I had started doing aerobics and running in place in our townhouse living room when Chad was at the golf shop. I’d found a recipe for whole wheat banana bread and I made a loaf every Sunday and every Wednesday and that was all I ate all week. I was preparing myself for a different life like a man in a boxing movie. I’d bought a new pair of jeans and a new hat. The hat was a black ball cap and it had silver studs all over it. Chad didn’t like the hat. “Since when do you wear hats?” he said. We were in his car on the way to the driving range. He had a Garth Brooks tape in the tape player. “I don’t know,” I said. “I just liked this one.”
Did you remember Kurt was dead only a week when we met? My heart was broken not from the subsequent break up with Chad but from the knowledge that we – our generation - couldn’t save Kurt.
After we married, I bought an encyclopedia of literature at the discounted, chain bookstore in town. It was a hardcover and heavy and the cover was emerald green. I sat cross legged on our futon, scanning it for depressives and alcoholics and suicides. I only highlighted the suicides, though. Years later, I opened the encyclopedia and petals from a flower you gave me were still pressed inside of it. I remember we’d planned to drive around the country, visiting the gravesites of literary suicides so I could feel closer to them.
I’d been obsessively reading magazine articles in the weeks and months before Kurt’s death, before you and I met: Spin, Rolling Stone, what else was there? Vanity Fair. Images of Courtney naked and pregnant and (allegedly) on drugs ... I was such a square, your roommate Paul accused me of being a cop. “Would I be eating the pussy of a cop?” you said. I always leave that line out of the story when I tell the girls. For so long I left so much out of the stories I told our girls.
I was looking everywhere for clues. Was Kurt going to be okay? Was he still on heroin? Did he hate being a rock star? Were his undiagnosed stomach problems real or a result of his heroin use? Were he and Courtney getting a divorce? Did he want to live? Did he want to die?
All information was conflicting and hard to sort through and decipher.
I’d spent the weekend before we met lying on my couch in sweats, smoking Benson & Hedges, the same cigarettes Kurt smoked. I smoked them because my roommate at the University of Cincinnati smoked them and because they came in a pretty gold box and had the words “Deluxe” and “Park Avenue” printed across the bottom.
I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t leave my townhouse. Chad was working at the golf shop all weekend.
It was Kurt Loder who told us, who interrupted whatever we were watching on MTV, music videos, probably (Pearl Jam or Guns ‘n’ Roses) to tell us Kurt was dead.
This was Friday afternoon and by Sunday I hadn’t gone anywhere. I was still on the couch in my sweats with my Benson & Hedges. I bought cartons of them then; stored them in the refrigerator. Finally, Chad changed the channel to watch the PGA tournament. “Look,” he said, pointing to the screen. A young golfer whose name I didn’t know and don’t remember was wearing a black ribbon and Chad said it was to commemorate Kurt or to honor Kurt’s death or something like that. I figured Kurt would be annoyed, like how he was in the Vanity Fair profile of Courtney when he saw a metal head wearing a Nirvana shirt outside a 7-Eleven. But what did Chad know? He listened to Garth Brooks and read John Grisham novels. Not that I didn’t, but I listened to Nirvana and read Bukowski, too.
I was living with a golfer named Chad when we met. I forgot to mention this. Of course, you know this because of what happened later between Chad and you that ended with me driving you to the E.R. but if I tell that story now I’d be jumping ahead.
I never bothered to tell you much about Chad because of your jealousy and now I barely remember the two and a half years I lived with him, which were the two and a half years Chad and I were engaged.
Most of what I remember is going with him to the driving range and smoking cigarettes while he hit balls. I hated golf because my whole family played and belonged to the country club and I thought country clubs were horrible and discriminatory, which, of course, they are. But Chad worked at a golf shop down the street from our townhouse. He couldn’t afford to join a country club. So, the point was moot.
At first, I couldn’t look at the picture. I don’t remember how soon after the announcement they released it. I couldn’t look, and then I couldn’t not look. I studied it the way I studied photographs of Marilyn Monroe’s bedroom, as it was the night she died. For more clues.
But Marilyn’s was different because Marilyn wasn’t in it.
Kurt was lying on the ground ... his Converse and denim, clenched fist... where was the gun? I don’t remember seeing a gun in the photograph. I can’t remember if the gold box of Benson & Hedges was visible. I don’t remember his beautiful blond angel hair.
Years later, a year or so before our divorce, I wrote a screenplay about Kurt’s last days. This was a decade before the Gus Van Sant movie. My movie, the one no one saw because it was never made, was called Not Fade Away and was my own sort of love story to Kurt. (How many love stories do we have with people we never meet? For me: Letterman, Eminem, and, before either of them, I loved Kurt.) There were the days he went missing: from April 1,st when he escaped from rehab, until his death, April 5th. In my screenplay, a woman (that was me) finds Kurt in an alleyway in Seattle as she’s driving home from a concert. Or maybe she was walking to her car. I don’t remember. Anyway, she finds him and helps him to her car. It was so easy because he was so high and out of it. It didn’t matter he didn’t know her. Then she drives him to her remote cabin an hour outside of Seattle, puts him in her bed and sits with him for days as he goes through withdrawals (I had seen numerous movies in the 80s and 90s in which a character goes through withdrawals in a bed while a good woman watches). Of course, they fall in love. But, see, I thought I was clever. Because at the end of my screenplay, the result is the same: he still kills himself. Even after she nurses him back to health, even after they fall in love, he leaves her temporarily (he says) to go do a concert or to tend to business, and the next time he calls her, from a payphone, he shoots himself while she’s still on the phone with her, so the audience and she hear the gunshot ring through the phone.
I don’t think I ever told you about this movie I wrote about Kurt. I wrote it right before I left you.
Before Chad, I’d lived three years with a man in Cincinnati who took me to gun and knife shows and collected skulls. We’d met at the university, though I was already on academic probation and dropped out officially soon after. The man was from New York and had a hairstyle called a Devil’s lock and wore combat boots with a spur attached to one of them. He was barely a man when we met, 18 or 19, maybe. A freshman in college studying Industrial Design. I was a year older. I sat around the house reading Bukowski and Henry Rollins’ books and burning through the money I found out my grandmother had put into CDs for my education. It was then that I developed a tendency for panic attacks and agoraphobia, not leaving our apartment for weeks at a time. The man who collected knives and skulls and listened to Frank Sinatra (“like a serial killer,” our daughter later said when I told her about him), told me I was lazy and unambitous and would never amount to anything. I didn’t have a father in my life so I guess he was taking on the role. I even called him “daddy,” then, without realizing the connection. I was nineteen, twenty, twenty- one. Aimless. Untethered. No one knew or cared when I dropped out of college to read Bukowski and smoked cigarettes on my futon. I was a teetotaler then, already. We broke up when he graduated college and moved back to White Plains. Suddenly I didn’t have a daddy anymore. I moved back to Columbus; moved into a new apartment complex with my mother. It was my mother who introduced me to Chad. He’d had a crush on her all through high school. I think he really wanted to date my mother. I was a consolation prize. I didn’t call Chad daddy but I didn’t think of Niles anymore.
