Archives For Love

Up until this point, The Ghost didn’t hold an honest job for longer than a few months at a time.

But this is a story about the good times.  Some of the best in fact.  This is the story of salty skin, a party boat, blue eyes filled with tears and two lovers learning the intimacy of their union.  If only for a little, wonderful while.

There was one job The Ghost kept for three consecutive years – excluding about two to three months a year due to wicked weather in the winter months.  It was on a fishing boat that did daily charter trips.  They were called party boats because they were also used occasionally on weekend nights for one to three hour booze cruises.  There were a half dozen boats going out of this particular town near our home.  There were usually two three hour day trips; one was very early leaving at five in the morning, and the next left at nine am.  The trips were three hours long and this meant The Ghost would have to work two shifts daily.   The Ghost did some asking around and decided to pursue one particular boat for employment.  Not having any previous experience with boating or fishing, The Ghost won the captain over with his charm – and he could be very charming.  I guess the captain could see that he was enthusiastic and strong and the rest would take care of itself.

The Ghost loved being near the water.  He loved being on a boat, and he knew a thing or two about cooking fish.  The pay was good but he soon found out it was grueling work.  This position taught him discipline; for getting up early, getting there on time (the boat would leave without him, otherwise) and a whole lot about weather and aquatic life.  I had to drive him to the dock every morning because he had his license revoked a few years previously but I didn’t mind.  So in this way, we were partners.  It was his job, but it was our life together and we were a team.  He was drinking less and really loving the physicality of the job.  He was getting healthier due to the regimented schedule and even lost a few pounds because he was getting more physically fit.  I was enjoying watching his child like enthusiasm and growing interest in fishing.  He became fluent in the language of line and tackle and developed an intuitive sense of when they would have big “hits” (this meant that fish were biting the bait on the hooks) just by looking out the window and gauging the weather.  His skin was soaked with sun and salt at the end of his long days.  His blue eyes began to sparkle with joy.

The Ghost loved coming  back to the dock with lots of happy fishermen whose buckets were full of the fresh catch of the day.  When his boat went out from that particular inlet on the south shore of Long Island, they would find mostly fluke, flounder, porgy and blackfish.  A little further out into ocean waters, they would get striped bass and further out on full day trips, they would find big stripped bass and blue fish.  Ocean fishing was a favorite of The Ghost’s.  He loved the action of the rougher waters and the constant hits on the customers’ lines.  Every day on the water was different and I think that’s why he loved this job so much.  The Ghost was also very much a people person.  He was outgoing and could find a way to start a conversation and connect to anyone.  He made lots of friends while working on the party boat.  He would chat with the guys who worked on the neighboring boats and occasionally he would also make a connection with one of the customers who would request trips based on when The Ghost was working.  There were days when he would have a beer with the Captain and other deck hands after a trip – but only one.  The Captain, a quiet man in his mid thirties who rarely looked you in the eye, gave the impression he had seen too much and wanted to see much less.  He never took off his hat, a broken down dirty army green hat that his brown waves curled up against.  He had a beard like the Gorton’s Fisherman minus the mustache and pipe.  The Captain was against drunkenness and drug use.  He made it clear from the start that would not be tolerated. The Ghost heeded this warning.  He was particularly serious about not doing any drugs because after a few trips on the boat, realized he would need to be completely clear headed.  The Ghost use to say to me, “The sea can take us at any time – it’s stronger than we can imagine.”

One particular benefit of this job for both of us, was the increased time we were able to spend together.  He was home and finished with work and cleaned up by about three o’clock in the afternoon.  I was usually home by four o’clock in the afternoon if I worked the early shift and opened the bookstore where I was the manager.  So, we often had time to go to the beach, cook dinner together and have long romantic summer evenings. There even came a point when he would voluntarily do laundry or clean up around the house and even have dinner ready for me by the time I got home on my late nights.  He really did make an effort and those were the days when I couldn’t wait to get home to him and be wrapped in his arms.

As I said, these were some of the best times we spent together.  We were very much in love.   I was driving him to the docks early in the morning and though it was only a ten minute drive each way, it was still four hours before I had to be at work myself.  I didn’t mind.  Things were going well for us both.  There was money coming in and we seemed to be focused on the same goals in terms of our life together.  Our days off were by far the best.  We would try to coordinate them so we would be off together.  After his first two months on the party boat, The Ghost was converted into a full fledged angler.  We went to the local West Marine shop to buy matching overall surf fishing waders in hunter green; giant rubber overalls that were a stiff onesie from boot to shoulder strap.  The top of the smallest pair came up to my chest (me being all of 5’1″), while his came up to his waist.  We bought shiny new surf poles, a giant tackle box and and all the accessories.  The Ghost would spend nights organizing the goodies in his tackle box, re-stringing his pole and teaching me how to do the same.  Each day he learned something new from the captain and enthusiastically share the information with me at night.  The Ghost began reading The Fisherman Magazine, and listening to the Fishing Report on AM radio.  I think something about this experience replaced his childhood pigeon coop passion.  He was able to do this on his own terms and because he was a man now, no one was able to get in his way.  Eventually, he got into his own way, but like I said, this story is about the good times.

Things went on like this for a while and The Ghost reach a point, if just for a while, of calm and happiness.  We also began to explore our spirituality together and decided to return to church.  We attended services on Sunday, taking communion tougher and eventually both volunteered for the parish San Genaro feast.  I worked in the kitchen with the ladies making acres of sausage and peppers, while he chummed up to the guys and ran the concessions selling tickets for rides, soda, fries and beer.  We were becoming a part of the community and growing closer by the day.

Our union was so stormy, like the sea itself.  There were so many ups and downs, mostly due to his chemical excesses, and my inability to cope with them.  Interestingly, it was the days of fishing together when I felt closest to The Ghost.  We had those ridiculous waders on, in the moments just before the sun rose in the horizon before us, together in our purpose but silent.  There was communication without words – the pass of a hook,  him re-baiting my hook and throwing out some chum to lure the fish before I reached the bait bucket or tugging on my line to see if I’d got a hit.  We’d steal moment to hold hands and kiss while our poles were nestled in the white pole holders buried deep in the sand.  I remember clearly one time I caught him looking at me with tears in his big blue eyes.  He stood there with a ribbon of pink and orange dancing in the sky behind him, looking at me with his head turned away from his pole and said nothing.  In that moment, I knew how happy he was, and how he couldn’t say it in words.  “I know,” I said.  “Me too.”

 Fishing Wisdom I learned from those very beautiful days:

Some things take time and patience, but the stillness of the wait can stop your heart with its beauty.

While you’re waiting, don’t concentrate on what hasn’t come along; appreciate the beauty of what is before you now.

Any experience requires all your senses.  Be glad you have them.

It can get rough out there, but there may be hidden treasures in rough waters.

The best catch might come in the darkest wee hours when the rest of the world is sleeping.

Anything that hooks you could make your day or might potentially be bad news.

