Before my new boss started work in October, I swore off swearing.
Ann laughed when I told her. “But you crack me up when you say ‘fuck.'”
“I know, but I’m not sure the new boss will appreciate my potty mouth.” I was sitting in Ann’s office, my go-to place for advice, chit-chat, commiseration and cussing. While not my acting supervisor, Ann was the colleague I had been turning to for guidance and bitching during the six months I had been without a boss.
“You know you can stop by anytime,” she had assured me.
So I did. A fellow Leo, I viewed Ann as a kindred spirit and a mentor. We shared a low tolerance for bullshit and wore our hearts on our sleeves. For all we had in common, it was our differences I admired. Where I had worked in the non-profit world all my life, she brought a for-profit sensibility to academia. She was an extrovert with a boisterous laugh. She wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is, where I often bite my tongue, mindful of my place. I fight my nature, tamping down my personality until I can’t keep it in any longer. Then I unleash the foulest language I can. Ann was well aware of this.
“Remember that horrible conference call?” Ann laughed.
I did. I was taking minutes for a committee meeting a few months prior. I was distracted from my note-taking by the absurdity of what some of the volunteer members were suggesting. Ann motioned for the phone to be muted and sat back to enjoy the show.
“What is their fucking problem?” I exploded. “If they would worry about what they are fucking supposed to be doing and not doing our fucking job, we wouldn’t be in this situation!”
Ann laughed her loud, contagious cackle. I took a deep breath and went back to writing down who said what, omitting my own outburst.
Lalochezia (n.): the emotional relief gained from using abusive language.
TEE Hee….please write a poem for/about me and use this word.
I laughed. My fuck-free vocabulary in front of my new boss had probably only lasted as long as it did because I would go to Ann’s office and expel my pent-up frustration. Who knew there was this perfect word to describe the feeling I got from cussing: lalochezia. I knew Ann experienced lalochezia, too. She had unloaded to me after reading a pretentious letter peppered with snotty vocabulary.
“Who the fuck uses the word ‘shall’?” Ann yelled.
To cheer her up, I wrote Ann a sonnet, saying, “One bit of pretentiousness deserves another.”
Now that Ann had found this perfect word (“Second only to fuck,” I replied), I wanted to write her a poem. I copied it into an empty document and stared at the blank page. Inspiration didn’t come, so I filed the draft away. I’ll write Ann a poem some day.
Last Thursday, still poem-less, I returned the favor to Ann by sharing a blog post on her Facebook wall called “Don’t Squander Your Fucks.”
“Good fuckin’ advice,” I wrote.
“You’re hilarious,” she replied.
She laughed as soon as I walked into her office Friday morning. She was in the middle of not giving a fuck about some office drama.
“Not my monkeys, not my circus,” she commented.
We discussed this latest circus and achieved lalochezia for a good thirty minutes before I said, “I better get back to my desk. See you later.”
I thought that was true until our V-P came into the office that afternoon all red-eyed and somber.
“Today during lunch,” he began, pausing to clear his throat, “Ann was working out. She collapsed. An ambulance was called but there was nothing they could do. She passed away at the hospital.”
Bullshit, I thought. That can’t be how the story ends. If it is, fuck you, universe.
I thought I would feel better swearing. I didn’t. Because that is how the story ended. Ann died a few months shy of her fiftieth birthday. The vital, funny, extraordinary woman I had just laughed and swore with hours before was gone.
How is that fucking possible? I didn’t get to write her that fucking poem.
It’s still not working. The power of profanity is failing me. I can’t bury my sadness in “shit” or “crap.” No amount of “damns” can alleviate my depression. Not even a cluster of eff-bombs can destroy my grief. I want nothing more than to go to Ann’s office to laugh and swear with her once more.