In February, Chad and I had gone to see a new movie called Reality Bites that was supposed to be about our generation – Generation X. Someone had written a book about us a few years earlier. We were supposed to be apathetic and ironic and dissatisfied. Except Chad didn’t seem to be any of those things. Chad was five years older, a Republican; he drove a Honda Accord and had one of those steering wheel locking mechanisms in his car (I think he had one of those early phones in his car, too). I’d given his ring back a few months earlier. When he gave it to me, we had our photograph placed in our hometown newspaper and, in the photograph, we were both wearing button down oxfords and our hands were folded on top of each other in some unnatural way we’d never fold them in real life.
After I saw Reality Bites, I realized I wanted a guy like Ethan Hawke (or like Ethan Hawke’s character). At the end of the movie, Ethan Hawke screams a cover of a Violent Femmes song into a microphone for Winona Ryder. I wanted to dance to a famous rock song at a gas station, buy my groceries there with a credit card. I wanted a guy who would scream into a microphone for me. Days after we met, you screamed my name and tore hair from your head. You ran from me. You were always running. But you always came back. You came back and lay your head in my lap and your face was tearstained. You were only eighteen. Everything you owned fit inside a shoebox.
I’d feared his dying for weeks. Every time they played a chunk of Nirvana songs on the radio, I was certain he was already dead. The month before he’d almost died in Rome. There was the image of Courtney riding in the back of the ambulance – I started to type limo – hair more disheveled than normal, eye makeup and lipstick smeared. Someone had placed a towel over Kurt’s face. He was lying on the stretcher behind her. Courtney, as usual, was the most prominent person in the picture. Later, it was his stomach they pumped.
Chad and I still slept in the same bed even though I’d given him back his engagement ring months earlier. I wrote in my journal – the one you made me throw out soon after we got together (I remember marching it and several others out to the large apartment dumpster in the parking lot, throwing them in, while you were at work, trying to prove my loyalty to you again and again and again, because you couldn’t bear to think of me having a past that didn’t contain you) – that monogamous sex was like masturbation.
For weeks, I’d listened to In Utero, studied the lyrics inside the CD case for clues. After Kurt died, I listened to Live Through This in the same manner.
A famous image of Kurt and Courtney: in the sun outside the MTV Video Awards, Frances on Courtney’s hip, a baby bottle in Courtney’s hand. A reproducing Sid and Nancy. We watched that movie together on my futon soon after we moved in together. The same futon your friend’s girlfriend – was her name Katarina? – got her period on after we all went to see Natural Born Killers together. I remember she didn’t say anything about it, but they left right after she went to the bathroom, which must have been when she realized. I sprayed some sort of cleaner and scrubbed and scrubbed. It was a big red circle. It took up almost half the futon. We never saw Katarina or your friend again.
Chad and I had been together almost three years. Chad gave me a Dalmatian puppy for Christmas and it almost died on my birthday, which was Easter that year. I remember holding the sick puppy in my arms in the animal emergency hospital, praying he wouldn’t die. I always said the types of people who give up animals and children are the worst types of people and then I gave up that Dalmatian without a thought as soon as I met you.
You were dark and mysterious and beautiful then. You sauntered into the store where I worked with two of your friends – Paul and someone I no longer remember the name of, someone I can no longer even envision. The two of them stayed together toward the front of the store, talking only to each other, telling inside jokes like Beavis and Butthead, and you sashayed your way to the back where I stood behind the counter in my new hat.
Here, finally, you were. A 1990s version of Jim Morrison, swaying drunkenly before me. In three days, I’d spend the night with you at your apartment where you lived with Paul and three other guys and after that I’d never again stay in the townhouse with Chad. But I’m jumping ahead.
I remember it was a Saturday night, near closing time, when you and Paul and the other guy came into the store. It was a tiny import shop and you managed to touch most of the objects we carried: Mexican Bajas and ocarinas and wooden flutes and ponchos from Peru and little Mexican worry dolls. You came and stood in front of the glass case on the other side of me and tried on silver rings. You stuck your hands in bowls of beads, rolling them around your palm. There wasn’t an inch of the store you didn’t touch - except for me.
Finally, your friends wandered out of the store. I looked out and saw them talking to the blonde girl at the frozen yogurt stand. Guys were always conjugating there to talk to her. She was hillbilly skinny and wore junior high black eyeliner. I’d seen her look up when you walked through the mall. You were far better looking than your friends. You had a cleft in your chin like an old movie star. I was already intoxicated with you even if I didn’t know why.
“Jared!” one of them called. I figured the yogurt girl wanted to meet you.
“You better go,” I said.
I didn’t know what else to do when you stood there, anyway, so I got out a bottle of Windex and started spraying the glass counter.
“You know, it’d be polite to wait until I’m out of the store before you begin to erase all evidence of my having been here,” you said.
It was the first thing you’d said directly to me and I didn’t have an answer back. Instead, I watched you stroll back out into the middle of the mall toward your friends. Earlier, I’d said to one of them, “I hope he’s not driving,” meaning you, because as soon as you’d walked in the store, I could smell the whiskey and cigarettes on you.
I’d looked away and then looked back. For some reason I’d felt voyeuristic. You’d been talking to your friends and now you were turned to face me. You stood erect, no more sashaying as you had in the store, and raised your hand stiffly in a salute directed at me. I was slow to respond. I had my hand halfway up and already you had turned and were walking away. I felt my hand fall back to my side. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. Why would I ever see you again? It had been the most peculiar interaction. Like a dream or a movie. Like falling in love with a photograph of a rock star in a magazine. It wasn’t until after you left that I realized “Heart- Shaped Box” was playing on the alternative rock station. My boss had a cheap stereo in the small closet like room behind the counter. He had strategically hung speakers over the counter in the store. I spent my time before we met dialing the radio station to answer trivia questions. This is how I won free tickets to see The Cranberries and The Gin Blossoms and a group called Billy Pilgrim that consisted of Meg Ryan’s brother and another guy whose name I didn’t know because he didn’t have a famous actress sister.