I still can’t tell the difference between a Fluke and a Flounder.  Either way, you probably shouldn’t trust a fish that has both eyes on the same side of it’s face specifically so it can hide on the ocean floor- camouflaged- and still see everything that’s going on.

Fishing… well, it’s never really about the fish.

I close my eyes.

February 17, 2015 — 2 Comments

I close my eyes.

I close the door to  Via Sant’Orsola No.1 and turn right.  My feet begin to walk.  I am wearing the red patent leather flats I bought in the shop on the little street behind the Duomo.  What was it called? I can’t remember.  They are making a click clack sound on the damp cobblestones as I approach Via San Maurilio. I turn to my left and consider the church on the corner for a moment.  Yellow with white florid details.  Paint chipping.  There is grass in front.  An old man walks his bouncy brown dog.  My eyes move back to my shoes and up my bare legs and I see the hem of my skirt which stops exactly mid-calf.  It is pale yellow cotton with little red and white flowers.  I have a small red handbag on my left forearm.  With both hands I turn up the crisp white color of my sleeveless blouse.   The old man with the dog nods approvingly in my direction.  The morning sun is pouring through spaces between the buildings.  I spot Ale through the window of the bar.  He is behind the counter making cappuccino for the lawyer with the blue pinstripe suit.  He has a red handkerchief in his left lapel.  His hand is waving in the air as he leans against the bar, no doubt telling Ale about his latest case.   Ale sees me through the window.  He smiles and waves.  I smile and wave.  I smell the warm buttery brioche (that’s what Italians call croissant) but I keep walking.  A Vespa purrs behind me.  I step to my right so it can pass.  The street is narrow and bumpy.  Cobblestones.  The Vespa shoots past carrying a handsome young man wearing a pair of dark sunglasses and a perfectly pressed beige Armani suit.  I read the blue street sign on the side of the building as he passes.  Via Santa Marta.  I stop walking and say this to myself several times before I continue on my way.  Buongiorno, signora!  I look to my left and am greeted by a smile and wave from the man hosing down the concrete.  I smile, I wave and continue my walk.  I hear the dinging of the trams passing on the main road just ahead.  Now the shop owners are out unlocking and opening their steel gates and preparing for their customers.  It is morning in Milano.

At this point I feel the tears falling from my eyes.  And just when I think I can’t take anymore, I close my eyes tighter and walk one block further.  I turn another corner. The sun is brighter now.  Right here from my grey chair.

I close my eyes.

These Leaves

October 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

Today I went walking

and as I walked over a carpet of red and gold,

These lines came to me

So I wrote them down.

I thought,

These leaves, strewn across the ground

are nothing compared to the tears I’ve shed over you. 

And now I am done.

These leaves, now fallen from trees

shed themselves for a purpose;

empty, branches stand,

for a time,


for the inevitable

newness of spring.

As an American living in Italy, I suppose I thought about the prospect of meeting a handsome Italian man who would sweep me off my feet but I certainly wasn’t counting on that happening.  I had seen Under the Tuscan Sun and read the book many years before.  Those were things that happened in books and movies, not to me.  Everything about the way my life had gone up to this point, particularly my romantic life, was telling me an Italian romance did not seem possible.  And then I met Andrea.

Sweet, handsome Andrea.  In my last post I described our first encounter.  The first broken Italian/English conversation in the Irish Pub.  The subsequent invitation and trip to Portofino on the Ligurian coast.  Romance is always dulled by reality.  This romance was no different. We left for Portofino after work on a Friday night.  Andrea picked me up in his VW Bug, and we drove down through Genoa toward the Ligurian coast lined with s-curves.  He took me up and up the windy coastal road to the sleepy sea-side town that was mostly boarded up and closed for the off-season.  It was late October, and though the days were sunny and warm, the temperature dropped at night, leaving this black shimmering coastline for the natives and new romances like ours.

The moon shone on the water that night night giving everything that deep midnight-blue soaked glow.  It would have taken a tough lot not to feel romantic that evening.  All was perfect.  So up we climbed in Andrea’s VW, until we hit a point where we could see sleepy Portofino below us.  There were a few sailboats still tucked into their slips and lights on the u-shaped path around the cove showing the presence of no one.  The palm trees glowed in the lights from below.  We held hands, and commented now and then on how beautiful it was, eerie and beautiful all at once, as we drove up the and up the steep one lane road in the dark, getting closer and closer to the stars when Andrea pulled the car over.  He let go of my hand.  He got out of the car without saying a word, popping open the trunk.  So up we climbed in Andrea’s VW, until we hit a point where we could see sleepy Portofino below us.  There were a few sailboats still tucked into their slips and lights on the u-shaped path around the cove showing the presence of no one.  The palm trees glowed in the lights from below.  As he walked toward the back of the car, all I could think was here it comes – he’s going to get the ropes and shovel now.  This is how I will die, in Portofino at the hands of a man I hardly know, the headlines will read “American Teacher Found Dead in the Hills Above Portofino”.  My heart was pounding.  I looked in the rear view mirror, and in the little space between the opening of the trunk and the top of the backseat, I could see he was holding the trunk  up high with one hand and bent over at the waist.  Was he digging my grave?  With one hand?  Getting an axe to chop me up in pieces?  What’s wrong? So I opened the door in an attempt to get out, and he told me to stay in the car, but he sounded funny. Like, strange funny.  Was he a werewolf??  Maybe that was it!  I tend to get the strangest thoughts at the oddest moments and this was no different.  I stayed in the car out of fear and because though he voice was odd, he had a serious commanding tone, so I suppose I was obeying him to some extent.  When he return to the car, he was sweating and smelled of vomit. Turned out my handsome Italian – the same man I thought might chop me up and bury me in the hills of Portofino – was struck with a case of motion sickness from all the s-curves.  I tried to comfort him, but he gently pushed my hand away saying we should go to our hotel in Rapallo.  He apologized a few times on the way but was mostly quiet.  I didn’t say much for the thirty minute drive.  I was sorry for him, but feeling a little hurt that he pushed my hand away.  He would’t let me comfort him and i was selfishly hurt by that.  Under the circumstances, I tried to push that thought away, telling myself I was being ridiculous.  Of course he doesn’t want to be touched he’s just been sick, I told myself.  When we got to the hotel, we checked in, Andrea took a shower and felt much better.  We went to bed quietly, as though we had a thousand times before, but it was our first night sleeping in the same bed and I was nervous.  I was hoping for a night of romance, which was not to be.  He didn’t hold me or say anything.  We just went to sleep on each of our sides of the bed.  It was painful for me.  I cried silently.  And then fell asleep.

