I got married on Friday, January 13, 2006.
Didn’t choose the day on purpose. It was a spontaneous decision earlier in the week. Hadn’t told anyone. Didn’t even realize what day it was till I checked the Weather Channel for the drive to Maine from Massachusetts. Got married at the Wells town hall. Drove to this cabin I live in now to tell my parents first. Mom wasn’t thrilled. She never liked him. And she was right. He’s not a bad man, but it was a bad relationship – for ten years before I married him, and it just got worse from there. Until a confluence of events two years ago, including my Mother’s death (here’s a link – link – to the whole list, if you’re interested), finally made me wake up and walk away.
Recently, I had a little breakdown. My Best Friend in the Whole Wide World (whom I used to call Dr. One Friend on my old blog) told me she’d thought all along that mine was a textbook abusive relationship, and it kind of sent me reeling. I still don’t think of it that way, but I see why she did, and I wondered why she never said anything sooner. He never hit me (well, he hit me once – so hard I felt my brain slosh around inside my skull – but I still say it doesn’t count because I hit him first). The way I always thought of it was that I was strong, so strong that I could stand up to it until it broke. The names he called me, the drunken rages, the smashed dishes, kicked in walls, doors torn off their hinges, the all-around disrespect for me and everyone I loved. I just closed my eyes and leaned into the lion’s roar for fourteen years, waiting for him to run out of breath.
But it’s also true that, without realizing it, I changed. Stopped doing things I knew would set him off – listening to certain music, going out and shooting pool – not out of fear, but because it was easier. Until, finally, I had no life left. Inside me, or out. I went to work and came home and drank too much and wrote the kind of comedy that comes from sadness.
The Kid’s the first one I told about how bad it really was. Back in September, I think, or October. Anyway, we’d known each other more than a year when I finally told him who I am and why his easygoing, guarded heart has been such a panacea for my soul. Why I sometimes freak out on him for no apparent reason, and why I’m so goddamn grateful that he stays a steady course. But once I broke the seal on him I started telling everyone. And when I got around to telling Dr. One Friend, she said she knew, and that’s when she said that thing about textbook abuse.
The next morning, I called up Red in tears. It had hit me overnight that if Dr. One Friend always felt that way and never said so, my mother might’ve always felt the same. And my mother never got to know I finally left.
“Erin, she knows,” Red interrupted.
“Yeah,” I said. “Okay.”
I wasn’t gonna fight about it. And I was grateful for the sentiment, of course. But still, I took the idea with a grain of salt. I don’t believe in any sort of spiritual anything and never have. Ashes to ashes, like the Good Book says. And dust to dust. So even though mom’s actual ashes have been in a box on the shelf in my bedroom since I got here, watching over me (and, yes, the goddamn Kid) for eighteen months, I don’t believe there’s any way she knows.
“No.” Red sensed my skepticism. “Erin. You’re living in her house, now. She’s taking care of you. She’s out there, lovey, with you, and she knows.”
Well, I couldn’t argue that point. I am living in her house. So in that sense she is still taking care of me. Hell, I’m even driving her goddamn PT Cruiser again for a while, just like I was the night I met—
“And you know what else? She sent you that damn Kid. To help you heal and make you happy and remind you who you are.”
— the Kid. He made fun of the PT Cruiser. I said it was my mom’s car. He said that made it worse. And I said she was dead now, which made him feel so bad he actually turned off his trademark Dog act for a little while. Let his guard down. Accidentally showed me who he is. And that’s the rest of the story, the part I never tell, about why I finally gave in to his advances and said yes to a night with someone half my age. One night that turned into eighteen off-and-on months and counting. And that same night that I gave him all the details of my marriage, I also told him the whole soup-to-nuts story of how my Mom got sick and died. He’s still the only one up here who really knows.
So maybe, in that sense, Red was right. Maybe, in a way, Mom did send that goddamn Kid. And if I hadn’t met him, I might not’ve kept returning to the Hole. It is a thousand miles from the ass end of nowhere, after all. Or I might’ve actually done all the stupid things the rumors said I did, embarrassed myself, and had to leave. So if Mom sent me that goddamn Kid, then through him she also sent me Red and everybody else I've come to love.