I spent my last weekend in the townhouse thinking about you instead of Kurt Cobain or Ethan Hawke. I went to the driving range with Chad and sat on the ground and smoked cigarettes thinking of you while he listened to Garth and hit balls. He didn’t seem to notice the change in me. I was always somewhere else, with someone else, in my head, anyway.
On Monday morning you were back. I was on my hands and knees, a vulnerable position for a woman to be in, scrubbing the tile floor. I wasn’t wearing my hat anymore and you didn’t smell like alcohol, only cigarettes. I looked over my shoulder, saw the yogurt stand girl watching us. Your hair looked freshly washed, the Jim Morrison waves glistening. Maybe it was still wet. I wanted to touch it and see but I restrained myself.
“They make you do that?” you said. You were wearing a pair of faded black jeans cut at the knee.
“I don’t mind,” I said. One of your knees was skinned. Maybe an elbow, too.
“I wouldn’t make you do that,” you said, which didn’t make sense. But I knew you were just trying to let me know how you felt about me which I appreciated. Everything here still felt dreamlike and cinematic. It didn’t feel like real life yet. It wouldn’t feel like real life for two years, until our daughter was born.
“I find it appalling that only girls get to wear pink,” you said. You were holding one of the Mexican ponchos in front of you and staring into the mirror. “And these,” you said, throwing a leather satchel over your shoulder. You began to strut around the room. With any other guy I would have known to laugh. I was already figuring out that with you everything was dead serious.
“How do you feel about bikes?” you said.
“Bicycles?” I said. “I like them.” Even though I hadn’t been on one in years. As a teenager I’d ridden my bike all over town and to the neighboring town where the only mall was located. I’d strapped a large boombox to the back and listened to the Fat Boys because the Fat Boys were the most rebellious musical group I could listen to on my bike in my small Ohio town.
“Good, because I don’t have a car,” you said. You didn’t mention that Paul and you and the other eighteen year olds you lived with had a habit of stealing bikes and selling them. I had a new, used, baby-blue Celica my grandmother had bought me just a couple weeks earlier when she finally accepted the fact I was never going to graduate college (I had been promised a new Celica for graduation; the “gently used” Celica was a compromise). Before that I’d had a 1977 Volvo station wagon I’d bought myself. It burned through gas and oil and barely made it on the across town highway.
I asked you about riding bikes. I didn’t ask you your age. Neither of us thought to ask that. Which I guess is how you end up married to someone six years your junior. Everyone thought I was younger than you, anyway. All the guys in your apartment, the runaway sixteen year old girls crashing there, too.
“How do you feel about social gatherings?” you said. You said your roommates were having a party the following night. I didn’t know how to tell you tomorrow was my birthday. I didn’t know how I would explain to Chad I was going out on my birthday when I never went out on any other day of the year. I guess I gave up on explanations quickly when we met. They felt superfluous (a word I learned in the only writing class I ever took, my sophomore year; I got a B+). In the movies, explanations to soon-to-be-ex-boyfriends happen off camera or are filled with clichés. In this case, either one may have happened.
All I know is I showed up at your apartment the next night in my baby-blue Celica, on my twenty-fifth birthday. You had written your address on a magazine cover, over Kurt’s face. The apartment complex was near the onramp to the freeway. A young guy in a muscle shirt was vomiting over the balcony when I got there.
“Mike, you faggot!” he yelled as I passed. “Why’d you put your cigarette out in my beer?”
The door to the apartment was open. Mike was sitting on the couch with four or five other people, none of whom were you. He shrugged his shoulders and a young girl – one of the sixteen year old runaways you fucked before we met – came running up to me from the kitchen where she’d been doing shots and playing Euchre.
“Do you have a cigarette?” she said and I pulled one out of my brand-new pack for her. I’d stopped at a gas station on the way.
“Are you here for Jared?” she said. I don’t know how she knew. She was cute in a Bob’s Big Boy waitress way (she got a job there shortly after this night). Young punks were walking in and out of the frame like a typical 90s movie, chugging beers and smoking cigarettes, wearing work boots with shorts, emitting testosterone.
I nodded. I was an introvert. I was flashing back to a childhood filled with marijuana-smoking hippies in our living room: long hair and Fleetwood Mac and Rolling Rock. Patched jeans and beards. My mom trying to prove something to her country club belonging, upper middle class parents. Me upstairs in my bedroom reading Little House books and A Wrinkle in Time and Judy Blume with my dog, Rufus. And then, when Rufus was hit by a car, another dog, Carson.
There were empty and half-empty beer bottles all over the apartment, cigarettes swimming in some, fast food wrappers balled up on the floor or used as ashtrays, half-eaten bags of chips, empty bottle of cheap whiskey, empty bottles of cheap vodka, cigarette butts ground into the carpet, burn holes on every surface. No one else acknowledged me.
The sixteen year old led me to one of the two back bedrooms. I was seventeen when I lost my virginity at a high school Christmas party to a football player I’d never talked to before and never talked to again after even though we were in the same senior year math class. He wasn’t unkind but he had a girlfriend. Ironically, she was chubby like me. Not your perfect size two cheerleader type. I didn’t really mind. He wasn’t one of my crushes. I didn’t pine for him after. I’d never considered the way his jeans fit, the faded denim where his balls rubbed his crotch, as I had with a couple other boys in my class, both of them burnouts: Scott Shade and Troy Hershner. I guess I was always most attracted to this type: dark haired, cigarette-smoking boys with chips on their shoulders, going nowhere, working class, like the bad boy in Breakfast Club. Vulnerable, tough guy, stoners. Their sense of vulnerability, like yours, crushed me.
The sixteen year old – I think her name was Jenny – led me by the hand into the bedroom where Paul and you were standing with a black kid named Terrence. You were looking out the window at something or someone. You were smoking a bowl. Maybe you’d been watching for me.
“There you are,” you said, and at first I wasn’t sure if you meant Jenny or me but then Jenny went over to Terrence, and I could see their tongues when they kissed: wet and reaching.
“Were you afraid I wouldn’t show?” I said.
“No,” you said, pressing your lips to mine, exhaling the pot smoke into my mouth which somehow seemed more romantic and intimate than a kiss. “I knew you would come.”