I was up first.  I went directly to the bathroom to shower and get myself dressed.  When I emerged from the bathroom, ready for the day, he was still sleeping.  I tidied up my side of the room, opened the balcony door and was met with a perfect view of the beach.  It was early, before the shops opened and there were just one or two people walking in the street below.  I could hear the early morning sounds I loved about Italy; the sound of rolling metal as shop owners opened their taparelli, old men greeting each other with “Buongiorno” or “Ciao”!  I soaked it up, breathing in the air.  And, that coupled with the smells of fresh cappuccino and just baked brioche wafting in the air… I was hungry.  Not so unusual for me.  I sat there on the balcony for a few minutes, simply absorbing it all.  When I re-entered the room, he was in the shower.  Knowing he was getting ready to have a day with me was a relief.  It meant he was sick last night only and today was a new day.

We had our brioche and cappuccino up in Portofino, drove back down the coast and ate an amazing lunch of fritto di mare a variety of lightly fried fish, calamari, prawns, langostini and various other shellfish served with wedges of lemon and a bottle of white wine.  We walked on the beach at La Spezia and kissed in the sand.  Things were back to normal and I was feeling the magic of this very romantic day.  The next day was just as lovely, and it being Sunday, there was an open market in Santa Margherita which we decided to stop into on our way back up to Milan.  We stopped, looked around at a few things, and when I wasn’t looking He bought me a silver and turquoise bracelet to remember our weekend away.  He gave it to me before we got in the car to leave.  I still have it and think of him whenever I wear it.


*   *   *

That weekend away together was the real beginning of our relationship.  I learned a lot that weekend without realizing it.  I learned about him, and of course me.  I remember feeling beautiful.  Beautiful and feminine.  I felt beautiful because Italy does that to women.  The old men always gave me compliments on the way I was dressed, or my “beautiful smile”.  The young ones always looked and smiled too.  My favorite was when I would be walking down the street, with a friend or alone, and an older man would tip his hat and smile.  Such old world congeniality.  Very different from walking in the streets of New York where anonymity it king. We had quite a romance, Andrea and I .  We were together much more frequently after out weekend in Portofino.  He showed me secret places in Milan he like to go for drinks or aperativo.  My friends really liked him because he was low-key and was able to make conversation with anyone without being arrogant or too opinionated.  He was amused by me and the way I got along with my friends.  On weekends we’s steal away on his Harley, into the vineyards of surrounding towns stopping for drinks.  Once we had such a romantic day I remember the ride home on the Harley very clearly.  We had been riding all day, stopping for drinks and lunch, then riding nonstop.  The sun was going down and the sky was filled with ribbons of pink and orange.  We were close to Milan, riding through some riso fields, when he suddenly pulled over and took off my helmet.  He kissed me wildly and we embraced.  He began pulling at my clothing and making love to me right there in the middle of the riso field.  On the road just beyond the fields we could see cars passing, but they were not close enough to see us.  We made love right there under God’s setting sun and for the first time, I truly felt loved and filled with passion.  I remember while it was happening, thinking I am in Italy making love to the man of my dreams right here in a riso field.  I live here.  This is my life.  This….. is my life and I am so happy. 

And we really were.  Until just a few months later.  Andrea would tell me something that would change everything in our relationship and was more that I could really bare to hear. But for now, things were going well and we were happy.  So very happy.

I’d like to say I put a lot of thought and care into deciding on my new plan for switching Master’s Programs at Hofstra University.  The truth is, I was in a relationship and in my mid-twenties and was desperate to have a child.  I had been given an ultimatum by my English Professor: leave my man, or leave the program.  I made my choice.  I thought about career possibilities and came to the conclusion that if I became a teacher I could be home by 3:30 to care for my child and have a solid, steady income that would keep my alcoholic husband, my baby and myself financially stable.  With these thoughts in mind, I requested a place in the Education Department Master’s Program.  Classes would begin in the fall, just a few months away, and I could have the summer to enjoy my management career in the bookstore and have a fun summer now that Louise, my childhood friend was living close by.

Tommy, of course was not very supportive when I announced my change in plans that evening.  He didn’t like that I was planning things without his approval.  I knew that academics was a world he did not know about or understand.  I was independent in at least this one thing and he did not like it.  Eventually he would tell people and brag a bit about my choices to become a teacher when he spoke to  people he respected; potential employers, people in our town and even his mother who he resumed contact with that summer.

My sexual life with Tommy became my drug of choice.  I consumed the scent of his skin.  I  craved his muscular body, how it dominated mine.  He knew how to seduce me and I surrendered to his touch.  A wave of pleasure would come over me, despite my lack of experience with men before him, and I was like a woman possessed drinking in his freckled skin that smelled of soap and the salty sea air.  Living by the beach had made his pale Irish skin turn a soft reddish brown.  What was left of his crown of sparse blonde hair became even more golden as the summer days grew longer.  His crystal blue eyes which once brought a shiver of fear through my body now seemed soft and serene.  A tingle came over me as his mustache tickled the secret parts of my body.  Looking back on this now, I realize I was clumsy and awkward and not very knowledgeable in the ways of love.  I was only beginning to discover the pleasures of lovemaking.  Navigating his body, somehow helped me discover mine.


Lady – Maria McCabe, November 2007, India Ink on Paper

After a one passionate session of lovemaking, he revealed to me that he had a previous relationship with a woman, Madeline,  who he lived with back in The Bronx.  He described them as having a tumultuous live-in romance that ended badly.  Three months after they parted she contacted him to reveal she was pregnant with his child.  He immediately denied it and refused to speak that crazy bitch.  He saw the baby after it was born, at her insistence, denying he was the father.  She was a slut, a whore.  It could have been anyone’s baby.  He told me.  Three years after the child’s birth, Madeline showed up at Tommy’s mother’s house to show her the baby.  As it happened, Tommy was there and both he and his mother could see the resemblance; the big round eyes, the shape of his little body next to Tommy’s was a miniature version of him.  He even had similar mannerisms.  Tommy had contact with Madeline and the child on and off for a year or so, or whenever Tommy felt guilty.  Then nothing.  That’s about the time he went to jail, served his time, got out and met me.  It had been three years since he saw his son.  I asked him if he wanted to contact the child but he admitted he did not want to deal with Madeline and he still had his doubts if the child was really his.  I suggested a paternity test but he was not open to that, so I let the matter drop for a while but it weighed heavy on my mind to think there was a child of his out there and it wasn’t mine.

*     *     *     *     *

By now, Louise and Brian had been living together down the street for a few months.  I came to discover that they were smoking pot quite regularly with Tommy while I was off at work.  Fighting about it, I realized, would get me nowhere.  So I lived in the very comfortable state of denial which I was beginning to know all too well.  My goal was to keep things peaceful while I was with Tommy at home.  He was beginning to open up to me about his childhood, his past criminal behavior and his feelings about people in our social circles.  I was feeling more and more confident that we would make it through this sensitive period and come out stronger for it.  I was beginning to trust him and believe that he was my lover, my protector, my friend.  So one day, when he took my car keys and announced that he was going to the store to get cigarettes, I thought nothing of it.  He gave me a little kiss and walked out the door.  I settled into the couch and flipped on the T.V. waiting for his return.

