Archive for relationships

JIMMY THE WONDERSTUD

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by kimmy

leisure-suits (2)

It was after work on a Friday.  I had a ticket to a play and was savoring a martini before curtain when I heard an angry woman vent behind me.

“Wonder is right,” she sniffed.  “It’s a wonder he hasn’t been killed by a jealous husband.”

I turned in the direction of her voice.  Across the crowded room was a fifty-something man dressed in work clothes and boots.  He had a smile like a shark.

“If you only knew how many women he’s slept with, you’d be disgusted… or amazed.”

The only thing that amazed me at the moment was how any woman could have found him appealing.   He was engrossed in conversation with a petite middle-aged blonde with big tits and a beer gut.  The blonde giggled like a teen before taking a swig from a bottle of Bud.

“You only say that because he dumped you.”

“Whaddya mean?  I dumped him, remember?”

“Oh, so you admit to having a fling with him…”

“Well… uh..,”

I heard the slurp of cocktails behind me.  As nonchalantly as I could, I peeped over my own martini to witness the argument.  Two equally frumpy women stared each other down from both ends of the hors d’oeuvres table.  I looked away.  The cheese puffs could wait.

Another perfectly good evening ruined by Jimmy the Wonderstud.  It seemed he was making the rounds that autumn, sending the area housewives into frenzies with his prowess and their husbands into murderous rages.

“… I thought as much!  You don’t want to end up like Tammy, do you?  Her husband is still in Lake County lockup because he can’t make bail.”

“Mike doesn’t know anything about it.”

“He will, if Jimmy posts another sex tape on youtube.”

“I never let Jimmy video us!”

“Yeah, right… just like all the others.”

I tried not to picture the slob across the room in flagrante delicto, but morbid images of shark’s teeth and stretchmarks kept popping up.  I signaled the waitress for another drink.

James “Jimmy” Von Der Stude was a local celebrity, equal parts Lothario and slacker, with a reputation forged during the early days of disco when he cut quite the figure on the dance floor in his leisure suits and an even bigger one off the floor when he was out of them.  A product of strict Dutch upbringing, he rebelled against his parents and partook of all the excess that era offered, including time in federal prison on drug charges.  None of which seemed to dim his appeal with the opposite sex, who allegedly supported him and his nefarious activities for decades.

“You sound a little bitter.  Jealous?”

“Me?  Of course not!  I’m not the one giving him money.”

“Who said I gave him money?”

“All those ATM receipts, that’s who!”

In spite of his notoriety, I had never seen him firsthand until that night. My girlfriends who had had encounters with him would swoon with the memory, but I never believed their tales.  Disco boys seldom made good lovers. But even if their exaggerations were true, it was difficult to reconcile today’s disheveled man with the smooth operator of days past.  I watched him as he steadied the blonde’s drunken swaying and plucked a hotel keycard from her hand.  The shark would be feeding tonight.

“And so what?  After the pleasure he gave me last night, I’d be willing to give him my last nickel!”

“You better ante up more than that if you want to get the jump on Bernice!  She just left with him.”

With that, the ladies watched as Jimmy exited with his evening meal.  I heard the sharp clink of glass as their drinks hit the table and they squared off again.

“If you hadn’t distracted me, I’d be going home with him right now!”

“As if he’d have you…again!  That man never comes back for seconds.”

I paid my bill and left.  I saw a skinny college student waiting near the will-call window and handed him my ticket.   Watching a play now seemed redundant.  I had enough drama for the night.

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SHE-DEMON

Posted in fiction, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by kimmy

He hadn’t known him long, but liked his wry sense of humor.  It helped lessen the otherwise suffocating atmosphere at work and made the time confined within the white cubicles more bearable.  It was over their shared wall that he first heard the suggestion that changed his life.

“Why don’t we have a few beers after work?”

They stopped at a local tavern later that afternoon.  A grizzled man was playing the piano accompanied by a sultry vocalist dressed in red.  She seemed out-of-place, like a cabaret singer from the 1960s stuck in a college dive.  It didn’t hinder her performance however, and by evening’s end, he was enchanted.

“You like her?” slurred his buddy.  “I could hook you up, you know…”

After her last set, she joined them at the bar and he knew, despite the beer fog, he was on dangerous ground.  She had a wide, little girl smile and smelled like cinnamon.   His pal lurched to his feet and kissed her directly on the lips.

“My friend here wants to meet you, babygirl…”  He squeezed her for a moment before offering his chair.  “I think he likes you.”