I don’t remember if it was the very next night or another that we had the cliché conversation in the parking lot, below your bedroom window. I only vaguely remember some sort of misunderstanding, miscommunication, my being late to arrive or you being somewhere else searching for me, my townhouse or a party, when I did ...the details are murky. I only remember our reunion in the parking lot of your apartment complex. Standing beside my car, leaning in the dark. Desperate for one another. Relieved to have found each other after some sort of anguished search, after not having been able to locate one another for an hour, in the days before cellphones.
“You shouldn’t like me, I’ll fuck you up, I’m fucked up,” you said, just like a character in a movie. Just like Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites. Only it didn’t feel unreal in the moment. In the moment it felt exciting and passionate and like my life was changing, I was changing. I was Winona Ryder now. I was Courtney Love.
“It’s too late,” I said. “I already do.”
I remember people in your apartment watching us out the window. I remember when we kissed, they made gestures, yelled profanities. I remember everything being dire. Every interaction we had, every moment we were apart. I only returned to the townhouse to shower and change clothes. One of the times I returned, Chad pinned me halfway up the carpeted spiral staircase. Wrapped his hands around my neck. Gave me rug burn. He called me a slut or a whore, I forget which. He wasn’t very convincing, either way. But his hands hurt. He had a firm grip on account of all the golfing. I yelled and cried and kicked and he backed off. He backed down the stairs. “Sorry,” he said, and I continued up the staircase to change out of my underwear that smelled like our sex – yours and mine. Chad and I hadn’t had sex in months. He didn’t have any right to act like this. We’d both been lazy about finding a new apartment and now that laziness had caught up with us. And now you had made that laziness impossible.
The first night Courtney met Kurt, she punched him the stomach. At least that’s how the story goes. My stomach felt punched every time I saw you. I didn’t drink and you did but it didn’t matter, I didn’t care. You passed out on your head in a chair, upside down, and slept-walked to the kitchen, pissing against the wall onto the floor. This is how I fell in love; sober with a walking drunk. Neither of us had a parent to call and tell. I guess that was what we had in common. The same sad shit story. We’d both been left to our own devices at a young age, had had to raise ourselves – me making dinners of Kraft macaroni and cheese, fish sticks, frozen pot pies, soup made from foil-wrapped bouillon cubes, alone after school and at night in an apartment or farmhouse – you alone with your babysitter and sister, eating a frozen dinner off a snack tray in front of the TV.
Our mothers were notoriously unavailable. Divorcees. Working, single women. Mine an alcoholic, yours a pill popper.
Your mother was a nurse, you said. She was always either at work or in her bedroom, sleeping, a heavy sleep aided by the pharmaceuticals she stole from her work.
My mother was a bartender, a racquetball club manager, a functioning alcoholic who roamed our house whining that she wanted to die after my second stepfather left her, who forgot to pick me up from things like choir practice, requiring my grandmother to drive from two towns over. I took her at her word when she said she wanted to die. Her friend had killed herself with her husband’s shotgun two years earlier. Another friend had blinded himself when the bullet passed the wrong way through his head.
You and I met and instantly we were each other’s family. Even before our daughter arrived. We were, in a sense, all each other had.
A week later you had an idea. “Take acid with me,” you said.
We were lying together on the bed in your apartment. I’d been sleeping over every night.
I never stopped to ask who the bed belonged to or how many girls you’d fucked on it. You coughed your head off all through the night. You smoked two packs a day, maybe more, but you were eighteen.
“I have bad lungs,” you said.
Everyone still thought I was a cop on account of my baby-blue Celica and my teetotalling. I didn’t smoke pot, either. But wouldn’t an undercover cop do both? I’d seen movies in which cops did drugs, got blowjobs from prostitutes. Mostly it was Paul who thought it. He cornered me on the way to the bathroom one night. I was wearing your t-shirt and my underwear and nothing else. He had a rat tail and glasses, a far off look on his face.
“If you’re a cop you have to say so,” he said.
“I’m not a cop,” I said.
“That’s the law,” he said. He’d seen that in a movie, too.
“I’m not a cop,” I repeated.
I went back to your room after I peed and told you what Paul had said. That’s when you
said the thing about eating a cop’s pussy. Now you were asking about taking acid together. I’d taken acid once in college with a guy. Or, he’d given me the acid and then I’d run into my dorm room and closed the door, locked him and everyone else out. I’d put in my Yaz cassette and stared out the window at the unused dorm across the sidewalk. They’d somehow put the windows in wrong. They kept falling out so they couldn’t use it. We snuck into the building, took the elevator to the top floor, lit candles and smoked cigarettes. There was graffiti all over the walls up there. I don’t know why they didn’t do a better job of locking it. We were only freshman.
You kept asking. You wore me down.
“Please?” you said. “Just once? It’ll be just you and me. No one else.”
There were always two or three people in the living room on acid, drinking Gatorade, listening to Pink Floyd and watching cartoons. Before I started staying over you said you and Paul had done acid almost every night. Four or five people were contributing to the rent. Stealing bikes was enough of a job when four or five people were doing it. Maybe that’s why Paul resented me, he didn’t have you to do drugs and steal bikes with anymore. He probably had abandonment issues, too.
“Okay,” I said. “Just this once, though.”
The next night we sat in the living room watching Tom & Jerry. You’d made me stick out my tongue so you could put Bart Simpson’s face on it. Nothing was happening. I figured you’d gotten ripped off. Then your face started to change. I started seeing trails.
“Come on,” you said. You pulled me into the bedroom and closed the door. You put in a Led Zeppelin cassette and danced around the bed, arms flailing, head bobbing. My eyes followed wherever you moved. You crawled onto the bed next to me and we made out like teenagers at a party. After a while I had to stop kissing you. I didn’t feel sexual. I felt too disoriented to think about sex. I pulled my tongue from your mouth and lay backwards on the bed, my head hanging off, upside down. I stared up at the spot on the ceiling where a fan used to be. I stared out the window at the cars on the freeway. I got up and there was a knife on the bureau and I was terrified of the knife.
“I shouldn’t be holding this,” I told you as I felt the weight of it in my open palm. “I’m afraid of what I might do with it.”
A couple days earlier you’d almost shot Paul and me with a gun. You’d been using it to look for an intruder in the closet. Paul and I had followed you into the bedroom, were standing back by the window. You’d used the butt of the gun to move aside the clothes in the closet and the gun had accidentally gone off. The bullet had whizzed by our faces, made a hole in the window between us. You sold the gun to Terrence after that. You said I could have died but I just laughed. It didn’t seem real. Everything felt like we were filming an indie movie.