Now, here’s where things get a bit hazy for me.  Recalling events of the past are funny that way.  Sometimes you can remember every detail of one event and almost nothing of others.  Sometimes the memories float in and out like ghosts.  I didn’t have phone numbers for any of the characters in town who he regularly talked to but I tried to recall which of these I could turn to.  I was worried that something might have happened to Tommy; an accident, a flat tire…..who could I call if I needed help?  There was an older Italian American man who lived on the other side of town who everyone called Johnny Garbage because he worked for the sanitation department for over thirty five years.  He was retired and suffering from a bad case of diabetes, so bad it took three of his toes.  He had a grimy, rude, foul mouthed way of addressing people.  When I first me him, he asked me why I was even with Tommy because I seemed like a nice girl.  He told me to run and dump that bum, that he would only be trouble but I thought that was part of his grumpy act.  There was Jesus look-alike, Mark, who was a former cocaine addict turned Born-Again Christian who owned a local bagel store and was known for fucking all the young girls that worked for him in the back of the bagel shop.  There there was a friend of Tommy’s from Yonkers who he recently came back into contact with.  John was part of the old gang Tommy ran with in The Bronx many years ago.  When they got back in touch a few months before, John came for a visit and told us the story of how he became a cop, got married, bought a house had three little girls and was doing really well.  Tommy had put on a real show for John making it seem everything was perfect with us.  When John left, it was as though we had passed inspection.   Those were the only people I could think of and I didn’t have any of their phone numbers.  I also didn’t have my car and was terrified of leaving the house in case a phone call came.  I remember trying to call his cell phone but it was off.  I was sick with worry, pacing the floor and not knowing what to do.  Brian and Louise were unreachable – not home, not answering their phones.  I remembered they were away visiting with Louise’s mother in Queens and would not be back for at least a week.  I didn’t want to call them anyway.  I saw them as being the source of many of Tommy’s problems with staying sober.  I had no one in my own life to call since I had pushed all my friends out of my life.  I decided he must be at a local bar, which also worried me because he had been so good in the period just before this.  And finally, I couldn’t help myself.. I shuffled through his night table drawer looking through papers, looking for a phone number of anyone who seemed remotely familiar, any hint of anything to help figure out where he was, until finally I found one… a ripped off corner of a paper.  It said John with a phone numbered scrawled on – the area code was Yonkers, so I dialed it.   I apologized for bothering him and told him what was happening.  He cut me off and asked me how long had it been since I’d seen him.  I told him he didn’t come back from getting cigarettes the night before.  He said give it another day or two.  I know him, you don’t.  Pack your bags and go to your family – when he does come back he’ll cry and apologize but he’s fucking drug addict and you better get out of there.  He’s probably in an ally somewhere passed out.  I hung up the phone without a word.  I pushed his words out of my head in disbelief, deep into that comfortable place of denial.  Something’s wrong, he’s had an accident, that must be it.  Where could he be?  That night I was so worked up and fought sleep from coming over me.  I stayed up for two days and nights, constantly checking the house phone to see if it worked, calling his cell phone but no rings.  Just the immediate message of the voicemail.

I called in sick to work, telling my Assistant Manager I was having car trouble.  I checked out the second floor window but my car was nowhere on the block.  I showered to ready myself for Tommy’s return and dialed the local hospital.   No one matching Tommy’s description was admitted, no car accidents reported.  Nothing.  A quiet night in our sea-side town.  The sun was blaring into the windows and it was a clear beautiful day but I remember feeling a sense of doom.  Maybe he’s dead; he could have gotten drunk and drown in the ocean…he wouldn’t take my car and purposely leave me here alone, he could be in trouble, what if he needs me….

He didn’t come home for four days.

When he finally came home I was sitting on the couch and shocked by what I saw. He looked like hell.  He had bags under his eyes, he smelled from not showering and his clothes were filthy.  The scent of alcohol and cigarettes seemed to hold his clothing together.  I screamed as he walked toward me, what happened?, where were you?, couldn’t you pick up the phone and call me? and this man, this broad-shouldered street tough ex-convict could not look me in the face.  He collapsed in my arms, crying like a little boy.  I held him for a long time, crying myself, until finally he spoke through his tears.  It was horrible, I’m so sorry, I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t stop…

Couldn’t stop what…I thought… what was so horrible….

It turns out he ran into Brian who did not go to Queens with Louise after all.  The two of them got drunk in a local bar.  I’m not sure how, but they wound up in a local flea bag of a hotel that charges by the hour with and eight ball of cocaine.  They were snorting coke, cooking it and smoking crack, drinking and getting high for four days straight.  He didn’t even know how long he was gone.  To this day, I don’t know if there was anyone else with them, if he fucked someone, I have no idea.  All I knew then was that I was living with a man who had absolutely no self control.  And I was disgusted.  I yelled, I screamed I threw things and broke things.  I told him only an animal could behave this way.  I was possessed in a new way now.  I hated him and I loved him.  I despised him and I craved him.  I banged my hands against his chest and threw his clothes at him and told him to leave, just go, get out!!  He just sat on the edge of the bed.  Crying.

And it broke my heart.

So, I stayed.

Poetic Interlude

April 14, 2013 — 2 Comments

Sunday Ritual

I drink cardamom coffee
alone now
on this sunny Sunday morning

I drink cardamom coffee
from my biggest mug
and fill it with memories
from Sundays with you…

I drink cardamom coffee
and with each sip
another tear falls
and lets loose another memory
of rumpled sheets
my wild hair
your blue blue eyes
that little boy smile of yours
and your mouth tasting of sex
and cigarettes
and cardamom coffee…

I drink cardamom coffee
alone now
and close my eyes and linger there tasting the memory…

And just when I can no longer bear it, I take another sip of
cardamom coffee
Which I now only drink

April 2013

My future husband, I’ll call him Tommy, was a jolly person when things were going well.  He had a good sense of humor and really did confide some intimate thoughts and details about his life before meeting me, in the way that lovers do.  I shared with him my dreams and hopes.  We were growing closer and he admitted that he had never known life could be so good.  By his own admission, he had never  had the experience of having a “real” relationship with a woman.  And though I was just a girl, I felt like a woman in his presence.  We lived on the south shore of Long Island in a town that was known as a lively summer hang out.  From the signs of first thaw in early April until school began in September, our little beach side community was invaded by Manhattanites who spilled off the Long Island Railroad dressed in shorts and flip-flops loaded down with beach chairs and tote bags bursting with beach towels custom ordered from L.L Bean.  Locals lounged on the beaches during the day and strolled the sidewalks at night, ice creams in hand, with barking dogs and rowdy kids. Boating, fishing and beach-side clubs were daily distractions from commuting, work and bill paying.  Tommy and I went through a very happy stretch.  There was lots of laughter and love making and we shared our lives happily.  I remember there were times where I looked at his big blue eyes and simply melted.  I was very much in love and things felt really good.

