Recently, Gary was late to an appointment with someone who had annoyed him. He said, "He doesn't realize it, but I'm punishing him by being late. He'll never know that he annoyed me."
I asked, "Isn't that kind of passive-aggressive?"
He answered, "No. It gives me satisfaction," which was no answer at all.
I thought a moment. "So all those nights when you came home late from work, were you punishing me for something?"
"No. I really had to work, which, I don't know why, was important at the time." He paused. "That wasn't a punishment."
The way he stressed "That" made me continue to press. "Porn? Do you look at porn? Is that my punishment? Are you having affairs? Sleeping all day? Is that why you don't throw away the stick from the ice cream bar, you just leave it on the table?"
"Yes!" he laughed, "That IS one of the ways I punish you."
"What am I being punished for? What have I done?"
"I will never tell you."
"But that means I can never stop. How will I learn?"
"It is not about you learning. It is about me getting ... satisfaction."
Truly, it was a horrifying conversation.
The next day, I went to put on deodorant and noticed that a lot of the gel deodorant had been extruded from the container, and was just there lying on the applicator, as if some strong-handed husband had decided to just squeeze the gel out by brute force instead of patiently spinning the little dial to extrude just the right amount of gel.
“I know what this is!” I thought. “This is a Punishment.”
When I confronted him later he claimed it was not a punishment, and that frankly he had seen the same glop and had assumed I had done it and I was punishing him.
I would have thought that the man was gaslighting me, but then it occurred to me that the latest Bomb Cyclone is probably to blame. I could see the reduced air pressure acting on gel deodorant.
I continue to be punished, though, just not by means of the deodorant. Every day he leaves one of those ice cream bar sticks on the table. I must really be fucking up somehow.