I didn’t know where the knife had come from, why there were suddenly so many weapons around. I couldn’t look in the mirror. My head felt so distorted. You extracted the knife from my hand. I don’t know where it went after that. I lay back down on the bed, watching the headlights to remind myself of the real world. I was worried I’d never be sane again. I guess that’s a common thought but it felt serious. You were whispering some sort of words into my ear. I could see them in the air between us even as I had no way to comprehend them. I went to the bathroom and every surface intrigued me. Somehow the knife had followed me in there, was lying on the counter. I begged myself not to pick it up. I saw the word DANGER backward, REGNAD, like REDRUM. I carried it back into the bedroom with me. I was crying and you wiped the tears instead of the knife. I could see the blood on the palm of my hand this time. It wasn’t real but I could feel it.
“How does the knife keep finding me?” I said, and you took it from me a second time. But I felt no relief. I lay back down on the bed, finding the headlights, again. I waited and waited and waited while you told me things, while you never stopped talking, incomprehensible chatter in my ear. I was praying like a Christian to God: praying for my mind back.
Finally, hours later, the acid began to wane. I started to have clearer thoughts. I was exhausted but grateful. You were next to me, smiling, when the radio came on. Your alarm preset. “When the Levee Breaks” was playing. We had decided days ago it was our song. I’d never heard it on the radio before. I’d only heard it on your cassette copy of Led Zeppelin IV.
“How’d you do that?” I said. I knew then that you were some sort of sorcerer or wizard. I knew this was all one big magic show.
Later that night you asked me to marry you. I think you’d put the words in my head while we were tripping. This was twelve hours later. You were inside of me; I was on top. I said yes. What else could I say.
You got out the phone book or called information, I forget which. You called someone – a justice of the peace? They said we had to wait two weeks. It wasn’t like on TV shows. We needed a marriage license first. By this time, you had gotten a job as a cook at the Indian fast-food restaurant in the same crappy mall where I worked. You made me veggie burgers and brought them to me on your break. We waited the two weeks without saying a word to anyone. We went down to the courthouse at one in the afternoon on a Tuesday. I was wearing a miniskirt I’d bought at The Gap. You had on a tie dye and jeans. We still didn’t tell anybody. We had a pair of sterling silver bands from the store where I worked. They cost $15 each, retail, but with my discount they were twenty percent less. By the time we left the courthouse, it was almost time for work. We drove to the crappy mall holding hands and ate steak subs in the food court before parting to go to our respective jobs on opposite sides of the mall. Our shifts started at four o’clock. At ten thirty we walked into your apartment with our new rings on our fingers. No one believed we were legally married.
Mike said, “You mean you went into the woods and held hands and said vows to each other?”
Then everyone went back to talking about Woodstock ’94: “2 More Days of Peace & Music.” Jenny and Terrence and Mike and Paul were all planning on going and camping if they could find a car that would get them there. Blind Melon and Spin Doctors and Pornos for Pyros were playing along with bigger bands like Metallica and Santana and Aerosmith. You said you didn’t want to go and be in a car with Jenny and Paul and Terrence that long. You thought Terrence was hitting on me behind your back. You didn’t trust Paul around me, either. I didn’t think about how what this all came down to was a lack of trust in me.
“Shine” was another of our songs and the video was playing on the TV: Collective Soul. I don’t think you noticed. More magic. Then we went into the bedroom to consummate our marriage. I remember we made love every day for a year even though I can’t remember any specific time. Even if now I think of you as a brother. Now when I see you, we don’t even hug. We just smile and say hello and goodbye while you hug Angela. It’s strange the way relationships change. We’ve been divorced sixteen years and you haven’t slept with anyone since. I’ve slept with three people, one of them being my second husband. Sometimes I still feel guilty about that, about my unfaithfulness.
After we got married, we moved into a tiny apartment in the complex across the street from my old townhouse. All the apartments were on the second floor, over top of shops made to look like the French Quarter in New Orleans or an old shopping village in Europe – I was never sure which since I’d never been to either. But the whole complex – the shops and apartments and movie theater and restaurants – was called The Continent (the crappy inside mall where we worked within The Continent had been named The French Market). It was all new, then, and for a while it actually felt like something. We’d sit out on our tiny balcony overlooking the candle shop and watch the busloads of senior citizens stroll down what was meant to look like a cobblestone street but I’m pretty sure was some sort of more standard American material – cement or concrete - smoking cigarettes and listening to The Dead.
We were slipping into some sort of form of married life together. One Saturday, you drove me out to the country to meet your mother. We stood in the field looking at her horses because no one seemed to have much to say. She never asked us into the house or introduced us to her husband who you said was a retired cop. She looked like you: dark hair, dark eyes, pretty, and her name was like the title of a rock and roll song. It was a combination of two other female names. She didn’t hug us goodbye or shake my hand. She stood smiling as we walked to the car. My mother had moved to Pittsburgh the year before. I don’t remember her coming to meet you after we got married. My first memory of her coming was when you were first hospitalized a year later in Detroit.
The Monday after you took me to one of the city parks before our afternoon work shifts. I left my shoes in the car because you did but my feet weren’t as tough as yours. I winced over every pine needle and stone. We walked along the edge of the river and you reached down to pick something up. You overturned a rock and then something was in your mouth and you were crunching it and spitting out its inedible parts.
“It’s just a crawdad,” you said.
I didn’t know if you’d eaten it alive to impress me or if that was something you’d always done but I was impressed either way. We walked off the trails, into the woods. It was getting later and it didn’t seem like you knew where we were or which way was the car. I was worried we wouldn’t make it back in time for our four o’clock shifts and my feet felt blistered and raw. But you lay me down on a bed of leaves and slid up inside my skirt and I didn’t think about my job or feet anymore. I didn’t think of how we were lost in the woods. I was six years older but I deferred to you because despite your tendencies for running, you were dominant and masculine and without concern for my concern. You acted without consulting either of us and I followed without hesitating. In the end we made it to work with five minutes to spare.
