Without further dog and pony show....
Adventures in Love and Psychosis
The indigo display set precariously in the midst of radio knobs and temperature controls read 7:09. That meant, according to my calculations, that it was somewhere around 8:30. I’d had the car for six months and still had not bothered to decipher the method of setting the clock, besides it wasn’t that difficult to add eighty-one minutes. That’s a multiple of three, and I like those. The seemingly impotent December sun had long since raped the frosty hillside and had sank deep within the barren brown earth not to be seen for another eleven hours or so, and I was glad. That sun was distant but brutal and only seemed to illuminate my misery and the almost disturbing grey blandness of this dilapidated little town.
My hand, a bit more shaky than its usual subtle tremble, found the key in the ignition and silenced the engine. Like always I turned the ignition switch all the way back to accessory and turned off the radio, even though the volume knob was turned all the way down to begin with. After a quick check of the car to make sure everything was in order and that every thing was clean. I hoped that I hadn’t missed anything during the weekly vacuuming that I had done earlier that day as it was a Tuesday, the third day of the week. My clammy hand found the switch and managed to extinguish the headlights that illuminated the scene in front of me, her house. I could faintly make out her shadow in the back bedroom, where I had been many times, as she was getting ready. Apparently she had anticipated my being late, as I most usually am. I shifted the key in the ignition and put it into the off position. I could get out now.
Opening the door just enough to allow myself a clean escape I felt my pocket (the left one) to make sure that the ring was still in there. It was, and as soon as I had extricated myself and had locked, unlocked, then locked the doors once again I jammed my sweaty hands into my pockets and cradled the ring with my left. My right hand was sandwiched between my keys and one of the small squirt containers of hand sanitizer that I carry on me at all times. I had a backup in my coat pocket, and another in the center console of the front seat of the car.
I walked back to the trunk and jerked the keys out of my pocket, not really knowing why I had put them in there. The compulsions were worse when I was stressed out, and I was stressed to the fucking max. Additionally, skipping my meds, particularly the Celexa, might have been a huge mistake. “A huge mistake indeed, just like showing up tonight.” I scolded myself. Every instinct within me told me to run away, to escape, disappear. She probably didn’t even know that I was there yet. I could leave, never call, visit, or see her again and we could go on with our lives. Well, she could anyway. I really didn’t have all that much of a life that I relished. I was sure that she could find someone else; I mean, tons of men would have loved to have a woman like her. Just because I was fucked in the head didn’t mean that she should have to suffer, did it? She could be happy, genuinely happy, and have someone who was happy to be with her. I had told her over and over again that I would never be happy, despite whom I was with or where I happened to be. My misery was nagging and perpetual and neither her, her love, or some silly vows spoken in front of a holy man surrounded by fake flowers and fake people in one-time use suits and dresses were going to correct me.
But despite my madness and my insistence that I would never be repaired, be it by her or the doctors, the therapists, or the counselors I had experienced moments that I thought were happiness. Sometimes when I was with her, it seemed as if I had actually wanted to be there; it was as if I were actually in love with her sometimes. There was just a look in her eyes, or a tone in her voice that made me think that maybe, just maybe, she actually loved me and that I wasn’t such a piece of shit after all. I always fashioned those feelings as just a semblance of what love actually was since I was positive that the real stuff didn’t really exist. All of this made for TV poppycock, complete with happy endings and simultaneous orgasms, was out of my realm of possibility. If it hadn’t been, I would have found it by now, especially the simultaneous orgasms. My therapists told me that I was wrong, but she’s a stoner and they love everyone and everything. I’m sure that being a rich widower affected her perspective in a profound manner too. Standing there thinking, I had managed to bother myself to the point that my hands were quaking. My internal monologue was interrupted by the sound of my keys crashing into the gravels below me.
Bending down to retrieve the keys, I banged my head against the bumper of the car since my depth perception was and still is shit. About that time, or shortly thereafter I had an epiphany. I’m not sure that the impact of the bumper on my skull had anything to do with this sort of divergent thinking, but I most certainly began thinking like someone with a moderate head injury. Grasping the keys in my hand, I ceased to quake. At last, some calm had managed to penetrate the shell of uncertainty and distain. The only thought, one of the few times I have ever had a singular thought take over my entire moment, was a question; that question being “Why the fuck not?”