She sat down and looked up at her admirer.  “Is that so?”  Her voice was like a bell.

He took a swig from his bottle before answering.  Maybe his new-found friend was more of a dick than he thought.  He shrugged it off and changed the subject.  Compliments were easier to manage.

“Why, thank you, sir,” she said, a little more coyly than he expected.  “I didn’t think anybody was paying attention to my set list.”

They exchanged opinions about composers and old standards.  She was more intelligent than he’d hoped.  And before the night was over, he secretly planned a return engagement, one that didn’t include his mouthy friend.

“I saw the way you looked at her, bro,” said he, the very next morning.  “You know, I think the two of you would be perfect together.”

He slurped his coffee.  “No, I mean it.  She’s like my little sister and I want to see her happy.  Better you than that douchebag she’s with…”

With that, he sketched a brief synopsis of her life.  Married at eighteen, she was saddled with two worthless children and a dysfunctional husband who spent most of their marriage in rehab and on the dole.  She had a couple of stints as a back-up singer for national acts, but couldn’t spend any time on the road because of the demands of her family.    Eventually she gave up her dream and settled for local shows that paid enough to keep her home out of foreclosure.

The more he heard, the more anxious his inner white knight became.  Rescuing past damsels in distress had not ended well for him, but he itched for the chance to try again.  Besides, he was bored and needed a project.  He agreed to meet privately with her.

Naturally, she was everything and more than he had dreamed: Sensual, articulate, with just a hint of long-suffering that made her irresistible.  Coffee dates were followed by long phone conversations that dragged into the night, complete with sighs and confessions.  Even more exciting were those illicit moments of being alone together, her languid and warm in his arms, wondering if her silk promises would ever manifest.

He often thought about ending the affair.  He tried on several occasions, but was always met with her resolve.

“Don’t break my heart,” she begged.  “Don’t crush me underfoot like a grape.”

So he stayed, hoping rather than believing she’d keep her word and leave her husband.  He even saw the wretched man once or twice, a faded shadowlike man nursing a line of empty shot glasses at the local sports bar, and wondered what would possess her to stay with such a creature.  He listened to her stories of neglect and abuse, each one more horrifying than the next, until his ire rose and he longed to smite her foes.  Even those who resided under her roof.

One morning at work, the phone rang and he knew it was her.  He needed no caller i.d. to warn him that the voice on the other end called with bad news.  He could have scripted it for her:  I’m sorry.  It’s over.  I’m staying with my husband.  I owe it to him.  Goodbye.

He hung up the phone and stared into space.  Another botched quest for the hand of Dulcinea. He should have known better.  This princess preferred the dragon.

The office mail clerk rolled by, dumping a sheaf of envelopes before him.  He opened each one slowly with a silver opener, cutting through the paper like a knife across his throat and poured their white contents across his desk in a heap.

“What the hell are you doing?”

He looked up absently into the face of his cubicle cell-mate peering over the wall.

“What’s with you trying to meddle and bust up her marriage?” he whispered angrily.   “Why you do me like that, bro?  She’s family! She’s got kids and an old man at home who really loves her!”  He looked at him with contempt before sliding behind the wall.  “You’re the douche now….”

He sighed.  It seemed all would-be heroes become villains in the end, so he sold his condo and transferred to San Diego with the hope that his bad luck wouldn’t follow.  The sunny climate suited him and so did the office.  One promotion followed the other until he became regional manager and started travelling.

One trip brought him full circle, back to his hometown and smack into a storm of gossip and suspicion.  He learned that in the months following his transfer, he had garnered an unsavory name as a player and homewrecker.   Calls to old friends and acquaintances went unanswered.  Even his old office drinking buddy avoided him.  He was treated as a visitor and nothing more, as if his previous life never existed.

It was only during the flight home that he realized how he had been outmaneuvered.  Only the ruthless sacrifice others for gain. He smiled sadly to himself, recalling false promises made in the dark. It wasn’t enough that he was misled; he must be assigned the fault as well.

He reclined his seat and gazed at the clouds passing by his port window.  There would be no more quests in his future, for he had finally learned that not all fair maidens play fairly.

CAN’T BUY ME LOVE

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by kimmy

If you had to tally it all –time, money, effort, heartache- how much have you spent just to possess it?

