Thursday, May 8, 2014

Greener Grass

"Whoever this is, it's two AM ya know!"

"Thank God you're home; are you alone? Are you going anywhere?"

"I'm alone and here for the night. What's up?"

"He's chasing me, I need a place to hide, I'm on foot, I'm on the corner."

"What corner, my corner?"

"The Fina station by your house. Please can I come over please?"

"Umm yea sure, c'mon over."

The last time I'd heard from my first wife she'd talked me into leaving my house at five AM in twenty below weather and driving eleven miles to the courthouse where she'd been released from jail after the charge of public drunkenness had been dropped. Her car had been impounded; a minor technicality if not for the weather, its flat tire and her lack of a jack. I had a jack of course, boringly responsible tax paying citizen that I am; and for that fact plus my being the only human being on the planet earth that would come to her rescue in the light of a summer's day, much less pre-dawn Siberia, I had no choice really.

Now it was near 9 years that we'd been divorced and I was going through the process all again with yet another of my bad choices in womanhood. I was on a streak of incredibly bad luck, three deaths in my family, marital separation, job loss...and Trudy's appearance struck me as much obligatory as coincidental; as it was likely the Grim Reaper was busy that day so he sent his apprentice to taunt me.

I found and checked my gun for ammunition as her announcement that "he" was looking for her didn't set well in my mind. I wasn't sure who "he" might be, but Trudy was a tough egg; if she was afraid I couldn't be too careful.

She finally banged on my door, pale and tear streaked, hair disheveled, but nattily dressed and heavily made up as always. I swung the door wide and she damn near fell into my living room, her right calf was so swollen I can't imagine how she'd walked even 20 feet. I slipped her arm over my shoulders and near lifted her to my couch. The first words from my mouth were "I'll call the police". The first words from her mouth were "you still smell great, God, how long has it been?"

She panicked when I mentioned police, blubbering on about waiting and this not being as serious as it looked and she couldn't put her own husband in jail. So against my better judgment I found an ace bandage and a yardstick I snapped in half, and fashioned a makeshift splint in case there was a break. As I don't drink I don't normally have a supply of ice cubes, so I filled a couple trays with water while she caught her breath, and slipped them into my freezer as if I was actually doing something constructive and not just spinning wheels to avoid driving down dark roads.

It was commonly hard to tell whether the girl was loaded; she had the same grace sober as three sheets to the wind, and her perfume was so strong it would mask a room full of elephant dung. But I'd guess she was kite high as her opening conversational salvo had to do with how much she'd missed me and what a good guy I was, not to mention sexy, talented and sweet. Every word from her mouth stung like a snap from a wet, sandy towel; my "divorcee to be" was using the same claptrap she’d spew when she needed something from me and while it should have just made me angry, it was more like daggers through the heart...something like "if you indeed ever loved me as you claim, how could you try to manipulate me like this".

But as is my custom, for each compliment I offered a well worded rejection, usually a "bullshit" or "yea sure"; so eventually she grew tired of the glad-handing and came to her true favorite topic...Trudy. I can only paraphrase what she told me as it was all so much it's hard to pick out the minutia in the pile, but you'll get the high points.

After dumping me for 24/7 party time she went through her share of foreskin and std's until it bored her to tears. Hetro men had become devil spawn so she and a gay musician buddy moved to Texas where they set up house as imaginary man and wife for the first time. Her reasoning was if she wore a wedding ring and had the standard accoutrements that the married lug around, like the sad, glazed look and the shackle around their neck, she'd refrain from dating and save herself all the heartache she was otherwise helpless to avoid. I wanted to say "just say no thanks", but Trudy does nothing the easy way so I kept my tongue.

Well, after a couple years of "cheating" on her non-husband in spite of her most diligent attempts to stay penis free, she'd cut and run back home to mom and sis aware that even the big lie wasn't saving her from herself. It wasn't but a month before she'd met the nicest guy, her first real love interest since myself.

He was me for all physical intents; tall, stocky, muscular, deep voice, blonde hair...well there was a difference; he had most of his hair. He was the son of a major construction company owner, and in the beginning he wined and dined her as if he was actually part of the family fortune.

She didn't know his truth until after she'd married him, about six months after she'd met him of course. Then the tale twisted so tightly it was like watching someone with a balsa airplane turning the rubber banded prop around and around, wondering when the plane itself would snap in half and make the exercise a pointless tragedy.

They were married by a JoP; elope he said, let our love carry the moment he said. He'd set up witnesses in advance, there was no need for Trudy to worry her pretty head about arrangements and lists. They'd both been married before he said, so they skipped the expensive symbolism and got down to the excitement.

The honeymoon as it turned out was to be held at a motel nearby; a "better than a flophouse"-"this aint the Ritz" type of place where they could stay and party and drink to their hearts content.

Then she stopped and laughed. "Ya know what he did?" she asked. I thought I could imagine. Maybe he spent the night watching TV, hell maybe he even dropped her off and left with the witnesses and didn't come back all night.

No, none of that. As she told me about her honeymoon night her face had this look I've seen all too often plastered on hers and others I've known along the way; this combination of feelings that can't be denied, including fear, hate, lust, shame, anger, love, the dry rot of degradation and the blank stare of an apologist in the throes of denial.

He'd gotten her into a drinking contest, one he was losing miserably. She was leading him near four to one when she finally passed out. And then he undressed her, spread her out on the bed, inserted various instruments into her openings, called his waiting friends into the room and shot pictures.

She'd not have had a clue until she found one of the box of Polaroids years later, a week before this very night in fact. And she'd at last worked up the courage to confront him (her words), when he then shouted his confession at her as if vomiting poisonous bile across a room.