In an effort to stay sober, Tommy discovered the joys of fishing.  In the beginning he went out on day-trips that departed from a local dock.  These “party boats” lauched at 6:00am and returned around supper time.  I would drop him off in the morning and pick him up from the dock after a day at work in the bookstore.  I was a manager by then and brought home a generous paycheck.  When he lost his job (again) we were comfortable enough that he could continue with his hobby.  There came a time when he invited me along on a blue fish trip.  The boat went out into international waters where the blues and striped bass were abundant.  I did fairly well, having caught two blues and a striper.  After dark, I battled a bit of sea sickness, running for the bathroom.  Upon opening the door, I quickly bolted (fishing boat bathrooms are not conducive to young women) and had trouble finding the horizon line.  We laughed about this later, but I remember calling out to Jesus, Mary and Joseph for consolation.  I was happy when the boat docked and I stepped onto solid dry land.

Eventually, we discovered surf fishing.  We went out with some friends, geared with only the long, heavy fishing poles designed especially for this type of fishing.  Walking onto the beach, baiting up and casting our lines into the shallow parts of the surf was exhilarating.  It was great to be out in nature with my love and sharing this experience.  The following weekend we went to the local tackle shop and we bought all the gear – waders, rods, line and matching hats.  The waders came up to Tommy’s waist, as they were meant to.  The smallest pair came up to my chest and looked like Lucile Ball in some crazy sketch.  in the evenings we would head out at sunset, and on the weekends just before sunrise.  We stole salty kisses and as the summer months rolled in, our sun-kissed skin grew use to these outdoor adventures just steps from our apartment.  It was around this time that  my former friend, Louise, had called and asked if she could spend a few days with me and Tommy at our beach-side apartment.

I awaited my former friend’s arrival with joy and excitement.  When I met her for the first time so many years before, she was a student of very exclusive Manhattan Private schooling.  When I saw her for the last time, I was filled with sadness at her betrayal and disappointed in what her life had been reduced to.  A disaster of epic proportions.


Finding marijuana instead of money for Chinese food in my future husband‘s leather jacker scared me more than the memory of being choked by my future husband.

I had nowhere to go.  With tears streaming down my face and the one ounce bag of marijuana in my purse, I firmly pressed the gas pedal to the floor and drove.  I drove without a destination.  I drove to get away from the south shore town, from my future husband and from this life that was spinning out of control.   I drove for about twenty minutes before it occurred to me that I could get randomly pulled over by police and they would see me as a criminal.  I could not go to my mother’s house because I was no longer her daughter.  My brother was not an option as we had almost no relationship.  By this time in my relationship with my future husband, I had pushed most of my friends out of my life.  I was too embarrassed to continue explaining my future husband’s erratic behavior.  I grew tired of making excuses, so I suppose it was easier to isolate myself.  I decided to go back to the apartment.  I feared that he would hurt me physically if I got rid of the drugs.  But I turned the car around.  In doing so, I was accepting what was to come.

When I arrived he said what I was thinking, what I expected to hear.  So you decided to come back?  You have nowhere else to go…. you’re acting like a baby and overreacting.  It’s just pot, not crack, Maria.  Everyone smokes pot.  I didn’t smoke pot.  People I called friends didn’t either.  In fact, I turned away friends during high school who did smoke pot.  People I worked with didn’t smoke it…did they?  What if they sensed I was too much of a ninny to tell me?  Not everyone smoked pot.  He couldn’t be right.  Could he?  I didn’t say anything for a while.  He kept mumbling things about how fucking ridiculous I was being and asking me questions I had no answer for.  Why is this such a big deal?  What is your problem anyway?  Can’t you just fucking relax?  I was beginning to believe his ridicule.  No I couldn’t relax.

Eventually things simmered down that night and of course he rolled himself a joint, cracked open a can of Budweiser and began smoking and drinking in the living room.  The skunk-like smell of the strange cigarette disgusted me.  The T.V. was on and I wound up in the bedroom and tucked myself into the bed.  My eyes were wide open for a long time.  I was keeping watch over myself thinking of what to do when he eventually crawled into the bed next to me.  Tell him to sleep on the fucking couch.  Pretend you are sleeping.  If he touches you, just go with it so the fighting will stop.  I didn’t know how I would handle things and all the scenarios played themselves out in my head.  At one point I even hoped he would slide into the bed next to me, wrap his arms around me and tearfully ask for forgiveness.  No such luck.  I heard him on the phone talking in his loud Budweiser beer voice as though everything were just fine.  I couldn’t tell who he was talking to, surmised it was one of his cronies and eventually there was silence the familiar beeps of the phone dialing and a new conversation began.  He ended the call with Alright, I’ll see you in a few.  The next thing I heard were his feet clomping down the stairs and the door closing behind him.  He left the lingering odors of marijuana ashes and open empty beer cans for me to stew in alone.  My heart was racing.  Where is he going?  Will he be right back?  Can I fall asleep now?  In the morning I woke up alone with no sign of my future husband having returned to the apartment.  I cleaned up the mess he left in the living room, got showered, applied my makeup and drove directly to the bookstore where I worked.

The sun was shining and I found my regular parking space.  I pulled open the heavy brass-handled door to the smells of coffee lingering in the air and the sweet melodic sounds of Cole Porter‘s Night and Day pouring out of the speakers.  Good Morning! One of the girls at the register called out to me.  I gave her the biggest smile I could muster and returned the greeting.  I was pretending to be cheerful.  I pushed aside my pain, put my purse in the back office and walked out onto the sales floor straightening piles of books as I walked toward my post.  I made small talk with my colleagues and cheerfully greeted customers.  I joked with the guys in the stockroom and checked for special orders in the UPS delivery.  I went about my business and loved every minute of it.   I was beginning to live a double life.

I left work a little later that evening so that my time at home would be shorter.  When I arrived he was waiting there, apologetic and told me he went down the block to visit his friend and hang out.  He said he was sorry that I got so upset but that he wasn’t going to give up smoking pot because it was not a big deal and I would just have to get over it.  He told me it was cheaper to buy an ounce that buying dime bags all the time and that he was actually saving us money.  But he said out of respect for you, I won’t do it in the house.  I said it was ok, that I understood.  But I didn’t understand.  And it wasn’t ok.  I don’t know if I was trying to convince him or me.

A few months after this, I received two significant phone calls.

