Category Archives: Online Affair

The Online Other Woman: Chapter Five: TV Dinner

 

I spent the 10 years prior to the crack-up as an English teacher, but before that, I had several lives, one of which was in Atlanta where I co-owned a small café at 1028 Peachtree Street called TV Dinner or TVD to friends. It was there that my dear friend Diane met Jules. It was there that I first met Dan.

The space we rented for TV Dinner had been a strip bar, the Aquarius Lounge, and was on the old hippie stretch of Peachtree between 10th and 11th Street. My partner at TV Dinner was a rock ‘n’ roll guy known as Ransom Paid. Most people called him Ransom or Paid; I called him those names but also Ransam or just Sam. Our history was this: he was an interesting guy who would call me in the night to chat, but in a few minutes he would either fall asleep in mid-sentence or say he had to get off the phone because he heard “cats” at his door. Yes, he was good looking. And yes, girls would come prowling around his apartment. He called them cats.

We left intact the old Aquarius Lounge neon-lit runway because the colored neon still worked even though the space had been vacant for several years, and, of course, we left the pink kick pole. After a Paint It Pink Party, the walls were pink. With the help of my sister Sierra’s boyfriend from Memphis, we pulled out the sin-soaked carpet, mopped, and painted the floor grey. Ransom hired an electrician who installed outlets around the upper walls where we mounted TVs. The TVs were linked to a system that could show Atlanta cable TV or our own videos.

Ransom bought a Sony Beta camera. TVD produced videos and also showed the videos of other artists. Bands performed there: Boat Of, The Weasels, Oh OK, The Now Explosion, and many more. Once, Allen Ginsberg gave a poetry performance there in exchange for one of my garbanzo burritos. Atlanta has always had the best drag queens of any city, and they graced the neon runway of TVD: Diamond Lil, a crazy Ethel Merman impersonator, and someone who was either called Banana Peel or Lemon Cream. I can’t recall the name exactly, but her act had to be cut short one night in the interest of preserving some kind of peace on old Peachtree Street!

TV Dinner Burrito Garbanzo

            Drain a can of garbanzo beans and smash with a fork. Use a garlic press and add the juicy pressings of one squeezed garlic clove. Add curry and chili powder and snipped green onion. Stir in enough mayonnaise or sour cream to reach a creamy, comfort-food consistency.  Spread a dollop of garbanzo mixture down the center of a very fresh flour tortilla, top with some very slightly steamed rough-chop cauliflower, grated cheese, and a drizzle of Hitsville hotsauce. Give the tortilla a burrito fold and heat briefly in a microwave or oven. Serve with tortilla chips and Hitsville hotsauce; Hitsville was the salsa we made at TVD, but you could substitute your own.

My favorite performances at TV Dinner were random events staged by our own mad man, Ransom Paid. He was a bass player and a talent impresario. One group who played with him was the Cowboys in Paradise, good looking guys playing after-hours new wave in a dark corner wearing trench coats and cowboy boots. The great guitarist Miami Beach was another TVD regular favorite. Glen and Ellen were friends of TVD, unpaid door keepers, and made noisy-fun cassette tapes for us to play in between bands.

One night a week, Ransam and his girl Lola would stage a Teknoglyphics event which featured music, dance, and costumes. The concept blended Sam’s Techno New Wave with Lola’s Egyptian burlesque. One night La Dearest, Diane, entered TVD and the Cowboys in Paradise were cranking huge, live, bass-driven music, and Ransom Paid, wearing a vinyl tunic and a mask, was dancing on the runway with Lola who wore black tights and a small piece of red duck tape on each titty. Roz, A3J, Julia, and probably Meg Fox were trying on pseudo Egyptian garb and Bag Lady fashion to see what looked insanest, Barbara Mackenzie was taking photographs, and in stepped La Dearest, was this before or after she wrecked her Mercedes? She gave the joint one look and delivered the deathless line, “What are all these people doing here in drag-g?”  What indeed? No one ever found out. But so many people had crazy fun!

Down the street from TVD was the Atlanta College of Art, and its students were some of the early discoverers of TV Dinner because they could stroll a few blocks down P’tree and cop a cheap meal, view some video, and maybe hear a band who would play for no money and still be amazing.

Ransom Paid had his night prowling cats, but Lola was his real girlfriend. She was a figure model at that art college that was close to TVD. I think she had been a tom boy earlier in her life. Of course, once Ransam had claimed her, she became stunning with an edgy boyish fashion, but she kept the sexy down-drifting smile that could have been a meal ticket somewhere if she ever gave a damn about food which she didn’t. She cared for costume, but she did not mind walking around nude. In her off time, she would pose for Ransom Paid, Inc., and he would bring the videos to TVDinner. They would be black and white, a fan would turn in the background, and behind that would be Atlanta. Their apartment had high-ceilinged charm and would be one of the ones soon lost forever, transformed into a condo that only a sultan could afford. But even on his best day, that sultan would not have a dish as delicious as Paid’s Lola stretched out on his divan.

So how did I know Ransam?  This is crazy, but I knew him almost forever, or at least from the very beginning of that scene in Atlanta in those days. I was at the Agora one Halloween with my sister, the Sierra Bandit. I was always clueless in crowds, but like Ransam himself, the Bandit could always spot talent. She saw Sam that night wearing eye makeup, no shirt, and a see-through raincoat. She said, “Hey, this girl wants to dance with you!”  She meant me. Paid took one look at me and moved in for a dance.