“What are you so happy about?” my boss, Dave, asked me. I guess I was smiling; I didn’t even know. He was always hitting on all of us young women who worked for him when his wife Connie wasn’t around. He probably wanted to hear about how you’d fucked me out in the woods in the dirt before work but I didn’t tell him. I kept that secret between us. Everything we said and did I kept between us. I stopped returning phone calls from family members and friends I’d previously kept in touch with. We never returned to your old apartment with Paul once we moved into ours. We never saw Jenny again, either, after that one time we ate at Big Boy and left her a five dollar tip and one of my Benson & Hedges.
It was all idyllic - married life - for two or three weeks. After that I think the close proximity to my former life – to Chad, who had remained in the townhouse with the dog – began to prey on you. You began to accuse me of seeing him or of wanting to. I remember a night in June (we’d gotten married in May, a month after meeting, a month after my birthday), putting in my diaphragm to surprise you before I picked you up from work. The woman at Planned Parenthood had told me you could put it in up to six hours before intercourse, so you wouldn’t ruin the mood. It was one of the selling points of this method of birth control. Maybe it bothered you that it was the same diaphragm I’d used with Chad.
You were already working another job by this time. Washing dishes at a steakhouse a couple miles down the street. I was listening to the A.M. radio in the car while I waited. It was a Friday night and O.J. Simpson was leading the police on a chase somewhere in Los Angeles. He was maybe going to blow his brains out in his white Ford Bronco. On Sunday he’d murdered his former wife on the sidewalk outside her townhouse while their kids slept inside. At least that’s what we’d all been told.
“Let’s get out of here,” you said as you shut the passenger side door. You smelled like rotting salads. You didn’t give a shit about O.J. You were too busy worrying about Chad and me, even though I’d left him for you. You wanted to rehash other arguments from weeks ago. You kept bringing up Paul and the night he’d taken me to his mom’s house, when we still slept at his apartment. He’d taken me with him for something to do while we waited for you to get off work. His mom was an alcoholic who never left her house. She had a tap put in her living room. I’d never met a beer drunk. I’d thought you had to drink hard liquor to be an alcoholic because that was all my family drank: martinis and Bloody Mary’s and scotch and Drambuie.
Paul’s mom said, “I used to blow marijuana smoke on Paul when he was a baby so he’d calm down. He was always hyperactive, even then.”
Paul said she was forty-four but she looked sixty. She left horrible messages on the answering machine in your apartment: “Is that bitch still there? I need toilet paper. Bring your mother some goddamn toilet paper and tell that bitch to go home.”
Paul took me in another room while his mom changed channels on her cable TV. He said, “Has he told you about Megan yet?” I thought Megan was another woman. I shook my head no. We’d been married three days.
“She’s gotta be almost two years old by now,” Paul said. “He just split one day, went out to buy diapers and drove to Ohio instead.”
I didn’t make any indication about how I felt about this new information because I didn’t know and even if I had known, I wouldn’t have betrayed you in front of Paul like that.
Of course, you were furious with him. It didn’t make any sense to me because you’d been the one to accuse me of having had a child, pointing out all the stretch marks on my body: my breasts and hips and thighs.
“I gained and lost weight many times as a teenager,” I’d told you, which was true. Now it made perfect sense, why you’d asked that, why you’d made the accusation.
“I was fifteen,” you said, meaning when your high school girlfriend got pregnant. “She was Catholic,” you said, meaning why she didn’t get an abortion, like I had, when Niles got me pregnant, when I was nineteen. Like I did a year from now, when I was twenty-six, and the diaphragm failed us.
That night, you accused me of having had sex with Chad before I picked you up from work. When I said, no, I hadn’t seen Chad since we broke up, since you and I got together, you screamed and cried, “Why did you put it in? Why would you do that?” meaning my diaphragm.
“To surprise you,” I said. “To not ruin the moment, to not ruin the intimacy.”
“Don’t ever do that again,” you said. You were still crying. You were drinking from a bottle of vodka I’d bought you at the state liquor store the day before. (“He can’t carry that bottle,” the liquor store cashier had said. “Only you can carry it, doesn’t matter if you’re married. He’s underage.”)
I was crying by now, too. It was exhausting trying to prove my love for you. Proving yourself trustworthy is as impossible a task as proving there is no god. We cried and cried and finally your semen hit the rubber dam that acted as a barrier against my cervix; after that you passed out. Your hair was drenched with tears and sweat and I petted it away from your face which was tearstained and flushed while I smoked a cigarette. I believed then you were just an alcoholic. I had no idea what else was hiding beneath the alcohol for me to discover and deal with. I’d been dealing with alcoholism since I could remember. Alcoholism was another member of the family. A sibling I didn’t have. I put out my cigarette in the ashtray on the floor and curled up next to you. My face was tearstained, too, but you couldn’t see it.
Weeks later when I met him for the first time your father said, “Perception is reality and Jared’s reality is different from ours.”
Your father had sent a card when we announced our marriage. It was addressed only to you and said, “No matter what, I’ll always be here for you.” I remember thinking it was a strange sentiment for a newlywed. I remember thinking: fuck you.
You were only correct about Chad in that I missed the dog. Secretly, I was considering trying to see him (the dog). This was only a secret due to your insecurities and jealousies. Had you managed to overcome them I wouldn’t have felt the need to keep my desire from you. But your mother and father had done a good job of making sure you were in a constant state of upheaval, a constant state of distrust and unease, and you transferred all of these feelings to me when we met; when we married a month after meeting. Your insecurities and jealousies frightened me. It frightened me that you could pull full chunks of hair from your head. It frightened me that you could run, barefoot, down a road away from me. It frightened me that you could drink an entire bottle of vodka and weep and make accusations at my feet. An alcoholic Jesus with your long, virginal hair, your otherwise pacifist leanings. I didn’t think you had it in you to kill me like O.J. did Nicole, but, once, you spat on my cheek. You sat on my chest and screamed in my face.
I called Chad, anyway. I called him from the phone at work to ask if I could stop by and see my dog. I had no interest in Chad. But I could not see my dog now without contacting him. I thought I could see the dog one more time and feel better about abandoning him. We had taken the cats to the apartment with us. The cats had been mine before I met Chad, mine when I lived with Niles in Cincinnati. It’s funny that pets outlive multiple relationships, like small children, like me. I called Chad from the phone at work because I was frightened of you. I didn’t tell Chad this but he sensed it and used it against me. He returned my call at our apartment. He left a message on our machine. He said all the right things to play in to your insecurities. I was at work when he called or I was at work when you came home and played the message. Weeks later, on our cross-country trek, you told me all the names your father had called your sister when she was a teenager and some were the same names you called me every time you thought of Chad and I together. Names you would never want any man to call Angela.
