Chapter Four: I'll Bet Loretta Lynn Never Put Up With THIS
And there were hygiene issues. It only caused occasional problems, mind you, but Daggie didn't shower every day (something I cannot fathom, because I obsessively shower, sometimes as often as 4 times a day when it's very hot outside--which is why my skin looks like a leather alligator bag, and my hair has as much body as the silk on those corn dollies I used to see in the Peoria craft shops of my childhood). There were times when the smell was just a real turn-off, frankly.
We always had an "open relationship," mainly because--well, because he just wanted to have fun with other guys (and girls--yes, he was still "bi") and frankly, I wanted to keep my options open and not hitch my star to a rusty wagon. Also, frankly, it was nice to have the apartment to myself sometimes without listening to his self-deluded yapping.
About three months into the relationship, I started finding empty liquor bottles on the counter when I'd get home from work. Now, THIS pissed me off--he lectured me about house-cleaning all the time, and couldn't be bothered to throw his fucking bottles away?! He also left a peanut butter jar open with the knife still in it!
One night, he didn't come home and didn't leave a note. After I'd called his mom and several friends to see if they'd seen him, I was on the phone to our friend Barb (the only sane one of the bunch), when Dagwood stumbled in. Drunk as a lord. I said to Barb, "Guess who just sloshed in..." Barb said "Let me talk to him." I handed the phone to Dagwood, who resisted at first, and only took it when I assured him it wasn't his mother. I then watched as he started to whine and cry like a 10-year-old having a tantrum as Barb berated him (I could hear her through the phone). After he hung up, he suddenly turned into a different person. It was like a horror film. I think he sensed that the jig was up and playing the Misguided Little Boy would no longer avail him.
So it was apparently time to try a different tack--bullying. He began screaming at me--and I mean SCREAMING. Right in my face...spittle flying, purple-faced, the whole deal. I was so shocked by his rapid change that I couldn't respond. I just let him blow his top and watched him unravel, and kept thinking of those "battered spouse" movies I saw on TV during the 70s (now, what were we supposed to do again? Duck and cover? No, that was for tornadoes...) He slurred on and on incoherently about the unfairness of life, how his wife kept him from his kids (I was beginning to understand why), how he didn't know who he was (neither did I at this point), everyone was against him, and did I understand what that was like? I bit my tongue just before telling him that this was one person who wouldn't
be up against him tonight...
His spam key finally having run down, he pulled the covers back on the air mattress that we shared (still no pull-out bed yet), and climbed in. We did not share the air mattress that night. Completely shaken and utterly disgusted, I slept on the couch (I did finally have one of those). I spent half the night in the dark, looking at his supine, passed-out form, debating the feasibility of bashing him over the head with a frying pan and arranging his body at the bottom of the stairs in a staged accident.
The next morning, when he was sobered up, I told him that if he ever talked to me like that again, his shit was going out the window, and so was he. He vowed he never would. I think deep down I knew it was over even then, but didn't have the emotional energy to listen to the big Beatrice Straight speech I knew would follow. And in some ways, I still held out hope that the relationship could be salvaged. He was on his best behaviour for the next two weeks: making dinner, rearranging the furniture to create more space, and warming my heart in general.
I should have known it was just gas.Chapter Five: Who's That Not Knocking On My Door? Or Calling?
On Easter Sunday, I went out to chorus rehearsal (no, they did NOT care that it was Easter--fags are like that), and came home to find a note from him that he was at a meeting and would be home later (I figured that since it was AA, it wasn't unusual that they'd have meetings on Easter, since they usually met at churches, and there was a hotline he'd call sometimes to see where meetings were being held). So I waited up. And waited. And waited. Around 4:00 in the morning, I finally decided to try and sleep. I was terrified--what if something had happened to him? What if he got hit by a bus or train? (And worse, the nagging question in the back of my mind: would that be bad or good...?)