He called me two weeks later. He was putting henna on his hair and waiting for it to dry. I heard from him from time to time in between cats or girls he was living with. He always drank too much, he sometimes liked to come over and soak in my huge claw foot-tub, and then sit out in the stillness up on the roof of my back porch with the oak tree tassels falling down. By the time we did TVD, he was pretty tight with Lola.

Back to Diane and how we met Jules: one night a favorite band, the Now Explosion, was playing TVD.  OK, now remember this space had been a strip bar. It was a long narrow room with a neon runway dividing it down the middle. Most bands played on the runway. The dancing crowd had to fit itself around this middle-of-the-room obstruction. So Diane and I were dancing on one side of the runway, and we looked just across from where we were and saw a guy whose face was covered in red kisses. We knew where those kisses had come from. They were one of the signature art forms of Elouise Montague, who, along with the Lady Clare, sang lead in the Now Explosion.  Once the Now Explosion had played 688, a top club of our scene in those days, and Elouise had red-kissed endless streamers of white toilet paper and festooned the stage with them. Her kisses were always serious, and artistic, and they were all over the beautiful face of a beautiful guy whom Dearest and I had never met. I called to him from across the runway, “Hey! Come over here and dance with us!” Around the runway he came, and we danced, and we talked about kisses, and we danced.

A few days later, he called TVD. I don’t know why he called, but it was kind of like that night at the Agora when Sierra said, “This girl wants to dance with you.” It felt right to say, “What’s your name again?” “Did you say Jules? Like Jules et Jim?” “Oh, I love that movie.” “OK.” “Well, call this number ‘cause my girlfriend Diane just loved dancing with you. You remember her? She’s your Jeanne Moreau, kissy face boy; you jus better give her a call.”

Of course, he did, and decades later they are still married and living in crazy Tuscany! Just one of those little fairy tales that real life throws in now and then to show it is not the depressing, boring, dead end that we usually take it for.

Here’s another hook-up story. One night during TVD’s early days, Ransam booked some friends of his to come in and play. They were not a real band. The lead guy, his name was Dan Dacron, was in this very popular local band called War Torn. The band Dan brought to TVD was his “playin around with jazz and noise” band. Were they called Heidegger? It doesn’t matter. They only played one or two gigs. Anyway, I heard a knock at the TVD back door and pushed it open. I was dressed fancy in my beige lace tight dress with TVD stenciled across the neckline. At the door was a guy in an old suit coat, some baggy grey trousers, and a pair of shoes that had been worn out by whoever had worn them before him. He was Dan, the lead singer of War Torn, here to load in Heidegger or whoever they were. I had seen him around and even heard his War band on New Year’s Eve that year, but this was the moment when we met.

Later that night, when Dan was winding cords and packing up, we talked. He told me that one day cords would be gone forever and everything would be wireless. I stared at him. I had never before contemplated a wireless world. He may have won my heart then. I am a pushover for ideas. Tell me something that I don’t already know, and I am yours pretty much. A few nights later, Diane and I ran into him at the Bistro at a Method Actors show. I don’t remember much about the show that night. Dan was hanging out with Clare from the Now Explosion, and then he was pretty much hanging out with me and Dearest. Was this one of those nights when Vic persuaded Diane to let him stay at her place so he would not have to drive back to Athens?

I was living in an apartment near TVD. Just before this apartment, I owned a huge house on North Highland. But I developed a bad attitude toward houses, sold my house, and when I moved into an apartment, I would not call it an apartment. For me in those days, life felt temporary. Houses and apartments were too permanent. So I called my apartment the hotel. I only lived in the front room and the bathroom. I never had the stove connected in the kitchen. There was nothing in the refrigerator except sometimes a bottle of cheap Spanish champagne. I think Vic did avoid the drive to Athens that night, and I think this was the night I took Dan back to my hotel.

Once I was seeing Dan, Paid began to do this flirt tease that was one of his antidotes to boredom. Example: one day I called him to talk about TVD. It turned out he had tried to call me. We got together and bought paint and ended up having dinner together, making plans for TVD, and then went for drinks at Lafitte’s, this bar on Peachtree near TV Dinner. He flirted with me, then talked about Lola, and then about our future. Later when I dropped him off at the apartment he shared with Lola, he said, “You aren’t going to kidnap me?” No, I let him out.

Sometimes I was the one who flirted with Ransam. One afternoon, while I was still working as a waitron at a downtown hotel, he called. We needed to take the kegs back that were from the last TVD party. After we did that, I was leaving to go, but he wanted me to stay. “I wish you did not have to go to work,” he said.

Here is me flirting, “Oh, oh, I shouldn’t have gotten you into this weakened condition.”

He said, “It’s been getting weaker and weaker.” I left him reading Ferlinghetti and went to work.

In the midst of all this, we were seriously trying to do TV Dinner. My metaphor was that TVD was a boat in which we had set sail, we were out of sight of the shore, so there was no turning back. I wrote in my journal, “No turning back. I must sail until we reach our destination (destiny). I must be a good sailor. I’ll just think about the ship and how to make it float. Emotional upheavals have no right to sink a ship, only winds and waves, and outside forces. Anything else is suicide. So how to be good sailor and steer clear of emotional trials that rock the boat? Any possible romance between Paid and me we should throw overboard. Let some whale swallow it. Maybe the whale will spit it out one day on some safe shore, but that would be up to the Whale Gods of Destiny.”