I came home from work at four and you were drinking from an almost empty bottle. You were calling me the names of your father and making new but old accusations. I tried to console you. I tried to clear my name. But you had already hung me. You were barefoot and you ran from the apartment, ran from me again. I sat out on the balcony chain smoking cigarettes because I was a teetotaler and my husband was an alcoholic. I waited to see what would happen next like a follower of a serialized TV show. The night before we had watched Sid & Nancy, lying together on the futon, and the movie’s case was still open on the living room floor when I passed by it on my way to you. You were shirtless and holding your shoulder. You were sweaty and your hair was matted and you were yelling. Your eyes were firey and I was scared of you but you were my husband and I was in love with you. So far, the love outweighed the fear.
“He fucking dislocated my shoulder!” you yelled. And then you began whimpering, moaning, making animal noises. The cats ran in the bedroom. I wanted to run with them. It never occurred to me to call anyone. You had already isolated me. There would be more distrust, more screaming and name-calling, if I called someone.
I didn’t ask who. The golf shop where Chad worked was across the street, same as our townhouse. I knew you must have gone there, in your drunken state, to confront him. I knew Chad had a martial arts degree though he’d gotten it long before he met me. I’d never seen any evidence of it. I was surprised by this outcome. My mind was trying to visualize the scene but there wasn’t time. You were screaming and moaning incessantly. I had to make the noise stop.
It was my first time driving the Dodge van. We’d gotten it off my boss for five hundred dollars. It had a pop-top and a tiny kitchen. We were going to drive it across the country, camping along the way. We were going to go to Seattle, where Kurt died, where Hendrix was buried. Two days earlier, I’d sold the Celica to a salesman at a Toyota dealership across town. He’d given me seven thousand for it which I figured was probably a rip off but seven thousand was still a lot of money. Seven thousand was enough for us to live off of until we figured out what we wanted to do with our lives; if we could ever figure it out.
The van was large and clunky and I had a hard time navigating it downtown. I had only been to a hospital one time when I thought my throat was closing up, when I believed my body was suffocating itself, and I’d walked across campus alone to get there. Driving was more complicated because it proposed the problem of where to park. There were so many different entrances and parking lots and the whole while you were wailing beside me, writhing in pain, intoxicated. I couldn’t ask you for help. This would become a familiar scenario in our lives: Me trying to navigate the world to help you without your help.
I sat in a chair, outside the curtained room, listening to you wail louder. I don’t know how long it took for the doctor to arrive and pop your shoulder back into place. I thought of my old life, the one I lived with Chad and the dog, Garth Brooks and John Grisham, the driving range and MTV, how quiet it had been, how boring. I had felt unloved. I had wanted passion, like Ethan Hawke had for Winona Ryder, yelling into that microphone at the end of the movie. I had asked for this and now I had it and there wasn’t time to think about if it was the right decision. I loved you the way I had loved my mother; in spite of or because of your alcoholism and your unpredictable behavior and your belittlement. My mother always cried when she apologized, when she begged me to forgive her for spanking me or hitting me or yelling at me; she cried and told me how much she loved me. You cried, too. In the morning, you cried and cried in my lap.
I didn’t call Chad anymore. I didn’t go and see my dog. By the time I called Chad, eight years later, he had been married and divorced and his ex-wife had my dog.
You said your father and his wife were coming down from Michigan to help. We’d already quit our jobs and broken our lease; they were coming to take the cats. They were going to keep them for us while we drove our Dodge camper van across the country. Your father was old, older than my mother, already balding and soft around the middle. His wife, Karen, was younger and fatter: a good three hundred pounds, and not very smart. I couldn’t help thinking of the old nursery rhyme my mother had taught me about Jack Spratt. They insisted on taking us to dinner and I watched as Harold, your father’s name, cut Karen’s steak and fed it to her with his fork. Later they separated us, talked to us as religious folk talk to younger people about to be wed. Karen talked to me about my wifely duties and marriage and how hard it could be but how you just had to persevere. But she didn’t use the word persevere. She said “keep going.” She said “stay strong.” Your father and his wife weren’t religious, they just talked like that - like leaders of a cult. I didn’t know yet that your father only took jobs in which he got paid under the table because he was running from the IRS. We hadn’t yet caught him using your social security number to take out credit cards, to open accounts with the electric company. I hadn’t yet found the row of shotguns under his bed while playing hide and seek with you at their house (which was rented). (“Does your father hunt?” I remember asking you. “No,” you said. “He’s never hunted a day in his life.”)
After your father and Karen left with the cats, we got on the highway. We’d given away or thrown out most of our belongings. We’d bought a large atlas that fit across my lap if I sat cross legged in the passenger seat, barefoot. There was a route marked in red felt tip marker running from Ohio to Washington. I put in our yellowing cassette tapes: Zeppelin and The Dead and CSN&Y. I lit our cigarettes and held our pops between my legs, sweating into my thighs. We pulled the van to the side of the road and slept in the bed that pulled out of the couch. We drove through Indiana and Illinois and Wisconsin this way: sleeping in our van. In Minnesota we paid for a lot in a state campground that overlooked the Mississippi River and set up our tent. It was late September; the campground was empty, everyone back in school. We stayed almost a week, enjoying the Indian summer, the weird 3.2% beer. We made a fire every night and a stray cat came and sat with us. You were shirtless all those nights, your chest browned from the sun. You were beautiful in the firelight. Only a little drunk from the weak Minnesota beer. We made love and ate beans out of cans and fed the cat our leftovers. Maybe we should have stayed in Minnesota. We walked through fields of wild flowers and stood staring down at the river that reminded us of Mark Twain. I wasn’t shaving my legs or under my arms and the hair by this time was softer, grown out. It was turning golden in the sun. I wore my hat instead of washing my hair. I wore a bathing suit top instead of a bra and shirt. We didn’t have computers or cellphones. We had no way of reaching anyone and no one could reach us. We were alone in the world that week on the hill in Minnesota overlooking the Mississippi. We were on our honeymoon, three and a half months late.
