Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Relationship Revelations

Every single word written here is an extraordinary exaggeration of events that have played out in my head... based on the stories I have heard from people I have met in jail or while I was dealing with my own stupidity and carelessness, resulting from my own addiction to alcohol and drugs. This is in no way a glamorization of drug use, but a tool to lend some humanity to a subculture that has been demonized and written off as a hopeless and worthless part of our human family. I do not condone or promote any of the behavior or activities herein.

Chapter Five

             Roxy never came back to the farm that day.  In fact, shortly after she took off in that truck and was out of sight, the thickened, icy, tension in the air lifted like a fog retreating after sunrise. When Bull and I turned around, Dayna had already gone back to whatever she was doing in the farmhouse... in fact, I could her here singing something quietly but happily. Bull looked at me, shrugged, and we walked back to where we had been sitting in front of the pile of junk, and picked up our pointless yet interesting conversation about different random pieces in the pile. It was as if what had just happened was slipping from my memory like some kind of intense dream you wake up from and can't remember much about, and the harder you try to remember, the more it slips away.
             Several days later Bull started to ask me questions about my life at home with my wife.  It was very, very late one particularly quiet evening when he got up from the round table which was currently seating seven comfortably.  All of us were doing a whole lot of nothing productive when he looked over at me from the kitchen while reaching into the refrigerator for something and asked, “So, anyways… how’s your marriage working out, man?”  
            The room which was relatively quiet before the question became deafeningly silent now. 
We all looked up from whatever we were concentrating on, some of the girls were coloring in kids coloring books with expensive pencils and markers, a couple of guys were smoking cigarettes and competing intently to see who could hold the ash on the end of their cigarette longest.  I had learned to cheat a couple weeks back when I unwrapped a twist-tie and inserted the wire through the filter and into the cigarette tobacco without puncturing the paper.  This didn’t make me very popular among the enthusiasts of the game, but Bull thought it was pretty inventive… so I wasn't invited to join in, and I didn’t care if I wasn’t invited to play because I had already learned to win.  
I was actively involved in sharpening a knife that Bull had made me out of an old, heavy paint scraper using his bench grinder. I was particularly proud of this gift, as it was unique -- in that Bull had made it himself -- and that it was a gift to me from him.  Bull really didn’t give many things away.  The knife was interesting in its shape -- it was curvy like an Asian kris -- and the handle was made out of some kind of animal bone (I hoped) that Bull had polished and fastened to the blade.  I cherished the knife more than any of the other miscellaneous trinkets and tools I carried on my person from day to day.  
I along with the rest of the group looked up to see whom Bull was asking this question (although I had a pretty good idea who it was aimed at, as I was the only person within earshot who was married) to find his gaze fixed on my position.

            “What? Mine?” I asked dumbfounded.

            “Anybody else married here?” Bull asked and shot a gaze around the table.  All eyes returned to their respective activities, and the silence continued. “Yeah, yours… I mean you do realize it’s almost four o’clock in the morning right?”

            “Well, yeah man.  What’s the time got to do with the state of my marriage?” I asked, going noticeably on the defense.

            “I guess when I was married the first two times, if I stayed out all hours of the night it meant something was making me unhappy at home.  You’re my friend, so I’m asking you… Is everything okay at home?” He poured a large glass of milk from a cardboard carton, and returned it to the fridge and carried his glass of milk back to his chair at the round table, never taking his eyes from mine. 

            “I don’t know Bull.  I guess everything is okay at home.  She knows where I’m at.  I haven’t turned my cell phone off, so if she needs me at home I guess she’ll call me.  She trusts me I guess.  This is the only place I go to hang out besides my house.  It’s not like I’m running around with some strange broad bringing herpes home to her unannounced or anything.  I’m just hanging out with my friends after she goes to bed.  She’s got two jobs, ya know?”

            He finished his milk and put the glass down and pushed it aside to reach for his pack of cigarettes and a glass pipe.  “So she doesn’t care that just about whenever you want to, you leave after dinner and don’t come home until just before breakfast?  Does she know what we do over here for kicks?” He lit a cigarette, dropped the lighter on the table and reached into the corner, where his
safe was.  He hit several digits on the keypad lock and popped the safe open and brought out another locked metal box where he kept his personal stash.  I began to get the idea that this wasn’t just another conversation to pass the time.

            “Well, I guess she’s never asked me directly.  But she’s not stupid.  She’s done her share of drugs.  She has friends who use meth, works with people who use meth.  I guess it’s just not a problem to her unless it’s a problem to me… Have I overstayed my welcome, boss?”

