BEFORE SHE PINNED me to the refrigerator, before she came at me in the kitchen, I had been trying to write a column about someone like her. The column was going to be about a woman, who would be married to someone important, or at least someone who thought he was important, and she would be the one whose name you could not remember. She would be the Washington nonentity.
I had been playing with the concept for sometime, noticing how there were some poeple whose names you could not remember and how they were mostly women and how when you met them on the street, met them without their husbands, that it, you could not recall who they were and how you know them.
You would look at them and talk for a while, hoping for clues, hoping they would say something about where you had met and what their names were. Finally, and inevitably, there would be a surge of resentement, the realization that they were not remembered - that they had no identification. They were, you should pardon the expression. Washington nonentities.
Anyway, I had been talking to poeple about this problem, gathering information as I went along, finding out, for instance, about the woman who has written two books and who was seated at a dinner party next to a senator and who was asked. I swear, if she was having difficulty decorating her house. It's been three years and she's still steaming. I've heard, also. from te women who tell what it's like to be at parties where the persons asks what it is you do for living which is the Washington way of asking if you are important, and then seeing the eyes going two ways at once - each one looking for a way out.
You could see this happening all the time. You could watch the nonentities in their long. party dresses make hte old college try at getting some attention and then sort of beat a retreat. After a while, you would find them together, sitting in a corner maybe, heads nodding, mouths going, understanding each ohter and what their lives were about. The men, and usually it is the men, would be off in the other room, talking about politics or government cosmic like the Redskins. The men had always just gotten off a plane from somewhere. The men were important.
The women always said there was something very Washington about all this, something unique to this city. I don't know about that, but I do know that this is a fidgety city. It is a city that done nothing you can really touch or see or drive or whatever and as a consequence it is city of mirrors, a city that thinks a little light burning in the back of a black car at night is power or influence or whatever. It isa a city that it always looking over you shoulder, that rarely looks you in the eye and thats quick to forget. Women have the most complaints, but talk to some men who have changed jobs, who have given up the limos with the little lights and listen to them describe how the phone stops ringing and the mail stops coming and it's like you died.
Anyway, I had all these little insights and I would sort of trot them out when I talked to women about this nonentity business. In my own way, I must have sounded like one of those white poeple who thinks he has to talk jive talk to blacks, if you dig my meaning, man. And when I started to write about it. I talked to women and I though a lot about it, but everytime I sat down to write something I would go a page or two and then have to stop. I mean, I could say it was all a shame or it shouldn't happen or something like that, but for life of me I could not come up with something better - someone to blame, for instance.
So there I was the other nights at a party watching hte VIPS and the nonentities, talking mental notes for the column I intended to write, when all of a sudden this lady comes wheeling into the kitchen, heads for me with a stern look on her face, and backs me into the refrigerator. She is a woman I have known for several years now. She is the wife of a journalist and that, I have to admit is the way I have thought of her, and now she is accusing me of having once written that housewives often have nothing interesting to say.
Well, it turns out that I never wrote exactly that, but she goes on what she says next is right on the mark. She has a question: How would I know? - how would I know since in all the years that I've known her I've never talked to her, but always, she said, to her husband. At first I tried to joke about it and then I though about this column I was going to write about nonentities and then I looked at her and I knew what the ending of it had to be - who to balme. Like Pogo I could write that I had met the enemy.
And it was me.