They'd not had an ordinary marriage to that point as is probably obvious. He was a coke junkie and to support his habit, he ran narcotics for various dealers. His father got him into the trade, the big bad boy teaching the little bad boy how to find and distribute the white powder for fun and profit, and to make sure daddy got a share.

So her life had been on the edge for a few years, always afraid the next knock would be accompanied by blue jackets and gold badges, or the mortuarian stopping by to show her the next best thing in plastic caskets in advance of the day that was sure to come soon.

They bought a farm she said, across the state line and into Wisconsin so as to physically distance home from work. She was thrilled, she loved fuzzy things and there were more than a few to keep her busy. But of course, she'd neither the skill nor the purse to care for farm animals, and over the first summer they began to wither noticeably. She begged for cash so she could bring a vet to the house, but hubby had the family finances locked down and simply told her if the animals were hungry she should feed them her own dinner. So she did, feeding the horses McDonalds when she could; and as she starved, she drank, and she drank some more.

The confiscation of their ménage' was on the news she told me, though I'd not have known her married name so I didn’t spot it. Neighbors had grown weary of seeing the malfeasant suffering and called animal protection, when every still living thing (many were dead) besides my ex was taken from the farm and given shelter by those that love the uncomplicated and repairable, and are willing to take them into their homes. Then their mortgage company, angry about the bad publicity involved in funding Mister Ed killers, is said to have scoured for a loophole, found one and financially drove them out of their home.

Trudy and her boy moved back into town where his business wasn't going so well and he needed close proximity to keep an eye on his investments.

Then, she found the photos and for a week she had the spirit to fight, to beat him back. It must have been quite a sight, Trudy at 5'8" and 170 and all that wasn't breasts being muscle, and this 6'2" 230 pound man rolling on the ground and pulling out chunks of each other's hair.

She laughed as she told me about catching him off guard one night and shoving him over an end table, his falling on and crushing a lamp, imbedding shards of faux pottery clay into his hands before he chased her down their block and slapped her silly with his bloody palms.

(I say "she laughed" as if this is somehow funny, that either of us might have seen humor in this inhumanity. I'm no apologist for cruelty, it's not funny at all. But laughter often comes out of a human body by raw force, a blood curdling thing that attempts to cover the uncoverable, an instinct of the basest sort.)

But tonight it had become serious, she said. He'd threatened to kill her and she threatened back...but she didn't really mean it and he showed his truth with the end of a 32 inch Louisville Slugger to her calf. And she ran, and kept running, finally hitching a ride and finding her way to near my house where she called to make sure I'd be willing to take her in, considering.

We talked through the night; I tried repeatedly to get her to call the police, and only had to settle for her promise that she'd never go back to the hell spawn. But even that was nonsense, I knew she was telling me whatever she felt would give her a few days in my safe house while she figured out her next step. It was just as likely she'd go home the moment the swelling became bearable, and she and he would have a few swigs from one of their many open bottles to celebrate their reunion in style.

As she slipped into exhaustive unconsciousness in my bed, a flotilla of passing ships bumped together in the stormy waters that fill my skull; some of which are not flattering.

I had no care about how long she stayed, though I did feel a bit like a fly in Shelob's lair. Trudy's problems stemmed from her two forefront addictions, one to alcohol and the other to sex. Either was a danger to me in the state I was in so while I wanted to be kind, I couldn't help but walk as a panther; confident of my surroundings, aware of my weaknesses and always watching for predators.

It occurred to me that I could turn this guy in myself, but there were a plethora of problems attached to that construct. She may have been lying about the whole thing. I found out much later she wasn't, but at the time I knew her as a seriously sick alcoholic, prone to at minimum, exaggeration, if not out and out paranoid fantasy. It could have been true and once I'd announced it to the police, she'd refuse to charge him, only giving him my address and phone number to add me to his harassment list.

I had few options beyond playing it as she desired, or gently shoving her toward the door as I would with a salesman or neighborhood bible thumper. Call me a moron but I can't play that way; even someone with the power to ruin my life forever has sway with me when in's my only real saving grace and a promise to humanity I am loathe to break for fear of eliminating all self respect.

But what bothered me was my thinking selfishly, making her tragedy personal. It occurred to me that this woman I'd once loved more than anything on earth, had left me for greener pastures...and this is what she'd replaced me with. Yes kids, I know how insane that sounds given the bizarre quality of this tale, but I was in that mindset already, watching my then current wife choose mailroom boy's company over mine. This just seemed all too convenient as another example of how indigestible I am as a man-slash-human.

I wish I had a really cool climax to tell; that I shot this guy dead or they shot each other or he was in an episode of Cops in his underwear or his daddy was arrested in Columbia doing the cartel thing. But all that's for the movies; real life is never as fun as Hollywood.

Trudy stayed at my house for about a week while she made plans to move back to Texas where her ex-non-husband-gay-boyfriend was still living and working. Her husband was caught after robbing a convenience store in Wisconsin, near where they'd owned and lost their farm. It seems the cashier remembered him from the news story on the starving animals, so his arrest was an easy and quick affair. They were divorced while he was incarcerated, and I made her promise that she'd use her maiden name once it was finalized, rather than regress to my surname.

And then it was about another 7 years before I heard from her again, on the day I was charged with planning my father's funeral, the day after he died. But that's another sad, but not so involved story for another time.

There's a character in a comic, I believe Lil' Abner is the strip and the guy's name is Joe Bltsflc or something like that. He's who I always remember when I think of her, a man with a black cloud over his head following him wherever he goes. Only the reality is, it's only half true. As with all circumstance, Trudy made choices that came back to smack her down again and again. I'd like to say leaving me was one, but who knows; I may have been a bad deal for her too. All I can hope is that she’s not still making them, that she’s set aside the booze and gotten down to the business we all half enjoy; the living of a relatively boring life. I owe her good wishes at least. Ok, at most then.

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