I mean, if I was never going to be happy no matter whom I was with, where I was, or what I was doing, then why not just go ahead and get it over with. What was the point of leaving, getting into another hopeless relationship with some random woman who annoyed me and pushed me ever more closer to slitting my wrists and calling it a day, and eventually leaving her when I had this one. I mean, I could tolerate this one. Most of them simply annoyed me and I never really let them get to know me. They could date me for a year or two and still never know the real me. My role in a typical relationship was one of a consummate actor. Through years of practice I learned how to act happy, how to hide my misery, how to appease them. This one, though, got to know me. She knew about the bipolar disorder, the obsessive compulsive disorder, the self destructive bullshit and she put up with it. Even though I was a complete basket case, she loved me and put up with it. She never even got offended when I never told her that I loved her in return. Even though I know she didn’t, that she couldn’t have, she claimed to understand. She even tolerated me not being happy, and accepted it as a part of life. I was ready to settle, content in knowing that I would never do any better; and if I could then it would take entirely too much effort and my marrying days were limited.
I shrugged off the anxiety, popped the key into the trunk and lifted it up. As always, the roadside emergency kit was over to the left up against the quarter panel and about 12 inches to the right of them, there were the flowers lying all askew. At this point, I didn’t even care although it normally would have driven me nuts, and I would have thrown them away because two petals had fallen off in transit. There were 9 white roses, one for each of the months that we had been together and also a tidy multiple of three that I was quite fond of. A newly steadied grip took them and held them close against my chest as I closed the trunk. My polished black dress shoes pressed deep into the gravel, and I was sure that it was totally scuffing them up but once again it didn’t seem that important anymore. I still looked down to make sure I didn’t hit any big rocks in her driveway, I had before, then checked myself out in the reflection that the street lamp cast on the car window. I dusted off my jacket, navy blue of course, and my pants, black because my navy blue ones were misplaced, and straightened everything so that I would look as best as I could for tonight. For the first time in my life, I was going to have a truly special night and I was somewhat excited by the prospects. Not as excited as I would be for, say, a really good episode of All in the Family, but nonetheless quite a few notches above my typical lethargy.
I turned and made the nineteen step journey that I short stepped twice to make it twenty-one steps, to her front door. One, two, three crunches of gravel then fourteen bursts of brittle frozen grass blades as they shattered under my feet, two heavy landings as I ascended her dirty concrete steps that never seemed to become clean even after a hard rain, and then two steps on her porch to her door. Looking myself over one more time in the glass storm door, I rang the door bell three times like I always did. She had probably been ready for a long while but knew better than to come out and interrupt me mid-routine. Being maladaptive tends to make one cranky when they have to conduct spontaneous human interaction.
Hearing the rustling coming from the family room on the other side of the door, she was coming and I did a last minute check to make sure my tie was perfectly straight. The knob turned, she unbolted the deadbolt (she was almost as paranoid as I) and the door came open. As was customary, I looked her over from toe to head, in that order and always said she looked beautiful before I even got to her waist. It really didn’t matter if she looked beautiful or not, I was supposed to say it and I was aware of this.
Tonight was a little bit different. I looked at her the same way, but waited until I was looking her in the eyes and for the first time I said it from my heart. I told her that she was beautiful and actually meant it. At the time, I wasn’t sure what had changed but she was different tonight. Or maybe, it was me who was different. Maybe I had finally opened myself up to her. No, it wasn’t that. It was nothing like that. She actually looked different. I stared at her for a long time, both of us in awkward hushed silence, until I realized that for the very first time since I had met her she wasn’t smiling. Ever since our eyes locked on one another’s in March, she had always been the bubbling smiling. To wax philosophical she was the yang to my overpowering yin. Tonight, though, we stood face to face and I was fucking glowing in comparison to my usual Buster Keaton dead pan and she looked back at me with empty green eyes and a blank expression that almost reeked of dread.
“Is. . .everything all right, dear?” I managed to stumble out.
“No, but I’ll live.” Her voice seemed empty, but not quite as vacant as her eyes. She just seemed so hollow tonight. I extended the flowers from my chest towards her. She stared at them momentarily then back at me, then back at the flowers. At long last, she took them from me.
“Happy 9 month anniversary, doll.” I always called her doll, even though she hated it.
“Is it?” she said rhetorically.
“Do you mean is it happy, or is it our 9 month anniversary?” I said, very much not knowing what she actually meant. She usually wasn’t this cryptic and I wasn’t sure how to approach this.
