Thursday, December 27, 2007

Relationships in One Paragraph

As with many of my favorite things on the interweb, Sheila started this. Other bloggers have done their own versions - like Megan at From the Archives. I had to pare this down. I've dated a fair bit over the years and I think every one of them added something to the tapestry of my life. Even the unpleasant ones. I loved the idea of these brief windows into what love and loss and relationships have been in a person's life (EDIT: each paragraph represents a different relationship). All you'll really learn about ME from this exercise is that I know nothing about drug use, I'm crazy about Tom Waits and I'm very much in love.

Together, these pieces of my past are a journey that helped bring me to the man I am with today, which is a very good place to be.

He was the first everything. We listened to Robyn Hitchcock and Neil Young. He introduced me to Tom Waits. He taught me that I was beautiful. I thought he was the Ginsberg of my generation, I’m not certain he isn’t. Eventually I realized that I, along with his endless chain of cigarettes, had become a replacement drug, a compulsion for the recovered addict. So I ended it. For him and for me. I thought about him when I saw Waits in concert 15 years later and cried the whole time because it was beautiful and because he wasn’t with me to share it.

I was working the drive-through at my second job at the dry cleaner's. The air was greenish and bright and thick with spring rain. Hearing the bell, I looked up to see a red pickup truck pull in, but it didn't stop until the bed was even with the window. I saw raggedy jeans legs and then he leaned down and looked in at me, one arm bulging with two dozen roses and the other holding an enormous umbrella aloft. I stared, speechless, while he grinned and asked if he could walk me home. My friends didn't understand what I saw in him.

The Stone Temple Pilot’s “Big Empty” was playing on the radio while he drove me home. I wouldn’t let myself cry anymore until he was gone. Bruises showed up the next day. Around my neck, across my shoulders. I never spoke to him again. He was the gentlest man I ever met, until he wasn’t.

We went to see the Violent Femmes in concert and screamed the lyrics into each other’s faces for the whole show. Every day was joyous. I knew he would always be smart and handsome and kind, but I was some kind of goddess to him and the pedestal began to make me dizzy.

The first thing he said to me was, “Yer english shur is good.” but he looked like Matthew McConaughey so I tried not to notice.

I was so naive, I really thought he was just naturally thin and twitchy. Then one day he said he was sorry, but hiding his drug use from me was getting in the way of his habit. I couldn’t compete with Cocaine, but then I really didn’t want to.

I wore my velvet pants and he chased me all over the apartment trying to rub my butt and yelling “FUZZY!” with reckless, childlike glee. He sent me a letter once, written in crayon when he was too drunk to find anything else, telling me he loved me. I got a second letter the next day telling me not to open the first letter. I told him I hadn't.

Until he referred to "when we were dating," I had never called it that. I remember it as knocks on my door at 2am and listening to Bright Eyes and The Get Up Kids on my living room floor and standing on a wooden bridge at night talking about things that must have seemed important at the time but have since faded into a haze of angst and poetry and silly banter. He was younger than I and had a halo of blonde curls and a face like some sort of greek sculpture. Always sad, but he made me laugh. Out loud laugh.

His shirts matched his ties matched his suspenders matched his hankerchief. You could eat off his kitchen floor. One night he told me my half of the Chinese takeout was eight dollars and thirty-two cents. I gave him eight dollars and he hesitated a moment before saying that I could give him the rest of it later. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

My first day there we climbed a mountain. Hiking up the side, we could look out into the mist at the ocean and see peaks jutting into the air, speckling the water with islands. It had been four years apart, four years of recovering from something all-consuming. When I lost my footing on the way back down and began to fall, he rushed forward and caught me. It started again.

We walked into the party and everyone hollered and he did that half-hug, back-smacking thing with three different guys before making a beeline for the fridge to get a beer. Our friends started making bets as to how long he was going to keep his shirt on and I wanted to hide in embarrassment. They were literally laying odds and handing over bills. He always took off his shirt. He was a volunteer fireman and the most unabashedly sweet natured human being. His face lit up like a Christmas tree when he laughed. I have a photograph of him wearing furry white bunny ears on a roadtrip we took to Tampa. He isn’t wearing a shirt.

I had been struggling not to but eventually I couldn’t help it. The tears started rolling down my cheeks and then I was choking back little hiccup sobs while I watched him get quieter and quieter. His face became stiff and cold when he was angry. I tried to explain why I was upset and I talked a mile a minute like I always do and he finally shouted, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” without looking at my weepy face. He got mad when I cried but he didn't usually yell, so that stung. There was so much more and so much of it was good, but after five years with him all anyone really needs to know is that my tears made him angry.

I was new in the office and I was going to be his contact at our company, so he called to introduce himself. When he started quizzing me about my qualifications I tried to be polite but eventually couldn't take it anymore. I told him I'd been in the business for a decade, was the art director at my last place of employment and that I was fairly certain there was NOTHING he knew that I didn't. I got off the phone and stormed into my boss' office. I declared that someone else was going to have to work with this client because I had no intention of EVER talking to That Man again. It's been three years since that conversation. I think I'm going to spend the rest of my life with him.


  1. OK, I'm taking a wild shot in the dark here, but Mr. Matchy-Matchy Chinese Food Man, that was the relationship from the past that we both share, wasn't it!?! Ah-ha! Funny, mine would read, " And the last words that I remember him saying to me, 'I can't see my children in your eyes.' BOY am I glad he couldn't!" But I love this blog, b/c it is SO True, everything happens for a reason, everyone plays a part in the game of our lives! I wish you a great one today ;)

  2. Some of these made me cry, and I'm not even sure why. I absolutely adore the shirtless fireman. I just can so SEE that guy in my mind from the few images you have shared. And the bit in the dry cleaner's with the "greenish" air made me catch my breath.

  3. Thanks you Sheila. And thank you for doing this and, therefore, encouraging others to do the same. It's nice to look back at these pieces of my life and remember the person I was then, the things I felt, the distance I have come. And I'm very fortunate. Most of the men in my past are still my friends and some of the best people I know. And they taught me about myself so that when I found the right person, I would be able to recognize him.

    YES, Eddie, that is the man I was referring to. Who else could it be? I have a theory that his being stingy with money was a warning that he did not have a generous heart and I just wasn't paying close enough attention.

  4. Marisa -- These are beautiful. It's funny, I, too, have one who introduced me to Tom Waits.

  5. FUZZY! i couldn't help but laugh at that part and then felt a bit bad b/c i know this was supposed to be a serious post.

    this is an amazing recount of that relationship. so many interesting details. people come in and out of our lives for a reason. it's nice that you're able to look back at this relationship and see both the good and the bad, then take it for what it's worth and move on.

  6. Adelyn, I am so sorry I wasn't specific enough - each paragraph is a different relationship... although two of them are actually two ends of one relationship, to be honest.

    And some of it IS funny so don't feel bad about laughing! I think it's hilraious that I dated coke addict for two months and genuinely thought he just had nervous energy. I STILL laugh at myself for dating a sweet but very dim man just because he was Matthew McConaughey's doppleganger. I can totally laugh at myself. If you could have seen my tacky velvet-clad butt getting chased you would SO feel justified in laughing. We looked like idiots. :)

    Tracey - I thought about doing a run-down by the music they taught me to love. With a few of them that was their only redeeeming feature.