The first was from a Literature professor I became close with while doing my undergraduate degree in Literature.  The phone call, despite coming just shy of a year after graduation, was certainly unexpected and caused me to recall a rush of memories. This particular professor taught a class called The Art of Autobiography which captivated me.  We focused on the genre through readings by Jean Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, Anais Nin, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf and Wole Soyinka.  The lives of these writiers fascinated me and made me want to experience life at its fullest, richest possibility.  Always having kept a journal, I fantasized about the many lovers I would hope write about later in my life like Nin, or zooming in on a tender memory of my mother singing and soothing me as in Proust’s Swan’s Way.  In general, I longed to romanticize things about my own life, and things that never really occurred but seemed so nostalgic and romantic in the way only great writing and art can be.  Words, thoughts, artistic expressions leaped off the page and grabbed me in the chest and demand that I was present in that moment.  I recall over the course of my life, beginning in my undergraduate years, crying real tears for the frustration of not being able to express these emotions myself.  Despite beginning my studies three years later than my peers,  I was very young then, having the soul of an artist and the heart of a poet.  Nothing agonizing had happened to me yet, though I desperately hoped it would.  I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined how my life would turn out just a few short years from that very safe, over-romanticized period of time.  I worked hard and wrote well and suppose I stood out for being knowledge-hungry and enthusiastic.  I suppose, too, that starting a few years later and being one of the older students in the small private university made me stand out a bit for this particular professor.  While I was in her class, she asked me to be her assistant at a conference which she was heading, focusing on the life and works of Anais Nin.  It took place at the Southampton Campus of our University.  I accepted her invitation, feeling very self-important and flattered all at once.  I  helped with everything from picking up guest speakers at the train station and delivering them to the dorms they would occupy for the weekend-long conference, to distributing programs and basically schmoozing with professors in between speakers. I made sure lunch was served on time and handed out bottles of water.  I felt star-struck when meeting professors from all over the country who had written books and delivered papers on Nin.  I met and listened to Benjamin Franklin V (yes, a direct decendant), deliver a paper on his research for an upcoming cook he was writing about the life of Anais Nin.  There was even a group from Japan who studied the implications of Nin’s work in Japanese feminist culture.  I was invited to an after conference party at my professor’s vacation home in Southampton.  The evening played out like a Woody Allen film.  Gossip amongst the professors about who was sleeping with whom, gossip about promotions within teaching departments and who’s book was rejected by publishers.  I drank some white wine and got a little tipsy and had the most interesting conversation with a professor from a big university in California.  She had similar observations about the crowd, loved my Woody Allen analogy,  and asked me about my future plans, which of course included getting my Ph.D. in Literature.  She shared some sage advice and we laughed a lot.  I was very intimidated by the crowd and at one point thought my Professor’s husband might have been flirting with me a little while he was playing the piano.  He probably wasn’t but at the time I thought he might have been.  He taught at Barnard and later wrote a posthumous biography about a great American Poet whom shall remain nameless.  It was on the bestseller list for something like three years, and wound up on our “New York Times Best Sellers List” shelf years later while I was the Manager of the bookstore I would begin working in after graduation.  My attendance at the party also afforded me the opportunity to meet, speak with and exchange recipes with my professor’s mother – an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Comparative Literature, Symbolism and Surrealism, in addition to being a regular contributor and reviewer for the New York Times Book Review.  I remember she had a mustache (as did my professor) of impossibly black hair and a giant bun atop her head and a big round belly that made me believe I was standing before Gertrude Stein herself.  The longer I spoke to her, the more beautiful her face became, the more I wanted to be like her… the memories all came in a flash when I heard my professor’s voice on the other end of the phone call.  She inquired as to where I had started my Master’s and where I would be doing my Ph.D..  I was silent at the other end of the phone, feeling very disappointed in myself because of my current circumstances.  Should I confide in her and tell her about my abusive, alcoholic drug using future husband?  No I decided almost immediately.  I told her things were going well, that I had decided to take time off before beginning my Master’s and that I had met a fantastic man whom I moved in with.  I could detect a bit of disappointment in her voice, but she was non-judgemental, and got to the point rather quickly.  She wanted to know if I would be interested and available to be her sole research assistant for a book she was beginning to write on literary perspectives of Anais Nin – a body of work that would be a direct result of the conference I attended and assisted her with the previous year.  My heart leapt when she asked me!  She explained that she could not afford to pay me, but that I would get a mention in the acknowledgements page which would apparently be a great thing to add to my resume and applications to grad school.  I remember looking around the small apartment, scrambling for what my answer would be and recalled difficult and happy moments with my future husband – my name in the acknowledgements page  – my name in a book and the chance to do research for a conference I had attended and….. and I accepted the offer.  She said she would call again at the beginning of the following week to firm up what she would need me to do first, and suggested I gather and review notes I may have taken at the conference. I hung up the phone, overjoyed and called my future husband…. he was not nearly as excited.   Why would you do anything for free?  What kind of hours does she want you for? You don’t have time for that shit, you need to work and make money.  I started to think about it.  His cool reception to my offer made me think like him – yeah, why couldn’t she pay me?  Was she taking advantage of me?  Maybe I should just say no since he’s so upset about it. When he came home later that evening, he continues to rant about what a ridiculous idea it was.  She must’ve thought you would be her nigger bitch and do all her work for her for free, he said.  I don’t know why it was so easy, but I started to believe believe he was right.  I started thinking my professor had bad intentions of taking advantage of my time and skills…. the next time I spoke to her I told her I was simply too busy with my full time job and dedication to my relationship at home to give her the time she was asking me to devote to the project.  I shut my eyes tight as I lied these lies to her.  She said it sounded like someone was making me say those things – she was smarter than I could have imagined – and asked me if I needed help.  I told her no, and everything’s fine and this is all my decision.She asked me if I was sure, and that she would have another teacher’s assistant currently her student, available to do the research work, but really thought I would put the passion into it.  No, I said, I’m sorry but I just can’t right now.   And that was the end of that.  I would hear from her again in four years time.  i arranged a book launch and signing at the bookstore after I became the manager.  She and her writing assistant, the student teacher that took my place, arrived all smiles.  The professor’s husband, who I swear flirted with me at the party in The Hamptons, was also in attendance.  I swear he just had that look flirtatious look about him again.  A week before the event, I admit I tore open the box of books from the publisher, plowed through the acknowledgments and forward to search for mention of the teaching assistant’s name.  When I found it I found myself reading three whole sentences about her over and over, and rereading it replacing her name with mine to see how it rolled off my tongue.  The hours of work necessary to complete this book were made shorter and more bearable by my faithful research assistant, and assistant in all things academic ________ _______”   Your love of literature and determination to see this work through until its completion has been much appreciated and admired.  From the bottom of my  heart, I am so glad I found you. Thank you!   Damnit, that was four sentences.  My name was forever omitted from any historical connection to my professor, the conference and Anais Nin.