Sally and Tom were the type of couple that, in my estimation, would surely beat the odds and have a reasonably happy future together. They were in their early fifties when they met and presumably long past the impulsiveness of youth. He was a retired union pipe-fitter who had just opened the business of his dreams, a café; she was a speech therapist dividing her time between several local elementary schools.  Both divorced and familiar with sting of being deceived by others, they were as brutally honest as possible with each other.  This transparency worked well for them, as they both had considerable baggage from the past.  Tom was a recovering addict, a 12-Stepper, determined to start his life anew.  Sally struggled with co-dependency all her life, but after jettisoning a long-absent husband and spending countless hours in therapy, she too was ready for a brand new life.

Initally, they were only friends and spent most of their time hanging out with mutual acquaintances.  Before long, they discovered they had more than intellectual interests in common and became lovers, much to Sally’s delight.  It was, for her, the end of a years-long sexual dry spell and she welcomed her newly found womanliness with enthusiasm.  Tom, being handsome, fit and middle-aged, never experienced such a famine and had his pick of many eager ladies.  However, he was honest and respectful of Sally.  The numbers of interested women gradually dwindled to only one, and within a few short months, he moved in with her and they began a quiet domestic life.  Content at last, the years passed in serenity…

…until Sally sent me a blunt message on Facebook a couple of weeks ago saying that after four years of apparent contentment, she had ended the relationship.  We met over breakfast last Sunday.

“He finally moved the rest of his stuff out of the garage,” she said calmly, taking a bite of omelette.  “… and I’m only forty grand worse off.”

The restaurant was crowded and noisy.  “Forty what?”  I asked.

“Thousand dollars,” she shouted.  “With all the back rent, groceries, utilities, dinners out, plus all the money I gave him to keep his business afloat, I figured he owes me about forty thousand dollars.”

I nearly choked on my egg-whites.  “You can’t be serious, Sal.”

She was.  She had bankrolled him, personally and professionally, for years and was uncertain when, if ever, he would repay her.

“He gave me a check for fifty dollars last week,” she said with a sigh, “only after I hounded him and threatened to get an attorney.  At this rate, I’ll be dead before it’s all repaid.”

For a woman out 40k and her man, she was remarkably dry-eyed.  Over the next hour, I learned that Tom’s money management skills were almost as bad as his weakness for women.  He had never turned a profit from his business and relied upon Sally’s monthly handouts to pay his employees and supplies.  She, being a generous soul, gave freely and didn’t even ask him to pitch him for their home expenses.  He, being a consuming soul, took freely and never volunteered to split expenses.  Neither would he follow Sally’s business savvy and did nothing but watch his business founder and eventually close.

It was only after months of idleness and unemployment did he finally return to pipefitting.  His union paid him well, but he never offered Sally a penny.  And so it would have continued indefinitely had not Sally wearied of the burden and demanded that Tom pitch in for their mutual expenses.  He decided to move out instead.

“He said his mother needed him, but I suspect he needs her more,” she said with a wink.   “I found some cancelled checks in the trash piles he left; his mother has been giving him money, too.”

Her remark was cavalier, but I’ve known Sally for years.  She has a big heart and it’s easily bruised.  “Your attitude is amazing.  You seem so calm.”

“I wasn’t always like this,” she admitted.  “I spend a lot of time drinking wine at night.  But I heard a song on the radio when I was driving over this morning and it really made me smile.  Remember that Beatles’ song, Can’t Buy Me Love?”

Of course I did.

“I think I was trying to buy Tom’s love and look what it got me.”

I reflected upon her words during my long ride home.  Did Sally think so little of herself that she had to purchase companionship, or was it symptomatic of a deeper ill, maybe a collective fear?  Who among us hasn’t gone above and beyond for someone who wasn’t worthy?   We’re hurt, we’re ashamed, but the fault does not lay with our exploiter.  Until we truly believe we merit the very best, we will be confounded by the less-than.

INSTRUMENT OF VENGEANCE

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by kimmy

A few years ago, I had the unhappy experience of being used as a tool for revenge.  I didn’t know it at the time because I was caught up in the drama, but upon reflection it’s become clear and now that I know, I can’t help but wonder if the victory was as sweet as she hoped.

She was a close friend, successful and admired, but with a sadness that only the brokenhearted share.  Her marriage had seriously foundered several years prior and only strength of will had kept it together.  Failure was not something with which she was comfortable, so she had taken extreme measures to ensure that it would not happen again.

But she was wary of criticism, real or perceived, and her pride was great.  One day, while dining out with another long-married couple, she observed the admiring glances paid to her friend’s husband and asked if the threat of infidelity ever worried them.  The wife, a none-too-sensitive creature, boasted that she had complete confidence in her husband and that he would never cheat on her.