The next morning, still groggy and shaky from no sleep and lots of worry, I went to work. About mid-day, I called his place of employment. He'd called in sick. I called his mom's apartment. She hadn't heard from him either. Now I was really frightened. These were the only places he could be (and he wasn't at my place, obviously). Around noon, I tried calling his mom's again. He answered. He said he was sorry for worrying me, but he'd spent the night at a motel, because he'd gotten drunk and didn't want anyone knowing. I said it was no big deal. (I later found out from my upstairs neighbor and still-friend Dell that Dagwood had spent the night with HIM--Dell had no idea that we were dating since Dagwood told him we weren't. That's right: Dagwood let me worry and wonder about him the WHOLE FUCKING NIGHT, thinking he was out there in an alley somewhere, and the whole time, he was RIGHT UPSTAIRS. That's what made me the most angry when I found out--I didn't care where he dipped his wick, frankly. I just didn't like being lied to.)Chapter Six: The Smackdown
The next day, Dagwood called me at work. He heaved a long, "Mama's-Boy-Drama-Queen" sigh, and I realized that instead of Beatrice Straight, I was about to get Pia Zadora. "I've come to the conclusion that what we have can't really be called a relationship," he said. (Apparently, we were skipping Pia Zadora and going straight for Donna Mills.) He went on to tell me that he sensed I was emotionally distant (gee, ya think?), and that he deserved more passion in his life (I agreed--and I thought he WAS getting it--just elsewhere). Also, he gave everything and I gave nothing, blah, blah, blah. (I forebore from pointing out that I allowed him to stay with me rent-free whenever he wanted.) And in probably a recital given to him by his quack psychiatrist, he said that I was "frigid"--yes, "frigid"--and if I didn't find a way to open up, I'd end up alone for the rest of my life. The absolute brass balls
I was so angry and frustrated that I actually started to cry--right there at my desk! It was very silent, and didn't last long, but it's the first time that ever happened (and so far, the last). If I hadn't been at work, I might have mentioned that maybe I'd be more "passionate" if he didn't smell like canned peas and sour milk. But why descend to his level? (Oh, who am I kidding? Because it would have felt damned good
I went home and saw his things that were still there, reminding me of his absence. I realized that it would not do, and called his mother's apartment and very calmly asked him to set a date to come pick it all up--at MY convenience. (He eventually did--over a month later.)
The next week was a typically rainy, damp spring week in Chicago, which perfectly reflected my mood. Even though I'd done my best (under the circumstances), I felt like a failure. Was he right? Was
I frigid? I listened to lots of Nina Simone and drank a lot of beer that week.
Then on Saturday, the sun came out. Like the weather, my mood cleared, and I saw things more lucidly. And I realized that I'd just lost 190 pounds of ugly fat.
And I smiled. Big.EPILOGUE
Eventually, things simmered down, and Dagwood and I stayed in contact. We eventually got to the point where we could be somewhat friendly (now that there were boundaries) and even sang together a few more times over the next two years. But somehow, he always managed to irritate the shit out of me after a certain point, and I realized that the relationship was best viewed from a distance. A long one. So when he dropped out of sight, I was very relieved, because I could get on with my life with no interference.
So seeing him on the street the other day, after five years (and after hearing he'd moved out West to live with a woman and have more
kids), and hearing from his own lips that he's back in Chicago, was quite a stunner. And not a very pleasant one. I just hope that my face didn't betray my emotions
While he told me about his life of late, I realized that he is exactly the same as he always was. He's still singing and asked if I'd sing with him sometime. I told him I'm really too busy with The Joans
and all. Secretly, I'm gloating inside that my current musical projects sound better than any I ever did with him and that we're doing original stuff, while he's learning a bunch of Buffett covers and pandering to the same North Shore/downtown high-rise drunks he used to kiss up to when we were together. (Does that make me a bad person? Probably. Tough shit.)
And I realized then that I'd come out on the better end of the deal...cool friends, a fun new band, better musical network and no need to put on a good-doggie-please-love-me act (because frankly, "I'm pushing 40--if you don't like me, fuck you" is my new mantra).
(Oh, and did I mention he's gotten fat?) :-)