon her many outstanding features, the man found further evidence of her incompatibility with other women he had known.

Yes, he thought, she is both woman and not. She is a new breed indeed. But out loud he simply said, “Let us continue our walk.”

The man grew worried. Not about his wife, or the economy, or his business—all of a useless, daily sort of concern—but about what the woman had revealed about the possibility of womanhood everywhere. He had known women for so many years and in so many capacities—from schoolyard romances to torrid adult affairs—but he had never once guessed that any of these women could be anything other than their essentially boring and silly selves.

But here was this woman who said to him that women could be great, could be smart, fun and, dare he think it, necessary in a manner greater than the fulfillment of basic desire. A certain small voice in him piped up to say that it would be better if the woman were dead, for the man to continue to know women as he had always known them. But the man dismissed the thought, partially on moral grounds, but also because her death could not erase what she had brought into his life, this new idea of a woman's possible worthiness.

So he did the only thing he could think of, which was to end it and to try to forget all about her perturbations to his worldview. He ended it by telegram while he was away on business in order to begin knowing dumb and inane women again as soon as possible.

But while in bed with a woman he had met at a nearby cafe—even in the short walk to the hotel he had counted a dozen small-minded things falling from her mouth—he could not seem to banish the other woman from his mind.

After, while the woman lay in bed looking coyly up at him standing over her, he said, “You are an idiot, as you must be. As it must be.”

The woman giggled uncertainly and the man reached down to her, to caress her or hit her, he hadn't yet decided.