The second phone call I received around the same period of time was from a former friend of mine whom I had not spoken to in nearly ten years.  I knew her from summer camp which I attended in Sag Harbor, Long Island from the ages of eight to sixteen when I became a Counselor in Training (CIT’s for short).  We were only acquaintances during my younger years at camp.  She was definitely one of the “cool” girls at the all-girls Catholic camp located in the sleepy former whaling village nestled in the heart of The Hamptons.  She had, I heard, a reputation for being wild since she was from New York City.  There were only a handful of girls from The City that attended.  One of them was the daughter of a director who I hadn’t heard of at the time.  One year Yule Brenner’s adopted children attended camp with us, though they were much younger than I.  I was curious about my friend before I met her until it finally happened; she spoke to me first and we became friends almost instantly.  She dared me to steal ice-cream from the kitchen after hours, and together we plotted with other girls to stick one of the younger girl’s fingers in a glass of cold water while she was sleeping.  Apparently there was a rumor that poor girl had a bed wetting problem and we wanted to make that happen, for sure. I ran into that poor bed-wetting girl in London nearly six years later when I was entering a theatere in Victoria to see Me and My Girl.  I was shocked to see your beautiful blue eyed face and golden blonde ringlets as she got up on her tip-toes to call out to me.  I tried to hide from her vision, embarrassed by my past sins against her but eventually my mother saw hers and we all stopped to chat for a bit.  I felt so small, so horrible.  She was lovely and sweet.  How could we have done that to her.  She never knew I was involved.  This ultra cool trouble-causing friend also got us to sneak off camp grounds to wrangled us into a local club on Reggae Night where dred-locked Jamaican men were dancing and openly smoking marijuana on the dance floor.  We were very much underage and not supposed to be there anyway, but somehow a Rolling Rock beer wound up in my hand and I began to drink it.  Eventually another came into my posession and by the time I started feeling my knees go warm and weak, I was deathly afraid of getting caught by the nuns at camp more than getting kicked out of the club but figured if that were to happen, it better be for a good reason.  Some of the other CIT’s puffed away happily, dancing to the lazy Reggae beats.  And then round about one o’clock in the morning out came Rick James – Rick James as in, She’s a very Kinky Girl (SuperFreak).  He was dressed all in gold, chest exposed and both shoulders flanked with platinum blondes with highly glossed red lips and not much else on.  I could not believe my eyes, or the effect his performance was having on me… so naughty so dirty, so freaky but I liked it!  I danced along with my stoned friends.  When my Former Friend called me, all the memories rushed back.  I was excited to tell her of my new life, living with a man and working at the bookstore as an Assistant Manager by that time.  I thought I might sound impressive to her.  She told me she was coming out to Long Island and could she come stay with me for a night or two?  Of course!  I said, what fun!  I had to explain all this to my future husband, but he said a visitor made no difference to him.  As it happened, his old friend from The Bronx would be moving into an apartment down the block from us, so he would be busy with helping him anyway.

I had no idea how poorly the stars aligned themselves that night.  My former friend did not leave for another three years.  When she did, she left with my future husband’s crony,both Crack addicted by then, her belly swollen with his child and five thousand dollars of my money.


I was  married.

Sometimes that does not seem a real or possible statement.

But I was.  I was married.

I often think about this.  I shared a life with another human being.  We met and fell for each other the way people do every day.  We shopped, ate, made love.  We shared a home, a bed, furniture and a dog.  I knew of his drug-dealing, criminal past and he knew I didn’t have any such experience to speak of.  Looking back, I now know how green I was.  I was too inexperienced and unsophisticated to understand the intricacies of love, relationships and the permanency that marriage implies.  I fell in love with him because he paid attention to me.  He noticed me.  He spoke to me.  I misinterpreted his rogue intentions to be flirtatious and romantic.  I thought I could rule the world then but it turns out I could not even begin to understand what was ahead of me.

I graduated from University.  I had no career plans to speak of.  I thought it would be ideal if I could just spend my time around books and get paid for it.  While I was deciding how to make that happen, a friend’s then fiancee had purchased a deli and offered me some work at a fair wage.  I was still living at home and thought this would be a safe, wise option.  I was in no rush to make copious sums of money and so I took him up on the offer.

I worked in a Kosher deli on the south shore of Long Island .  I was told to stay at the counter, take orders and money and only handle hot dog orders.  Everything else would be done by the guys who made sandwiches, doled out salads and the waitstaff that served tables.  I thought this was great!  No thinking involved, very little contact with food and working the register which I felt comfortable with because of previous work experience in retail.

One day, my future husband was cutting a sandwich.  It was his habit to slam the knife down on the wooden chopping block as a way to clear the knife of straggling bits of meat and bread after cutting a sandwich.  He had huge, wild, crystal blue eyes, a permanent pink tone to his cheeks and a few blond hairs left on his mostly bald head.  When he slammed that knife down on the counter, I shook like a rabbit.  He smiled at me then.  I remember feeling the confused sensation of fear and delight.  Did I think that was hot? Sexy? Masculine?  Macho?  Dangerous?  I have no idea.  All I know is I returned his smile and thought he might be just a touch insane.  But I liked it.

The deli’s owner, my friend’s fiancee, felt a certain sense of responsibility toward my future husband.  You see, just a few months before, my future husband was released from prison.  Apparently he partook in a Bronx pharmacy robbery with one of his cronies.  They broke the pharmacy window and proceeded to rob it of pills, cash and other sundries.  Of course they were caught and my future husband served 6 months in jail on Riker’s Island.  This is the way I remember it.  I also remember he once told me he robbed a dry cleaning establishment of police uniforms and conducted a fake drug bust to rob a competing drug dealer of cash, weapons and product, but I’m not sure if this was what he went to jail for.  Either way, he was definitely in jail, it was definitely in Riker’s and he got out just a few months before he began slamming butcher knives on greasy wooden chopping blocks in that sleepy south shore Kosher deli.

When I heard the jail story, I was again, turned on and terrified at the same time.  I know it flashed through my mind that if I could just love him enough he could turn his life around and be an honorable man with an interesting story to tell at some future time.  This may be the instant I went skipping down the long, impossible road that followed.  I really thought I could save him.  Love him enough and in turn he would love me.

We had a very innocent first date.  He asked if I wanted to take a walk on the local boardwalk.  I thought this was so adorable.  I thought he revealed the little boy inside himself for just a flash when he asked me out.  He was hesitant but tried to be cool.  I responded.  We walked along the beach that night, the air heavy with a salty mist and the sexual tension that hovers over potential lovers.  I held his hand when he reached out to me.  I could still smell the pastrami smells on my shirt, and felt very unsexy.  But those eyes.  Bold, blue, and looking straight into me.  We talked about things that might have been red flags for me but I ignored.  I ignored the way women do when they don’t want to be right.  I let him kiss me as we sat on that cool wet sand, the blackness of the horizon ahead of us and the bright lights from the boardwalk behind us.  We walked back to my car and I drove him home.  I drove twenty five minute drive back to my mother’s house seeing only those crazy blue eyes ahead of me and darkness behind as I drove further away from the shore.

Three months later I was moving my books, clothes and bathroom items out of my mother’s house into my car and driving back to the south shore to the small apartment that would become my home with this ex-con boy-man.

Are you still with me?  This is when things really start happening.

I moved in with him and remember nothing about the first few nights.  I’m sure there was some serious love-making and sporadic eating and maybe some work too. I’m sure I had a constant throb between my legs that kept me wanting him more.  The throb kept me going and ignoring my mother’s incessant phone calls which I either ignored or answered and then – abrupt hang ups.  At the time I remember thinking that sex was wonderful, amazing, incredible.  Of course, I hadn’t had much sex up to that point.  He was muscular, much bigger than me, and though I was the heaviest I’d ever be in my life, I was much smaller than he.  I felt like a Fay Ray to his King Kong.

