Once, in another lifetime, we noticed a change in our neighborhood. Elderly, blue-collar residents were dying, and houses went on the market at absurdly inflated prices.
I heard that a yuppie couple had bought a house down the street and that something was wrong with her baby. One day, I saw the blonde yuppie mom passing by with her stroller. I welcomed her to the neighborhood and she seemed very nice. Her baby had a misshapen head and had to wear a special helmet. I pretended not to feel sorry for her, and after all, I had my own troubles.
She told me about her house and about her vintage O’Keefe and Merritt stove, which she was very excited about. She lamented that it was perfectly refurbished but was missing the porcelain salt and pepper shakers that belonged above the hood in their own recessed compartments.
I have an old O’Keefe and Merritt stove and I’ve never cared about the salt and pepper shakers. I never used them, and I only clean the stove maybe once every hundred years. Since the nice yuppie cared so much about the salt and pepper shakers, I impulsively offered her mine.
She was thrilled. She couldn’t get over how great this was. I basked in her happiness and my own niceness.
That was my only encounter with the nice yuppie. I think she moved away before too long. Many months later, I met another neighbor who had befriended the yuppies. She told me that she’d heard about my nice gesture, and commended me for my generosity.
As the years go by, I realize how valuable those fucking salt and pepper shakers are. I look at the empty compartments and think what an idiot I was. I probably just wanted the yuppie mom to like me.
When I review this story, I only feel my stupidity, and this in turn causes a vague sense of shame. My husband thinks it’s a story about doing something nice, but it isn’t. It’s a story about regret and resentment.
However, If I could go back in time, I’d do the same thing, because it feels good to be nice, even if you aren’t.