The remark cut her deeply, even more so as the boastful wife was not only aware of the painful details of her past, but also indebted to her for many professional and legal favors.  The insensitivity of her friend galled her.  Who was she to boast when her own family was in dysfunctional shambles?  It was then, perhaps unconsciously, the plan to avenge herself began.

Enter myself, a newly single woman to whom her friend’s pious husband was inordinately attracted.  Sensing a crack in the façade, she encouraged his pursuit though she had been victimized by similar circumstances, and persuaded me to put aside the obvious and seriously consider his offer.

And I did, if only briefly, for she was as passionately convincing as any I had ever met and for some inexplicable reason, I trusted her.  Her arguments seemed valid and I almost believed that the improbable was possible.  I found myself entertaining notions that were not exactly moral, yet not completely corrupt.  I was treading in the grey zone, ready to succumb and that was dangerous.  

All the game pieces were in play.  Her plan to topple the mighty and avenge herself on her witless friend was nearly complete.

But karma has its own agenda and it didn’t take long before it came to call.  And like most who are unwilling to pay the bill, the irony escaped her. There was no impregnable fortress of monogamy to breach and relish; the notoriously perfect husband of her silly friend had fallen, repeatedly, off that pedestal long before I arrived on the scene.  And while she was busy promoting his current indiscretion, her own husband once again fell prey to it. Her health and business suddenly declined and she found herself in desperate straits and unwilling to look at the part she played in creating them. 

Instead, she searched for something to blame and decided that the tool of her revenge, namely myself, was responsible and I was cast out like a leper.   I was of no further use.  I failed to give in, failed as a prop and failed her as a friend.   And for a long time, I continued to buy her argument and blamed myself for these failures.  As I said before, she was remarkably convincing.

Fortunately, time and distance bring clarity.  My participation was as much a lesson for me as it was for her.  There are some lines which ought never be crossed because their consequences are ruinous… for the instrument and its wielder.

THE MOST MISERABLE WOMAN IN THE WORLD

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2011 by kimmy

… is not Kathy Bates wielding a sledgehammer.  Or the lady sleeping in a cardboard box under Wacker Drive.  Or the woman living in purdah in some God-forsaken corner of the world.   She’s the one right next to you.

You know who I mean.  That woman who pushes herself beyond all human endurance and then snaps… usually in your face and about something that is completely non-contextual.  The one at the gym that does more reps and kills herself on the stepper, and then screams in your face because you took her locker by mistake.  The one that attends more soccer games, Scout meetings, PTA pow-wows and ballet classes than anyone alive and explodes when she can’t find a parking space next to the door at Trader Joe’s.  The one working 40 hours a week while attending night school that you find sobbing in a corner of the ladies room.  Yeah… her.

I ran into her last night.  She waylaid me as I walked from my car to the door of the studio, madder than a hornet and ready to do battle.  Or at least her beastly (and much bigger) companion was, a hulking resentful mess of a woman who was clearly drafted by her to act as back-up.  Without much explanation, she launched a raging verbal assault, complete with finger-pointing and lots of name-calling.  The reason for her meltdown?  I turned off a fan.

Yep, I admit it.  I switched off a fan.  Guess that makes me quite the villainess, right?  And I suppose it would… provided it was ventilating priceless artifacts or cooling giant servers.

It wasn’t.  In fact, the only thing it was cooling down were my students who were shivering in the drafty classroom.  So I turned it off, little suspecting the firestorm to come.

But it came like the wind, bearing down on me in the shape of a fireplug with an extremely bad temper and a spittle problem.  It gathered in the corners of her mouth like tiny wads of cotton and I tried not to stare, fixing a blank look of interested concern on my face.  I wasn’t, of course, because she was completely deranged and refused me rebuttal, but I feigned it, wondering when she’d run out of ammo and finally shut up.

It dragged on and on.  I never knew there were so many variations on a theme.  How many ways can you say You inconvenienced me therefore you should die?  Even She-Hulk, the hired muscle, threw in her two cents with a couple of artless insults.  I had hoped for something more creative.

In fact, the entire event was a letdown. A huge waste of time, words and energy.. and for what?  Hurt feelings?  One-upmanship?  Petty triumph?  This miserable woman blew a fuse because she couldn’t get she wanted:  priority in all things.  Despite knowing that it would cause discomfort to others, she switched on a fan to cool herself and became enraged when her desire was subordinated (by me) to the needs of the group.