Still upheavals and storms kept blowing. One night at TVD, Ransom was in such a dark mood. I tried to get him to go to a movie with me and Dearest. NO.

Later after the movie when we stopped back by, he was out on Peachtree Street in front of TVD with a bottle of wine. I said, “How are you doing?”

“Not good,” he answered.

“Diane and I are going to make some coffee. Why not have some with us.”

“No. I’m too vicious tonight!”

I said, “I love you.”|

He said, “Thank you.”

Lola was nearby with her bicycle, but she was talking to this young guitar guy called Sid.

“Jesus!” I thought. “Secret Storm!”

The next day, Dan brought me a red carnation: the fragrance, the cold, damp, soft feel. I cooked fettuccine and spinach. Then back to his place we called the Beat Pad, a storefront on the Edge, a million records, electric typewriter, crazy clothes on a free-standing rack, the Mr. Coffee maker and hot plate in the corner, the toilet with the paint can catching the drips from a leaky pipe. The New Bohemia and this is not NYC where even a place this rancid would have cost some cash. Dan lived there and his band rehearsed there rent free because the owners just never got around to collecting rent.

Lack of demand caused TV Dinner to give up on being a real café. We quit serving lunch or dinner, except on Friday and Saturday nights. This left some time for some real Secret and Unsecret Storms to get going on.  I have journal entries from those days that don’t even say who I was with. I wonder if I knew even at the time. They read like this: “Zazu’s for Filet Mignon. Friday film French Lieutenant’s Woman. Champagne and Spray Paint.  Disorderly conduct at 688. War Torn was playing. I was going nowhere. Diane, La Dearest, took me home. Saturday night to the movies. Later Paid came over, and then left. I went out. Dressing room with Dan. Marriott Hotel for coffee and a sandwich. Beat Pad. Skin. Next day at the former Pillowtex factory, low tech life style with the very great Arthur and Lucia. Aqua bathroom. Coffee and Brandy. The Big Room at Pillowtex so breezy cold; dance to keep warm. Pizza. Laundry. Fun to just run around and play.”

Ransam was at the War Torn show for a while and at one point, he threw everyone out of the dressing room except Dan who he grabbed and said, telling the truth, “I love you!” He kissed Dan, so I am told, and left terrorizing some unsuspecting partyers on his way out of the club.

Now, my journal wondered, “Will he punish me? Will either of them punish me?”

Yes, if innocent partyers must tremble, it would not go easy for me. At TVD, Paid was distant and so was I. He had turned the tables over. Really, he did that kind of thing. When we talked about who would set them right, he threw tequila in my eyes so I could not see, but I saw.

A few days later, more words, a kind of truce. “Paid and I made a minestrone and put a peace carrot in it. American Music Show at TVD. Comedy Hour. Paid is sweet to Lola. She leaves. She calls. They fight. He comes home with me. What a scene! He is wearing her artifacts, her fish tackle from the old hardware store at 10th and Peachtree. This is good. I would not want to get the wrong idea. I make eyes at him and realize I am getting to be just as dangerous as he is. We split.”

“Dinner at Capos. American Ballet Theater with Diane, Elise, and Susan, stunning in white moire peddle-pushers and a white beaded sweater. Now, I am in my clean hotel (just done today). I have to make the transition. Alone tonight.”

So there it is. How did Diane meet Jules? How did I meet Dan? We met in a hopeless place of crazy clubs, beat pads, and music that put Paradise in its name and also War. Yes, I am headed where you think I am. Of course, I am writing about Paradise Lost when I write my story.

For all the others: Paradise Found. Paid would soon meet his dream girl whose blonde beauty would keep his eyes on her and whose humor would keep him off his darkest roads on most days. They are still together decades later. The same for Diane and Jules. Some loves last. Some don’t.

When should I have turned back? Maybe I should never have opened the back door that night at TVD. Maybe I should have gone home to my hotel instead of listening to Dan tell about the wireless world. Maybe I should have played longer at Pillowtex. Was the Beat Pad the cool music romance nest that I thought it was or was it the no-rent room of a loser? You can see I have thoughts that cast dark questions.

If a love fails, are you allowed to look back and wish that it never was?

 

 

26 Years on February 28, 2014 from Crack-up Poems, Crack-up Songs

Numbers. Numbers calculating, cold clicks on a keyboard.
26. 26 years. 
28. February 28. 29.
If this were leap year, tomorrow would be 29.
28 is close enough. Too close. 27. June 27. The crack-up.
8. The dreadful divorce, the deep and dreadful October 8.
8. 8 months. 5. 5 months.
Added 26, 28, 29, 27, 8, 8, 5 equal 131. The one is for me.
The 31 is for the central number in the perilous tower.
It is I who know 31. I was born on that day. Daddy died on that day.
There is a 31 coming in March.
Hope of new numbers ends then.
Darkness shall descend.
Time now 2:11. Added equals 13. That’s a bad luck card.
If only it had been a 12. Let all numbers slip away,
And all counting, all adding, all subtracting.
Let all the complicated curves of numbers,
The message in the placement of numbers,
The Arabic counting that craves measuring and paying,
Let all fall from the whiteboard, the spreadsheet,
The computer window, the instruction, and the assessment.
No count matters, except to the heart,
And his heart is fickle as we have seen and seen
Again in this life, so why count?
Here is your food black cat. 0.
Your food is 0 like it or not. Eat or don’t eat.
Your food is 0 like it or not.