“You know what, it doesn’t fucking matter anyway. We’re going to be late to the goddamn restaurant. I’ve just got a lot of shit on my mind, ok?”
I was reeling. She had never been like this. I certainly had been that way before, and I was beginning just how much of a pain in the ass that I had been. I paused for a moment staring through her, wondering what I should do. Finally, I tried to say something and it came out all jumbled, so I just turned around and started walking towards the car and hoped beyond hope that she would follow me.
“Aren’t you going to be a fucking gentleman and take my hand?” She erupted still standing in the doorway.
“What? I mean, do you want me to?”
“Yes, I want you to take my hand and walk me to the car.”
I obliged and unlocked her door, opened it and allowed her to get in. I shuffled hurriedly across the front of the car, unlocked my door and got in as well. Tonight, I had decided, was not a night to go through the entire routine as we had a reservation at 9:30 in town. I simply buckled my seatbelt, turned the headlights on, and started the car. She took the liberty of turning the heat on, but left the radio alone. I backed out of the driveway and onto the state highway that led into town.
We drove the twelve miles into town in total silence. Unsure if she had calmed down or not, I decided to test the waters and I turned on the radio. As soon as my hand had arrived back on the cool leather of the steering wheel, she had shut the radio off muttering something about her head hurting that was moderately incoherent. For the first time in my romantic life I felt vulnerable. She had gotten inside and now that she had penetrated me, figured me out, she was changing me for the better; and she was completely miserable it seemed. I found myself asking her timidly, like a little boy to his mother after he’s fucked something up big time, “…do you still love me?”
“Yeah, I guess.” She said, staring out the window.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do something, scream, hit her, run away, something. My foot, shaking, found the break pedal and I pulled the car over into one of the unoccupied parking spaces down town in front of one of the businesses that had been closed ever since the late Reagan years. The car slid to a halt. “Then tell me what in the hell is wrong, baby. What did I do?”
She turned back with eyes blazing, the only time I had ever seen true anger coming from her. Her arms extended towards me and she bounded across the car and onto me. After some work, she jammed her hand into my left pants pocket and retrieved the ring. “This is what’s wrong, Ryan. This ring, this little fucking trinket right here.”
“How the hell did you know I was going to propose?”
“Oh, come the fuck on Ryan; Expensive dinner reservations, roses, nine month anniversary. You’re so cliché. You do everything by the book, you have to have everything planned. I’m so fucking sick of it. I can’t marry you. You’re not even a person. You’re just a template, a cardboard cut out two dimensional miserable being.” She was livid. More than that, she was lying and I knew it.
“Don’t lie. You knew about this before I even showed up. You opened the door like this. You knew about this the whole time.”
“So what if I did?”
“Well, how did you know. Who told you?”
“Brian from Datacorp. He called me at about 6 and gave me a heads up.”
“As in Brian my boss? Brian my boss that you fucked a month before we met?” It was my turn to be livid. “And what do you mean a heads up? What was so fucking dire.”
“He not only told me when you were going to propose, he told me why you were going to propose. The reason you told everyone at work.” My heart sank. I knew what I had told everyone. At the time I had meant it, but now that I didn’t mean it and that I actually wanted to marry her it didn’t matter.
“Now what did you tell all of them. What was it, Ryan?” She stared me down, piercing me to my core and I muttered at first alone but then in unison with her as she recited what Brian had told her. “I’m marrying her to make her happy and to get guaranteed free pussy for life.” She threw the ring at me, and it landed in my lap. Her trembling hands found the door handle, and she threw the door open and into a long defunct parking meter before slamming the door back and running to the bar on the corner of fourth and Roosevelt. I just glanced at her through the passenger side mirror, knowing it would be the last time I would ever see her.
I debated with myself briefly as to should I or shouldn’t I try to go after her. To save what could be, to show her I really cared. But, as usual before this night, my logical side won out. I didn’t really want to marry her, I convinced myself. Just like those moments when I thought that I loved her. I knew, deep in whatever hear that I had, that I would wake up tomorrow and not want to marry her again. I realized it somewhere between “Oh come the fuck on” and when she got out of the car and dented my fucking door. I decided everyone was better off this way. I took my foot off the brake, turned out of the parking space and drove to the restaurant. A nice man took my coat, and I had a nice quiet dinner for one.