A few weeks went by an I got the job I wanted in a high-end bookstore in a North Shore pedestrian mall.  The store was a real stunner.  Upon entering I was met with deep green marble floors, thick brown wooden bookcases that went on for miles and a center table that was adorned with a large stone vase and a spray of exotic flowers.  One end of the store housed the music section; selections of Euro Pop, Jazz and Opera imports that were difficult to get in your average music shop.  Opposite the music section was a small boutique containing artsy items like scares, jewelry, candles and bottle stoppers made from colorful frosted glass.  The other entrance of the store greeted you with a small Italian coffee bar.  Only espresso and cappuccino were served.  The coffee aromas lingering in the air mixed with the soft Italian pop voices and together they lingered into the air, over the dark green marble, those stately wooden bookshelves and convinced you that you had entered an Italian Palazzo.   This was heaven for me.  Indeed it became my haven.

When I first began working at the bookstore, I continued on at the Kosher deli just one day a week.  Partly for the money, but mostly to be close to my then future husband.  Although we were living together, we really did enjoy working together one day a week.  It was fun to flirt and grab each other in secret behind the counter, stealing kisses in between customers and whispering all the naughty things we would do when we got home.  For the first time, I was in love.

There was a third party in our relationship.  At home it was the future husband, Budweiser and me.  At first, I did not realize that drinking a six-pack a night was not normal.  Really.  I grew up in a home where no one drank alcohol.  No wine at dinner, not really even on special occasions.  There were no nightcaps taken, or fingers of scotch to ward off a cold.  No hot toddies on cold winter nights.  There was just no alcohol around.  It never occurred to me that a six pack was excessive.  I had no way of gaging what was normal and what was excessive.  Until one day I asked him.  Is that normal?  I didn’t grow up in home where there was drinking.  His response was defensive, I work hard and pay my bills. If I want to come home and have a fucking beer, I will.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It felt strange to me.  Even as I heard the words, it felt wrong that someone should drink that much every night.  Beer cans were always present and became a fixture like furniture.

A few months went by and I dropped my day at the deli.  I was loving my time at the bookstore and started making friends.  Things were going great for me there and I was moving up fast.  I had found my little niche doing something I loved and felt great every day.   few months into the relationship I began confiding in a friend at the bookstore.  I acted as though everything were great, and perhaps I was being silly but wanted to know if that was normal.  Not really, she said directly.  I knew she was right, but at that point my mother stopped speaking to me because I was living with him and her strict religious beliefs prevented her from being capable of maintaining a relationship with me if I was going to live in sin with that animal. I really felt I had nowhere to go.  I questioned why I was even turning that phrase in my head somewhere to go but I knew I didn’t want to stay.  I don’t know why, but I really didn’t want to leave.

His drinking increased and with it his impatience and foul language.  Sex felt forced and unenjoyable but I never refused him.  I was afraid to turn him away.  It was as if I knew there were repercussions. I was in bed, sleeping one night, when he came home at one in the morning and started to make advances.  Rubbing my ass, kissing my neck as I lay there stirring from sleep.  He was clearly drunk and in the mood.  He smelled of cigarettes and beer.  He tried to take me, tried shoving himself inside me but I wasn’t ready.  Just as quickly he became angered.  He accused me of cheating on him, named people in our lives that he was convinced I was fucking and when I finally couldn’t take his accusations anymore I shouted back in defense.  That’s when he straddled me on the bed, pinning my arms down under his legs and wrapped his hands around my neck trying to squeeze the life right out of me.  I strained for breath and felt my self slipping, tears running down my face and wishing he would just do it.  Just kill me.  But something inside me rose up and fought.  I squirmed under him.  We ended up on the floor and he was on top of me again, choking me and slamming my head against the wooden floorboards.  There was a pounding at the door.  The landlord who lived below us was banging and screaming.  My future husband ran to the door and said we were having a fight but everything was ok now.  I said nothing.  I went into the bathroom with my cell phone and called the police.  My face and neck were red.  The fingerprints were redder and pushed their way to the surface of my skin, forcing themselves to be seen.  My first thought was to wonder how I could possibly show myself at work the next day.  It was Spring and a turtleneck would have been out of place.  When the police arrived they asked me a few questions.  Then they asked me whose name was on the lease.  His, I said.  Just then my future husband came outside and told them nothing happened and they could all go home.  The cops laughed, realizing who it was.  I kept telling them to look at my neck, that he ad done this to me.  They said His name is on the lease.  If you want someone to go, it should be you.  But as you all now know, I had nowhere to go.  I felt mocked and small and weak.  All I wanted to do was sleep and dream of something better.  Instead, I entered that apartment, him behind me even more upset.  The climb up the stairs felt like a death march.  When we got upstairs he muttered a few more degrading comments in my direction, I grabbed some clothes, packed a small bag, and got  in the car driving into the darkness.  I remembered there was a small hotel near the bookstore, so I drive directly to it.  The sun came up, he did not return and I went to my safe haven, the bookstore.  The phone calls began shortly after my arrival at work the next day.  He called and yelled at anyone who answered.  By the time he got me on the phone I was so embarrassed about his behavior toward my colleagues that I gave in to his pleas to come back home.  I apologized for calling the police and assured him I would be home directly after work.   I thought my submission would quiet him.  Calm him.  Make it all go away.  Of course, my return gave him permission to continue the drinking and physical abuse toward me.  I had made my metaphorical bed.

Living with my then future husband from that evening on was like walking on glass.  Every move I made had to be carefully calculated, and despite my wide-eyed innocence, I now grew paranoid and questioned myself if I even looked in the direction of another man or if I caught myself being friendly with male customers at work.  One evening, a few months after the choking incident, I came home from work to find he lost his job at the deli and he was consoling himself with a case of beer and watching T.V.  On the way home I was craving Chinese food and did not feel like cooking.  He told me to grab money out of his jacket pocket so I could pick up the food he ordered.  I reached into the black leather abyss and a shiver went down my spine when I saw what my hand produced – a bag of marijuana- about an ounce of ripe spelling marijuana.  I had never seen it like this but its color and odor were distinctive.  I smoked a joint once in high school and threw up shortly after.  Didn’t enjoy it and never tried it again.  The shock and horror of finding that weed might sound overblown to someone reading this account but to me it was a nightmare.  I shoved the bag in my purse and ran out the door.  I was shaking now and headed straight for my car.  I drove, in a panic, thinking of what I should do.  Throw it in the ocean?  Throw it in a trash can?  Smoke it?  Flush it down the toilet?  None of these made sense.  Nothing made sense. I had nowhere to go, no safety place.  How did I wind up with an alcoholic drug addict?  This was just the beginning of what would be a six year long nightmare.


Italo Calvino said: The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts. Describe the ghosts that live in this house: Image credit: “love Don’t live here anymore…” – © 2009 Robb North – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic