“It is a matter of common sense. Surely, you know that.” His eyebrows are arched and his nose is elevated as he says the words that are drizzled with disdain towards her. The sound of his voice vibrates in the air as if the echo is meant to offer more credence to his know-it-all statement.
“Common sense is subjective, Nathaniel. It’s open to interpretation. It’s based on one person’s perspective and is the accumulation of one’s experiences. But everyone is shaped by different life events. A rich man or woman can tell someone who’s poor, they shouldn’t steal food because they’ll break the law, and if they get caught, they’ll go to jail. But for someone who’s starving, common sense says that if they don’t eat, they’ll die.”
“You are talking about a specific case. But we are not talking about individuals; we are talking about the general population. It should be the common man’s experience that allows a person to make a decision. That is common sense.”
“You mean – the common sense of an affluent, white man’s experience?”
“I did not say that.”
“Funny – you talk like a pompous white man from the early 1900’s.”
“Why do you believe that?”
“Well, why did you say, I did not say that? You could have said, I didn’t say that.”
“Contractions are a lazy person’s way.”
“They’re more efficient, effective, and relatable. Contractions get the job done without taking up more space than needed. Also, they make words more relatable to the general population.”
His arms are clasped behind his back and he stiffens at the general population comment. “Never begin a sentence with, also,” his voice crackles sharply at her.
It’s exhausting this conversation; watching every word spoken to a man who believes himself the expert on all matters. “Why?” she asks tilting her head.
“It is not proper English. When speaking with others they make assumptions based on your language skills? They will believe you are daft.”
“Daft!” she shrieks with final exasperation. “Where am I? What time period are you from? So, what you’re actually saying is: I’m dumb?”
“Dumb is a word said by those with little vocabulary skills. If you are seeking another word – perhaps – dim-witted, would be a better choice?”
A shrill laugh escapes from her. She rubs her right hand over her eyebrow to smooth out the twitching in her eye that commenced with this conversation with Nathaniel. This exchange has already lasted longer than she wanted it to and there appears no hope of a quick resolution on the horizon. “So far you’ve said….”
“Never, begin a sentence with so,” Nathaniel’s cheekbones twitch. She’s sure the twitching in his face is because he’s trying to suppress a smile.
“So,” she starts again emphasizing the word more than ever this time around. It’s as if she’s picking a scab on his leg, and yes, she’s doing it deliberately trying to make it bleed by picking it. “You believe that common sense is derived from a common man’s experience, that contractions are a lazy person’s way, and that I’m dim-witted because I begin sentences with also, and so?”
“The point of my observations about your use of language was simply to instruct you. You must be aware of how others would perceive you in conversation.”
“Others? You mean, you?”
“Well, I don’t mean to sound arrogant…”
“Oh no, why stop now?”
“I do have an Intelligence Quotient (it is better known as the IQ test) that ranks in the same levels as Einstein.”
“Oh, do you? Well, I have a common woman’s brain. And I like it that way. I think it keeps me more likely to assume my position isn’t always correct, and open to other people’s perspectives. You know,” she smiles at him for beginning the sentence with you know because she’s certain he won’t like it, “it makes me more common, and hopefully, a little more connected to others.”