The Online Other Woman: Chapter Four: That’s Greta Garbo–Not the American Male

Word of the crack-up drifted out among our friends and family on a slow and muddy river. The closest learned the soonest. Others I called one by one, week by week as my strength would permit. I called one dear friend about a month after Dan’s desertion and said that I wish I could have called sooner but telling about it was so difficult.  She immediately understood. “When you tell it, you relive it; you re-experience all the pain of it.” So wise, these friends of mine.

Diane was one of the closest who heard soonest. I emailed her instead of calling because she and Jules, her mad philosopher husband, live far away in the Tuscan hills just outside of Florence. We have always been close, but my tragedy would bring us closer still. They adopted me with constant contact once they knew, and not just email contact, but phone calls, long calls sending big love, positive vibes, and mantras which Jules designed using his experience as a business consultant. He gave me a two-handed set of mantras and said the left hand protects and the right hand projects. There was a mantra for each finger. Some of the left hand ones were “I remain free from overwhelming details,” “I will protect my family,” “Dan is not himself right now but will one day gain sanity.”  For the right hand, I had “Dan had time to plan, but this is new to me,” “I need time to plan my and Max’s new life,” and my favorite, “I will develop a new career integrating previous experience with long-held visions.”

During subsequent calls, we would practice the mantras together and discuss the steps, the jagged steps, for sorting out the change of ownership of my home and many other financial concerns associated with the crack-up. I worried through the line to Tuscany. They consoled on the beam that bounced up and back down to me in my now-strange home that I used to share with my husband.

And so it came to pass that one day, a heavy morning, I answered a call and Jules’s voice came through from faraway in a sudden panic with no hello, no how are you,  just an immediate, “Do you and Dan have joint checking accounts or charge cards? Can he get to your money? It is vital, di vita o di morte, molto, molto, importante!”

I replied, “No! We always kept our money separate and have our own accounts and charge cards.”

Jules breathed relief and said that he wanted me to be very careful about my money, my accounts, my finances. He had known of women, he said, who had been ruined by their husbands. He told of one good friend, Isabella, who lost her house and all her savings. Her husband said he was taking a teaching job in Benin. After he was gone and there was little she could do, she learned that he had taken their savings and borrowed money that she would have to repay. She also learned that he was cheating on her with another woman. As time went by, Jules and Diane would refer to Isabella and her plight of poverty and sorrow. Her story became woven into my story. I mentioned her once to Dan as a reason why Jules and Diane were so concerned for me. He became infuriated. We were wrong, he thought, to compare him to a lying, cheating, “going off to another country and another woman” type of man!

The morning phone call from Jules was not over. He had more to tell, and the blows fell like a pendulum in the pit of my lost life. “Last winter Dan began an online relationship. She is 15 years younger than him, has a six-year old son, and lives in Australia. They have been making plans for her to come here. There have been delays in her coming because she said her father had a heart attack and needs surgery.”

Jules was not trying to rat Dan out, nothing so venial as that, but rather he was too good a man to stand idly keeping a secret that could ruin me. While I did not think Dan would set out to harm me, I did know that a man who gives himself over to another woman would be under her influence. This other woman would have no loyalty to me whatsoever, and it would just be a matter of time before any loyalty Dan had could be wiped out by her. I knew in an instant that, yes, financial risk along with financial hardship had now sneaked onto the crack-up stage and would be chewing my bones until the curtain came down.

How did Jules in faraway Tuscany know all of this? Here’s how: Dan and I had been together for 30 years, his friends were my friends, some of his friends had been my friends before they were his friends, and it would turn out that many of his friends were the best kind of men, the kind who feel protective toward a woman who is alone and in trouble. Though Dan did not tell me, his son, or his family the truth about this other woman, he did tell his friends. Did he think they would be impressed and slap him on the back with, “Hell, yes. You the man!”? Instead, “What the fuck!?!” would be the most common reaction, with the occasional “An online girlfriend? That’s just pathetic,” and many “Of all the couples we know, you two would be the last that we would ever think this could happen to!”

And so it was, the day came when Jules confirmed what I had suspected all along. As my friend El so wisely observed when I first told her of the crack-up, “You can bet he has someone else. They never leave in order to be alone. That’s Greta Garbo–not the American male!”

Indeed, the first question Dan’s father, a mature man who had run his own business and supervised many a sinner, asked the night Dan told him was “Is there someone else?” Dan had answered “No,” which meant that on top of everything else he had now lied to an 80 year old man who has the personal integrity of a saint.

At the time, however, Dan’s answer was not directly challenged by his family or by me. I lived those first two or three weeks following the crack-up thinking that Dan had somehow so fallen out of love with me that he would go sit alone in a one-room apartment in the city in order to get away from me. Those were the days when Diane and Jules were calling me almost daily to give pep talk mantras and big love. Those were the dazed and crazed days before I learned of the online other woman.

But now with this call from Jules, I knew. Or more correctly, it was now impossible to pretend that I did not know. I had been right from the the first night. There was another woman.

