J is for Jonathan, Jonathan Rogers, to be exact.
Jonathan Rogers is a writer, speaker, teacher, and Flannery O’Connor expert.
For whatever reason, I am prone to say the most awful things to him — insults and degradations.
Like this past fall, when I saw him in Nashville, and he was talking about Georgia, a state dear to him because he grew up there.
“Every time we drive through Georgia,” I told him, “my kids complain because it smells so bad.” (There must be a rendering plant or something near I-95.)
I realized how awful that was as soon as I said it. I looked around to see if the words had maybe come from someone else’s mouth, but, no, I was the only one standing there.
He stopped what he was doing and looked at me. “Do you sit at home thinking of ways to insult me?” he finally asked.
No, Jonathan, those insults seem to come quite naturally to me.
I knew that Jonathan would be at Laity Lodge and felt the anxiety rising. I would not insult him this go-round. I gritted my teeth in firm resolve.
I’ve been the recipient of enough rude statements, mostly regarding my family size.
“Again??!??!” — on seeing me pregnant for the 6th, 7th, or 8th time.
“Don’t you know what causes that?” — generally followed by guffaws and elbows to the ribs.
“You have too many children.” — a statement to which I responded, “Which one should I get rid of?”
“You got your girl. You can stop now.” — after Helen was born, my first girl after three boys, as if having a girl had been a goal.
But, Jonathan — I don’t know why unkind words roll off my tongue in his presence. And I don’t like that about me.
“Really,” I told a friend, “I may just try to avoid him.”
When I saw that Jonathan wasn’t present at dinner or the first talk, I actually felt a little sad, because these were his people far more than my people. I’m an interloper, but they are all too gracious to expel me.
The next morning I got up early, my usual routine. When I went to get coffee, two other people were also getting morning beverages. I stopped partway through the doorway — it was Jonathan Rogers and his wife.
“Good morning, Sally,” he smiled. Did I mention the fact that he is nice and I am not? “I’d like you to meet my wife.”
We said our hellos.
I think I was polite.
As it turns out, his wife is delightful. One of my favorite conversations from the whole retreat was an honest vulnerable breakfast we shared.
I liked her so much that I braved a Facebook conversation with Jonathan to get her email address.
I may have insulted him by asking for it.
“This happens every time I take her anywhere,” he wrote. “I write for the Rabbit Room for what, 8 years? One weekend and she is more popular than me.”