In South Dakota, you bought a bottle of whiskey which led to our first road fight. I was driving, past a field of sunflowers, when your eyes turned violent. I could see spittle forming on the sides of your mouth. Vitriol aimed once again at me. Out in the middle of nowhere, it didn’t make any sense. How was Chad a threat to you here, in South Dakota? Where would you ever feel safe, if not here? You were still yelling about the golfer. You were clinging to the idea that I still loved him the way I clung to you, trying to convince you it wasn’t true. You removed the silver band from your finger and chucked it out the window. But you didn’t stop yelling. You couldn’t stop making accusations in my name. You couldn’t stop giving me vulgar pet names, either. I finally had to pull the van to the side of the road. It was no longer safe for me to drive under such distracting conditions. I rose out of my seat, placed a hand on your shoulder. Our eyes met and in yours was a look of terror. You ran from me then, out the van door, into the field. You ran and ran until you were a speck of black in a sea of gold. I lit a cigarette and waited. You had to come back.
I’ll admit, all of this felt like love.
All of this was validating, if exhausting.
This was what I’d been searching for my entire life: someone who felt about me the way
I’d felt about my mother as a child: obsessed, hungry, unable to be sated, never trusting her that she loved me, jealous of every man she talked to, never fully believing that she loved me, at least not the way I loved her, madly, painfully, desperately (the way I witnessed her love people other than me).
Eventually, you did come back. South Dakota was a large state. It was two more days and we were still in South Dakota, before you ran from me again. We’d been camping in the Badlands. We’d made love out on the rocks with the prairie dogs. We’d set up camp in the middle of a barren circle, amongst other campers: a woman doing yoga at dawn, some people with a horse trailer, some young men who asked you one of the nights to do LSD with them. Of course, you couldn’t say no. I was your square wife who declined. I was the suspected cop. We left early one morning amidst a downpour. It was that day, a stop at a gas station after dusk, you ran again. This time you’d been drinking vodka. This time I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t sit and wait you out, either. It wasn’t like a sunflower field. There were too many places in this tiny South Dakota town for you to hide. There was a Best Western down the street and I was tired. I was thinking of a hot shower and eight hours sleep. Maybe this was the first time since we’d married that I found myself needing a break from you.
In the morning, I showered and when I came out, a towel still around my head, there was the knocking on the door. I’d been expecting it. Wondering when it would come. I opened the door and you came rushing into the room like a feral animal. You pushed me against the bed and the towel slumped behind me, my wet hair spilling out on the sheets and pillowcase. You pushed your head against my chest. “I’m sorry,” you wailed. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” You cried and I soothed you. I didn’t think of the psychology of these moments then. I thought only: this is what love is. This is Romeo and Juliet. This is Kurt and Courtney. This is Sid and Nancy. These are the characters in Badlands, in Natural Born Killers, in Frances, in Wild at Heart. Finally, at long last, this is love! And it’s happening to me! This is my young, beautiful husband, crying in my arms, willing to die for me. You must be willing to die to be in love. You must look like an old movie star: Tyrone Powers, Valentino, Buster Keaton. You must utter lines of tragedy: Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams. You must realize there is no way to convince anyone that you love them. You must believe in tragedy, embrace it and not shy away from it when it comes, when it arrives.
For the next few days, you stuck to beer, nothing harder, your remaining stash of pot, cigarettes. But we had turned southeastward into Nebraska for reasons we did not discuss aloud. We had given up the dream of Seattle without ever talking about it. Maybe we sensed impending doom, and decided to take control of our failure. Maybe we realized if we made it all the way west, only one of us would survive. Like Kurt and Courtney. Or neither of us would, like Sid and Nancy. Maybe you were afraid, so far from your father, responsible now for an adult female, a wife. You blamed the van. Somewhere in rural Iowa it began slowly chugging. We were on a dusty, two-lane highway. A few puffs of smoke trailed up out of the engine and you panicked. You pulled the van to the side of the road. We walked to the nearest farmhouse and knocked on the door, asked to use the phone. We were told no by an old man, a retired farmer. We understood. It wasn’t safe to allow young outsiders into your house. We’d read Truman Capote. Or, I had. We’d seen A Clockwork Orange. I can’t remember who you wanted to call, anyway. A tow truck, I suppose.
We began hitchhiking into town. I didn’t think the smoke was a big deal but you were worried it would erupt into fire like The Fiery Inferno if we drove it one more mile. We were picked up by a couple in a truck, Iowans, newlyweds like us, they said, though the man looked to be in his fifties and the young woman your age. We all piled into the front seat, side by side, my flesh pressing hers. The man said he owned an auto repair shop in town. He had an interest in buying our van. I was more interested in him repairing it but you were already dead set against ever setting foot inside of it again. It was a deathtrap, you said. Only a matter of time. The couple offered us to stay at their place with them while we thought it over. There was some sort of inference that staying with them might involve a sexual activity that didn’t interest us. We said no, thank you and they dropped us instead at a tiny motel, one of the kinds you see in indie movies, nine dusty rooms, all in a row, metal chairs outside the doors, an office on the end. I tried not to think of how old the mattress was, of what might be living between it and the box spring. I tried not to think too much about the towels, either, after I showered. There was a tiny black and white TV on the floor with antennas and we pulled them this way and that, trying to get some reception. In the morning we walked across the street to a gas station with a small diner inside of it. We took a seat at a table and asked for coffee and some locals came over – old white men – to talk to us. One of them said his neighbor had ridden his tractor three states to see his dying brother and a famous director was making a movie about it. He said the town was called Correctionville, population 897. We ate our eggs and waited for the man in the truck to come find us. You’d already called your father from the phone in our motel. He was going to get us tickets to fly back to Detroit. We were going to have to put our belongings in Hefty bags because we didn’t have any luggage. I was going to accidentally leave my favorite pair of cutoffs in the van. I would imagine the young bride wearing them for years after. I would imagine her wearing a lot of my things. There was only so much we could fit into a Hefty bag. I was going to have to live in Michigan from now on, somewhere between Twelve and Thirteen Mile Roads. I was going to learn that “party store” didn’t mean a store with balloons and banners but a store with cheap liquor and cigarettes. You were going to get a job at a plastics factory. I would buy our groceries at the Hostess outlet. I would get a job at the mall across the street from our apartment. It would be less than a year until you were hospitalized. You would run from me some more before then, spring out of the car at a red light on the way home from your sister’s on Thanksgiving Eve. I would check into a Motel Six from time to time when I needed a break. We would keep making love every night and smoking cigarettes and breeding hamsters. At Christmas, you would wrap my present in a page from Rolling Stone magazine, the profile of Courtney in the December issue. I only ever remember how you wrapped it now, not what was inside. This was all just the first year of our marriage. These are all the things I’ve never told the girls.