Before I call anyone by a nickname that’s also an insult, I like to know its origins.
I met ‘Filthy’ at Norma’s table a few years ago. He never had a hand in the rebuilding of my house; he thought I was rich; and he was pissed at me before he even met me. He had spent time up in Trinidad with those Spanish Italians and ended every sentence with a belligerant “capich’?” He made fun of me in the language, much to the horror and discomfort of the others gathered in that sacred kitchen. Norma apologized for having dated him years ago–an entirely unnecessary self-efacement on her part since I have dated too many good-looking jackasses myself. I understand the draw. I was about to write “understood,” but there may be more in my future. The evening I met Filthy was the only unpleasant evening I have ever had at Norma’s table.
Well the Trade Center destruction has got most of us thinking about things we either have never considered or haven’t considered in a while.
Filthy shows up at my door yesterday with Joe and a 12 pack. Now that is a peace offering if I ever saw one. We drink, and start to talk, though we carefully circumvent the evening of our first meeting. He gives me a beautifully forged tool of paraphenalia, and I am touched. We talk cabinetry, he points out all the flaws in mine (made by his competitor in town).
We talk about family, and come to understand our respective families. A few connections are found: he worked for the Park Service at the same National Monument my Dad used to drop us kids off each day during our Summer vacation. We both remember it as a shady paradise. We are the same age. Neither of us have been very lucky in marriage and relationships. We share the same bad habits.
In the end he respects the efforts made to bring my old house back to life. And he tells me that when he was a little boy he liked to splash around in the mud His grandfather nicknamed him filthy. And I was welcome to call him that.
© Tasso 2001