            “No, dumbass… if you had overstayed your welcome I would just tell you to get on down the road, that your company wasn’t appreciated anymore.  I just never hear you say much about your life at home.  I mean, I know you have a life at home.  I’ve been to your house.  Dayna and I have eaten dinner with your wife and your step-daughter.  They appear to love you like nothing I’ve ever seen from any of my friend’s significant others or their kids.  I’m just wondering why if things are great at home, and it’s a nice fucking house man, why you seem so comfortable sitting in my rundown, turn-of-the-century, half remodeled farmhouse?”  He pulled out a tray with at least a dozen miniature bottles.  Each bottle was better than half full with white powder and rocky crystals.  Symbols had been written on each of the tiny screw-on caps.  He began taking them out one by one and deliberately thinking about each one, deciding where to start this session.

            “Bull, I don’t have a good answer for you.  I mean, my wife loves me more than any person has in my entire life, including the people who conceived me.  I think maybe she’s happy that I’m not drinking anymore, and she doesn’t want to rock that boat.  So she lets me have my friends and do what makes me happy within the confines of that condition.  I don’t just go home and fall out.  I go home and make sure my daughter makes it onto the bus.  I make my wife and her sister their lunches for work that day.  I make sure she has a bottle of tea for the ride to work, and breakfast if she is hungry.  During the day I usually try to nap, clean the house, and do yard work or some other project on my list.  When the bus drops my daughter off I make sure she gets her homework done and we start dinner.  My wife gets home, eats dinner, checks her Facebook stuff and is usually so tired from working that she apologizes to me for being tired and heads off to bed.  I make sure all is well, and then I just… go out to play, I guess.” I leaned back in my chair, satisfied with my quick retort, and waited for Bulls next query.

One of the girls looked up from her coloring book and said, “I don’t know, dude.  Usually relationships get squirrely when dope comes into play.  I mean, either one is on it, and the other one gets fed up or you both are using and things just get complicated.”

“Hey… stay in the lines there Kindertweeker,” Bull interrupted.  “That’s not even my point.” 
He hesitated, having decided on which tiny bottle to load the pipe from.  “Well... I guess that might kind of be my point, man.  Don’t you think she’s gonna get lonely one of these nights and start to pitch a fit?  I mean... we can’t have all that kind of drama around here.  Jilted wives are not conducive to a... ahem... respectable meth operation -- which is you know -- what we’re trying to run around here.”

 This particular comment drew a laugh from nearly everybody at the table including myself.  ‘Respectable meth operation’ was a running joke among the regulars to the farm.  If somebody happened to look disheveled or like they had just woken up when they came in the door -- or if they were being particularly vulgar during a quiet moment -- Bull would always spout off, “Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing?  We are trying to run a respectable meth operation here… not some two-bit, nigger crack house...” or something equally absurd.

In response to his not-so-joking-around joke I responded “I just won’t let it come to that Bull.  I know my wife pretty well, and when she starts flaking out on me or something I’m doing, I usually correct the issue with extreme prejudice.”

“Nah man, forget that noise.  It doesn’t have to come to all that.  Like I said, I had just noticed the time, and thought to myself how comfortable everything was and I looked over to see you sitting in your chair, sharpening your knife without the slightest care in our wicked world.  I thought that maybe you could give me some insight into how you’ve seemed to have managed to manipulate what has always been a difficult situation for most people in our particular circle.  Dissolving a marriage over dope is just something I would never want to watch my friend go through... especially when I’m about to break out some of my personal supply.

“I haven’t got any insight into relationship problems, man.  I guess I’m just lucky in that regard.  There are really only two things I refuse to offer any sort of advice on, relationships and abortion.  I can be a good listener about either, but please don’t ask my advice.”

Bull smiled at me and lit his lighter under the glass ball of the pipe.  On his exhale he smiled even bigger and said, “That is some of the best advice anybody has ever given at this table, brother.”  He handed me the pipe and I smiled back at him awkwardly... he had gotten into my head.  He cocked his head sideways a bit and looked at me intuitively.  “Uh-oh, I know that look…”

“What the hell are you talking about?”  I asked, but I knew what he meant.

“I planted the seed of doubt in that overworked, underpaid, healthily paranoid head of yours.  C’mon man, don’t sweat it.  I don't think I meant anything by it.” He furrowed his brow sarcastically and looked off into the corner and tapped his chin with his finger.
We both laughed.

I started the lighter under the pipe and watched the smooth white smoke fill the glass ball.  “I have no idea what doubt you think you planted.  I’m good, man.”

But he was right.  The idea that I was unhappy at home for whatever reason had been brought to my attention, loud and clear.  My brain was already going over mental images of how my wife and I had been interacting over the last couple of months.  One thing I’ve learned about how my brain works is that when I look hard enough for a problem, I will certainly find one, or create one to fill that hole in my ego that denies me the ability to be wrong gracefully.  Another thing I’ve learned is that when I’m high, my brain works double-time.

This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo

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