The Silver Kiss of Winter from Crack-up Poems, Crack-up Songs

The Silver Kiss of Winter
with homage to Phil Elie and Verlaine

In a brown, forlorn land lost to frost
and to the travels of the Sun and what they cost,
The wind drifted through leafless trees,
through a shadowed light where love was lost.

A shivering woman, searching with soft, sad eyes,
snips and clips blood berries and holly leaves.
Her hands and heart are pricked by thorns
and by a promise that cut sharp and still deceives.

Her breath floats like a cloud in air true blue and chill,
and as she disappears into the Garden of Neglect,
Her sighs bend each branch with their chance to steal
or in surrender the Silver Kiss of Winter to collect.

An Essay on Power and Love

Amanda Hess, writing for slate.com, posted an article entitled “It’s Horrible to Be an Old Woman in Hollywood, Kim Novak Edition.” The article dealt with the appearance of 80 year old Kim Novak who did not look or perform her best at the Oscar presentation on  March 1, 2014. The article included a line from Ellen Degeneis,  “I’m not saying movies are the most important thing in the world, I’m not saying that—because the most important thing in the world is youth.”

Slate’s title, “It’s Horrible to be an Old Woman…” gets closer to the sexual political bone of the problem than does Ellen’s funny, but not quite brave enough “I’m not saying movies…” joke. The youth/age issue is not genderless. It does touch both genders, but it reaches with heavier claws at females.  It is as if women must pay in their older years for the sexual power they owned in their youth. Sexual politics are still a losing game for women. There is a Grecian Nemesis at play in our feminine lives: Every attention, every love, every fame our looks gain for us in our youth is fated to be lost as we age and lose the coin with which those treasures were bought.

This is why wise fathers have put mud in girls’ hands and said, “Land, that is the only thing you can count on,” or why Susan Anthony said, “Don’t clip the branches of a problem, lay you ax at the root (paraphrase),” and she went out and got us the vote, or why if a woman has any brains to go with her beauty she works for two things: love and power. She may use beauty to make the early down payment in her pursuit of love and power, but all too soon she must learn to achieve her goals without it. And really, girls and women, that’s actually when life gets interesting, because unlike fleeting, easily-lost-forever beauty, love and power are generative. The more you have, the more you make, the more you give, the more you have, and then the more you have, the more you give, the more you make, ad infinitum.

On the Blues Highway from Crack-up Poems, Crack-up Songs

On the Blues Highway

Why is it always fatal to read
Poetry first thing in the morning?
Never go near Mary Oliver,
Not if you’re in mourning.
If she starts with “If the world
Were only pain and logic, who would want it?”
You are damned and in for it.
Get out of her Singapore
And that tragic toilet she talks about.
Never follow her into the Pinewoods
Where she follows the sleepy deer.
When she wakes, she is alone.
So am I, my prayers cold as stone.

There comes a day,
No matter what they say,
When the road takes a turn,
And you land on the Blues Highway.

Do you love music? Can’t it carve a place,
A place so real you could live there?
It is good that we cannot stay.
We must turn and click the button,
Click the button, so another song will play.
What do I hear on that crazy radio,
On the ride out on the Blues Highway?
Well, the Blues, of course.
Sista Monica “If you ain’t comin home,
Then leave me alone and let me moan.”
But there’s another station comin in,
And it has played all day.
Guitars, Fado, Blues from faraway.
Darlin, darlin, let the words say,
“With a rose…I danced with whoever would dance.
I danced…|
The rose
Fell
Fell
Fell
To pieces.”

That’s where poetry can take you,
When there comes a day
No matter what they say,
When the road takes a turn,
And you land on the Blues Highway.

You better work or it’ll get worse,
But how to face the task, you ask.
Ask the Blues. Ask Fado.
Ask Monica. Ask Mariza.
But never ask Celeste. She won’t hear.
She’s dancing with a Rosa Blanca.
Don’t try to speak when she follows the deer,
The dysfunctional deer who walk the world
Of only pain and logic,
And where, In their sleepy trance,
They step into her dance.

 

 

 

 

The Online Other Woman: Chapter Three: How to Murder a Marriage

Beginning on the night of the crack-up and on and on from there, insomnia began to haunt my bedside like a suicide note that I might write but that no one would read.  Some nights were hopeless; I could not fall asleep. I would lie at one end of the night and stare down its long hall to the dawn. The length of that empty hall seemed endless when contemplated from the end where I lay with so much confusion churning in me.   Some nights were more casually cursed. I’d finally pass out, but I’d wake a few hours later, feeling the delicious comfort of loose limbs and peace. Then, thoughts of my predicament would creep in. I would try to keep them out. I understood that they would murder my sleep.

The dark mantra of all my sleeplessness was “MacBeth does murder sleep.”  Once he murders Duncan, Macbeth realizes that he has murdered sleep along with his victim, the king. Peaceful slumber was lost to him forever. I know how he felt as he craved a rest that would knit “up the ravell’d sleeve” of worry and despair. I felt that Dan had murdered my sleep along with his murder of our marriage.

How do you murder a marriage? Well, the first stab can come over salmon dinner at the dining room table.  Another blow can fall as the sad eyed lady listens to Dylan croon “She Belongs to Me.” And then there is the Machiavellian process of death through severing and destroying the business that binds.