First off, there's Bootgirl (I’m calling her that because she had a cast on her leg for the first umpty-twelve months I knew her). She invited me on her paddleboat on the 4th of July, painted my back for me on Halloween, and is about as much fun as you can cram into one loudmouthed dame. And Bootgirl introduced me to Tintin (you’d understand that nickname if you saw her hair). Tintin doesn’t go down the Hole that often, but she delivers coffee (and candy!) to me at work, and has been known to listen to me cry.
The Stud and his Bitch have been married for 26¼ years now and are proof that, although it may not be for everyone, it sometimes works. He shoots pool like a son of a bitch, even bleary-eyed –he consistently makes this trick shot off the nipple that totally blows my mind – and she was the first female non-employee who was ever nice to me in that bar, even when the rumors about me still flew around. As she put it the other night: “I knew you weren’t fucking my husband, so who cares?” She’s really sweet. But don’t ask me to defend you against her if you touch her hair.
Then there’s Jack (as in -Of-All-Trades), who raises pigs and fixes cars and built my porch and does something completely different for a living but I can never remember what. He’s the captain of my pool team; he’ll plow my driveway if it snows when I’m away; and he told my Dad to rest easy knowing that I’ve got somebody looking out for me up here. And his friend the Bear, who I haven’t seen much lately, but who bailed me out when I got arrested and found me a car to replace the one I rolled, and just general helped me clean up the mess I made as best he could. I’m happy to say I’ve paid him back for everything by now. The money, anyway. There’s no way I could ever repay the rest.
The Black-Haired Bartender and her husband were also always nice. They were the first ones, in fact, to have me over to their house (aside from Red and the Kid, of course). I think they still don’t believe I couldn’t find Macintosh apples to make my famous pie for that rainy cookout like I promised, but it’s the truth, I swear to god. And the six dozen molasses cookies I made instead sure seemed to go over pretty well. (Both of those recipes, by the way, were my mom’s).
Santa Claus, with his beard and his suspenders, walks to the Hole from his house in any weather. He slips in the door, sits in the corner, and quietly waits for folks to notice that he’s there. When I do, I run over and give him a big hug. He laughs when I make a bad shot on the pool table, but only because I stamp my foot and make a fuss, and in the summertime he comes to visit me at Bentley’s, too. (He doesn’t bring me candy, though. Hey Santa Claus: what’s up with that?)
There are countless other colorful characters who aren’t quite my friends, but who’ve come to fill out the corners of my life like garage-sale knick knacks on an unfinished shelf. Boggy (which is his real name, but come on, what else am I gonna call him?): seven feet tall if he’s an inch, with a two-foot white goatee, and all he ever says to me is “Are you winning?” Shorty (who dressed up as Boggy for Halloween) is 5’4” and red-haired; he sings Johnny Cash when he’s drunk (which is not never, I tell you what) and has developed an unfortunate inability lately to keep his hands off my bum; somehow, he’s the only one besides the Kid I wouldn’t deck for doing it. And Toothpick Man (because he always has one in his mouth), who’s loud and happy and tons of fun, not to mention one hell of a shot – except when he isn’t, but he swears to god he never throws a game.
There are lots more whose names I’ve never managed to commit to memory. Some I shoot pool with regularly, some I just say hi to, some I might have never even officially met. And I’ll have to tell you the story of Snuffleupaugus some other time.
I’m going down to see them all tonight. Whoever’s there. I wasn’t going to. My plan was to stay home, bemoan my anniversary, and try to write tomorrow’s blog post because I’m shooting in a pool tournament all day and won’t be able to. But I just got off the phone with my ex-husband, which went better than expected. And now that I’m writing again, I know I can always write.
Whereas there are only fifty-some-odd hours left to see these folks my mother sent me, at the grotty little Hole she sent me to.