Dan was scheduled to come by so we could do the paper work separating the cars, insurance, utilities, etc. He was late by two hours. I had been ready forever and was antsy.  When he finally arrived, we sat at the fateful dining room table again. He signed the titles of my car and our son’s car over to me. We called the electrical company and asked them to put the house account in my name rather than my husband’s. We called the gas company and the cable, but they wanted signed paperwork in order to put those accounts into my name. That would require another day with Dan. Our marriage ended the night he told me he was leaving, or maybe earlier, whenever it was that he secretly stopped loving me. But it was becoming apparent there is no sudden death to a marriage. It can be murdered, but the death is one measured in days or months even; never is it anything as brief or as merciful as a backstab to the heart.

A July day in Georgia should be sunny with blue skies blazing overheard. During the summer of my discontent, the skies were gloomy and grey most of the time. Backyard gardeners had difficulty growing tomatoes. Gardens weren’t getting enough sun to prosper; none of us were. Looking back on this grey day in July, I see that our trip to sever the family policies for cars and phones would be the last time that I would ride with Dan in his car. So many car rides had come before: trips to California, back and forth to New York City, to our son’s little league baseball games, so many trips large and small, but this trip would be the last.
We sat in the office of the car insurance agent.  A policy was prepared for me that covered my car and our son’s. Our old policy was put solely in Dan’s name with only his car left on it. As the agent made a call to the home office and prepared the documents to complete our transaction, my husband kept company with his Iphone.  Dan was fortunate to have something so enthralling right ready at hand, while what I had was the view of a grey day though window blinds. But, I did feel at one with that dim and dripping world. I told myself those were tears, tears falling from the trees, like the ones falling from me.

Sure. Right, I hear you. It was rain out there, but you could never have told me that as I watched my life dissolving in the flood. Still, the insurance office was a picnic compared to the ATT store. We took a number and took a seat. Again Dan had his ever-entertaining IPhone. I squirmed for almost an hour at his side watching sales reps talk to customers,  contemplating the gleaming white floor, then the in-house promo signs, and then the people going in and out of the bathroom.

When we finally had our own rep, we accomplished our mission. The family phone contract was severed. My husband was given his own account. I was given an account for our son and me. I was eligible for an upgrade and was given an Iphone of my own for $1.00. I thought, “Well, I’ve now joined the band of captives. Soon no one will ever make eye contact with me again. I’ll be too busy staring at my IPhone like Dan.”

More waiting. As I said, a marriage can be murdered but the process is a cold, slow torture. There is no mercy. There is no grace. In this terrible place, this piece of the killing floor that was dressed up to look like an ATT store, even after our number had been called, and we had a rep working our case, there was still an apparently endless amount of info that he had to type into his tablet and into my new phone, and he came and went, and took a coffee break, for all I know. Finally, it was over. Our phone service was separated or divorced even though Dan and I were neither, not yet.

By the time we got back to our house it was getting dark. Dan wanted to set my IPhone up so I would have apps, not that I would know what to do with them. Also he was going to set me up to receive email on my phone. I thought that that would be useful. As we pulled into the driveway, he mentioned how hungry he was. Long story short, I invited him in. Insane, I know. But old habits die hard, and they breath their last in a swirl of rationalization: I’ve got to cook for me and Max anyway. It won’t hurt to let Dan join us since he is trying to help me program my IPhone, etc., crazy etc.

We reenacted one of the classic scenes from our marriage. I was in the kitchen which is open to our den; a long counter with the sink serves as the divider. I could see Dan in the den, lying back in his recliner with his IPhone. Just like old times, I thought. But wait a minute. This time that’s my Iphone, and he’s setting it up for me. Before, of course, he would have had his phone and been on Instagram, but looking on from the outside, this did look like an eerie replay of the last year of our lives together.

I don’t know how I was able to cook. I know I was not in my right mind, but somehow, I don’t if all women are this way, but when most of us get in our own kitchen, no matter who has died, or who doesn’t love you anymore, we can start putting away the clean dishes from the right-hand sink, loading the dishwasher with the dirty ones from the left sink. We can remember that we picked rosemary from the garden yesterday and there’s enough in the glass by the sink to make our

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic.

            Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place filets of chicken breast in a zip-lock bag, add drizzles of olive oil, sliced garlic, snips of fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the bag to distribute the seasonings. While this marinates, peel potatoes and slice lengthwise into quarters or sixths. Place in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add snipped rosemary, sliced garlic, salt, and pepper, and stir. Spray a sheet pan with oil and pour the potatoes onto one half. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on the other side of the pan. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting until chicken and potatoes are done and have the desired amount of roasted caramel color.

I made one of my vinaigrette salads using tomatoes from our garden. Dan and I had both worked to plant those tomatoes in early summer. Here’s a strange truth: when you put a plant in the ground, there is no telling what situation will surround you on the night when you eat the fruit.

Max joined us, and we sat at our old places at the dining room table. Dan enjoyed his dinner and chatted away. He told Max all about the wonders of my new IPhone and all the apps he was getting for it. Max ate in his usual hurried way, but he did not respond to the conversation. He sat to my right. I looked over at him sensing that maybe there was a problem. It was as if Dan’s light-hearted, “let’s ignore everything that has happened” banter was fueling some kind of fire in Max. Dan was, of course, oblivious and kept talking. Finally, when Max was finished eating, he looked at his dad and said with a dark hostility, “Why are you even here? I thought you were done with us.”

Dan responded with something of a smile, “I always wanted to stay friends. I was always hoping I could come back and see you guys and have dinner.” Max picked up his empty plate and took it to the kitchen. He was done.

Was that simple for Max or very hard? It looked simple from the outside. For my part, I also would have loved to walk away, to walk and just keep on walking until I had completely walked out of my life into a land of no time and no place. I would have loved to be done. Just done. But this was the murder of a marriage, remember. It would take time. Dan would have to finish his dinner, finish programming my IPhone, use the bathroom, ask for some of the tomatoes to take to his apartment. He would get in his car and drive away. I would clean up the kitchen and visit Max for a minute in his room. I would change into my gown and wash my face.

It was then that I would look at my bed and the long hall of the night would open up in front of me. Morning was so far away, so far away like a distant horizon when seen from a lonely shore. How would I ever be able to reach such a far off shore?

I think this was the night when I cried, and then I dozed, and then I woke. I wondered had I perhaps slept through the night? Was I on the hopeful shore of morning at last? But I felt the tears still wet on my face. If it had been morning, they would have had time to dry away. Imagine measuring time by how long it takes tears to dry.

My sleep was murdered for one more night. I turned on the light and wrote in my journal. Here’s what I said, “An expensive day for me. $600 for my new car insurance policy and $100 to set up the new phone account. Back home I made dinner and Dan set up my IPhone. Finally, he left. I was very sad but basically held up. It is weird and terribly sad to me that Dan stopped loving me and never reached out to save us before it was too late. But there it is. Still we got some things done today that had to be done. A huge step accomplished. Hallelujah!”

I really wrote that–the Hallelujah! It seems almost demented under the circumstances, but what is it about completing a hard task even if there is much more to be completed before you will truly be done? I call it the accomplishment drug. There are times when each day—dinner or no dinner, sleep or no sleep, tears or no tears—when each day is a victory.

DSS from Crack-up Poems, Crack-up Songs

Sometimes when I read the poetry of others, I will receive an idea for a poem of my own. This blog will house the evolving novel The Online Other Woman  and my evolving collection of poems entitled Crack-up Poems, Crack-up Songs. Today I post one of the poems and the poem by T. S. Eliot that is its inspiration.

 DSS
by Celeste Spaceandspirit

The here and now, of late,
Own the power to annihilate.
Today is the highway,
Tomorrow is the day.
The dream hides in the distant air.
The road may rise and meet it there.

USK
by T. S. Eliot

Do not suddenly break the branch, or
Hope to find
The white hart over the white well.
Glance aside, not for lance, do not spell
Old enchantments. Let them sleep.
Gently dip, but not too deep.
Lift your eyes
Where the roads dip and where the roads rise
Seek only there
Where the grey light meets the green air
The Hermit’s chapel, the pilgrim’s prayer.

The Online Other Woman: Chapter Two: A Bad Date with Dylan

The crack-up came in layers for us. Our marriage was over, but over was like an onion. It would have to be peeled away layer by layer. The first layer was lost the day Dan told me he was leaving. The next layer came a few days later when he took me to a Dylan concert.  I had always loved Bob Dylan but had never seen him in person. We had purchased the tickets months earlier for quite a bit of money and invited friends to join us. One of the questions I managed to ask the night Dan left was “What about the Dylan concert?” He had said he didn’t know, but maybe we would go since we had the tickets. Well, go we went.
On the day of the concert which was three days after what I came to call the crack-up, Dan phoned and said he’d be by in few hours to pick me up. I got ready wondering what the night would bring. A reconciliation even crossed my mind. He arrived, said I looked nice, and we left to pick up our friends, Mark and Maria. As difficult as this night would prove to be, it did serve the purpose of giving me more information. He told me he had stopped loving me some time back. I knew intimacy had been at a minimum, but thought it might be due to performance problems on his part.  There had been some of that during some encounters.

Then he was talking about his new life and said he had been playing his freenotes. The freenotes were a set of handmade instruments somewhat like chimes that are played with mallets. I was shocked!  “Your freenotes!” I exclaimed. “Terry Lee, my old friend from when I was fourteen years old, made those for me.” He said he thought he should have them because he is a musician. I said, “But didn’t you want to at least ask me first?” It was very troubling.

We picked up our friends Mark and Maria and went on to the concert which was at a large open air amphitheater. Once we survived the crazy-slow scanning process of computer-printed tickets and found our seats, Dan, for the most part, ignored me. He talked to Mark some, at one point he clipped his fingernails with the parings falling on the ground between his feet, but most of the time he was on his iPhone.

For over a year now, Dan had been what I thought of as addicted to his iPhone.  He took it with him for his first trip to the bathroom in the morning, and the end of every night would find him lying for hours in his recliner with the TV on but with his eyes on his IPhone. His attachment had become so complete that I had stopped coming in to kiss him goodnight when I went to bed because he acted as if it was such an interruption. I’m not sure it ever actually happened, but I think I have a memory of him shifting his lips to one side to give me a kiss while his eyes shifted the other way still fixed on the IScreen. His all-enthralling activity on his iPhone was Instragram. He spent spare time out taking pictures with the iPhone, then evenings were devoted to editing them, putting them up on Instagram, monitoring how many “likes” they got, and, I suppose, “liking” the pictures of others.

As we sat waiting for the show, we did have one conversation. During an IPhone lull, I noticed he was not wearing his wedding ring. I reached over and gently touched his finger where the ring used to be.  He said, “I don’t want to be married.”

Slowly in a questioning voice, I said, “Well, that means we have to get divorced.”  This was the first time that thought had occurred to me. It fell like bad blow to chest.  I had trouble breathing. I listened as he explained all about how the guys at work had told him the way to get a quickie divorce on the cheap with no lawyer. You do it yourself, etc. I just stared at him. What could I say?

One of the bands who opened for Dylan was Wilco. Mark, who is a great musician and a drummer, liked them.  During one song, I noticed the drummer entered an amazing passage. It was as if the drums were telling a story, and then they were telling another story, and then they were weaving in and out between the two stories, and telling more and more. When I first noticed this, I looked at Mark and said, “That’s some drumming!” He laughed, said yes, and we both stood, feeling the high that the virtuoso who held the sticks was delivering.  After the set, Dan began a critique that went on and on about how he hated that band. Even after Mark said he liked them and tried to explain what he thought they had, Dan kept up the harangue. It was to the point of rudeness.

While the next band was playing, Dan completely ignored me and was texting constantly on his iPhone. I could no longer sit there. I had to get away, and after walking rather blindly for a while, I thought maybe I’d get some food just for something to do. While I was wandering around deciding what to have, Mark came and found me. He wanted to say how sorry he was for how Dan was acting, how crazy he thought it all was, and how bad he felt that he had agreed to come to our house the next day to help Dan move the furniture he was taking to his new apartment. I was sad already, but this kindness really threatened to turn on the waterworks. Trying with limited success to hold back the tears, I told Mark that I appreciated what he said and that I understood. I knew that he was being put in a very awkward position and did not hold anything against him. He was Dan’s friend, and Dan needed his friends even if he didn’t deserve them after what he was doing. We stood there looking at each other in a gorgeous golden light that was coming from the setting sun. Then he went back to the seats, and I went on to buy food that I would not end up eating.

When Bob Dylan came on, even Dan paid attention. I loved seeing Dylan, though that night his old voice was all but gone. But he’s still a great musician, playing the harmonica, the guitar, and the piano which he plays while standing. His band was very tight.  They played some favorites that went with my mood: “Things Have Changed,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” and “All Along the Watchtower.” Yes, there was too much confusion, and I was not going to get any relief.

One strange, positive moment found its way through this otherwise bad date with Dan and Dylan. After Dan had told me that he had stopped loving me, I remembered a  line from “The Man Who Got Away” where Judy Garland sings, “suddenly you’re older.” I sure felt old and alone there at that concert that night with its audience of attractive, mostly younger people. But then toward the end of the evening, I was at the sink in the restroom touching up my lipstick.  After I blot my lips with a tissue, I touch them with the powder puff from my compact to set the color and tone it down a bit.  A young woman was standing beside me watching this process, and she said to me out of the blue and with great emphasis “I like your dress.” I smiled at her kind compliment and said I liked her dress, too.  “It looks very pretty on you.”

As I was walking out of the restroom with a year or two shaved off my low self esteem, I wondered if I had been “touched by an angel.” The girl who had spoken to me certainly had an angelic look; she was exceedingly lovely with blue eyes, long wavy blond hair, and a beautiful smile. AND she was wearing an orange dress. This may not have significance to you, but because of certain dreams I had after my father died and  stories others have told me that had to do with the afterlife, I have come to associate the color orange with Heaven or wherever les enfants du paradis reside. Later, I even wondered if Mark really came to me there in that crowd of kids who were all looking for a good time while I was trying to out walk my breaking heart.  Might that have been another angel or a visitation of some kind?  Thinking back on our conversation, I remembered that strange, golden orange light. But no, though what he said held out some sweet salvation to me, it was done, not by an angel, but by a really strong and kind man.

Back at home after the concert, I sat for a time and suffered.  It was as simple as that.  There is no other way to describe it.  Pure pain held me paralyzed.  When finally I went to bed, sleep did not come easily nor did it last long.  I had begun to get a migraine at the concert; once I woke, it was coming on strong, heating my forehead with a terrible pressure. I decided to take an Imatrex which I hated to do because they always made me feel so strange and sick. But I thought, there is so much that I am coping with now, it would be nice if a migraine wasn’t added to the burden. I made hot chocolate and nibbled a piece of toast. In a while, I went to lie down again hoping, praying for a better tomorrow.

 

 

Email from El: Other Plans

How many stories like yours are out there? I ran into one yesterday. Parker Int’l is the manager of the shopping center where my store is at present. Because we are vacating, they sent a “new” woman out to walk through the site. We got to talking and I found out she was 3 months new with the company. Her husband, now-ex, is a lawyer, married 22 years with 3 children. She ran his office until he walked in one day and said he had “other plans.” I asked her how he met the “other plans” and she said Craigslist. Is it just too easy to hook up with someone via the internet? There is no resistance; it’s so sterile, until lives are damaged forever.

But like Dan, this guy has a no look back attitude. What does that say to the children? I am so glad to hear that Max has some help available in the short term (I had arranged for Max to see a counselor.). It’s so hard for guys to talk about their feelings anyway, unless they are testosterone-laden for a girl, and there’s a great word for that kind of talk. I couldn’t help but think of you and how many other women out there who have Internet-ex husbands. May their phones fail!!!   Love, El