Yes, she was angry; that was apparent as she screamed at me in the parking lot.  And yet, the location of her tantrum told me more about her true feelings than the venom she spewed.  She was ashamed of herself.

Why else would she take pains to conceal her temper?  If she had a valid argument, it would withstand public scrutiny.  Instead she chose to act as a coward and ambush me in private.

And she was fearful.  If not, there would be no need for the hired thug.

And most importantly, she needed to vent to somebody that she trusted.  Venting is ugly, unfeminine and harsh.  No woman wants to be seen or remembered in that light.  But I’ve seen her without her flesh mask and I now know what she truly is.  Explosive knowledge of that kind can only be entrusted to the non-judgmental.

So in a crazy, mixed-up roundabout way, she was reaching out and revealing to me that which she dare not in public. Does she need or want my forgiveness?  It doesn’t matter.  She has it nonetheless.

SNAKEBITTEN

Posted in flash fiction, love, social commentary, writing with tags , , , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by kimmy

“You probably won’t believe me, but I loved a man once,” she said, taking a delicate sip of coffee.  She held the cup thoughtfully for a moment before replacing it on the table.  “A ne’er-do-well with hypnotic eyes and a poetic soul.”

“Aren’t they all?”  Disinterest was harder to affect than I thought.

“Poetic?  No.  It’s a rare man who gives himself to art,” she said with a sad smile.  “The price is too high.”

I listened, trying to appear nonchalant.  The truth was she talked so infrequently about her personal life that curiosity was getting the best of me.  I felt like a gaper. 

“Uh… price?”  What could be more glorious than sacrificing one’s self on the altar of creative expression?

“It’s a jealous mistress, you know,” she said with a nod.  “Doesn’t leave much for a real one.”

“I guess you’re speaking from experience,” I said, stating the obvious.  Suddenly I felt a stab of panic.  Would she take offense and clam up? 

“Yes,” she said, looking me straight in the eye. “It was hard-won.”

Green eyes.  I had assumed they were blue.  But then again, they were usually shaded by dark lenses.  “What happened to him?” I asked, hoping she’d turn down the high beams and stare off into the distance again.

She didn’t.  “He pursued me relentlessly,” she answered, boring two holes into my brain.   “And then one day, quite abruptly, he disappeared forever.”

I slid to the edge of my chair, half-expecting the story to take a mysterious turn.  There were so many odd rumors circulating about her that if he had actually dematerialized, I wouldn’t have been surprised.   “He left town?”

The question seemed to surprise her.  “No, he’s still here,” she said quietly, ” in the same house he’s lived in for years.”

I felt a little disappointed.  Maybe this was no strange abduction tale after all.  “But you said he was gone.”

She smiled serenely.  “He is gone.”

I wasn’t accustomed to being stymied.  “But that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Love seldom makes sense,” she laughed.  “It will take you beyond yourself.  Whether you can maintain the expansion is the challenge.”

“I’m guessing he didn’t.”

She shook her head.  “No, he didn’t, but I’m content to have it so.”

I thought perhaps she really did merit those odd rumors.  “Most people might grieve instead.”

“Most would rather mourn all experience than celebrate it,” she said, leaning forward.

“Loss of love doesn’t inspire celebration,” I said, thinking about my own brushes with it.

“Then you’ve missed the whole point,” she said slowly.  “Love isn’t ours to possess, but only to give away.  Be happy that it bit you at all.”

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

Posted in musings, relationships, social commentary, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2009 by kimmy

I couldn’t help but feel a tremendous amount of empathy for him because I know exactly what he’s undergoing.  If there was an easier route, we’d take it.  However, how many of us really know where we’re headed when pain grips so tightly that all vision is temporarily halted?

Having been through it more than a few times, I know that the reward on the other side is much greater than the effort.  However, first-timers are often overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge.  It seems insurmountable, but that’s only an illusion concocted by the players.  If you extricate yourself before intermission, the ensemble will be short an actor and the drama suspended, causing resentment among those left onstage.  Pity we can’t send in an understudy…

Not that he would be welcomed.  A pinch-hitter is only as good as his predecessor.  It’s unlikely that he’s aped your habits well enough to fool the audience, or the blood demands of your fellow thespians.  So you must choose between your own wellbeing and that of the show.  Which will go on?

Of course the problem is that the longer the show goes on, the harder it is to leave it.  It’s like a long-running stage contract in Las Vegas or a sitcom with endless residuals.  It’s difficult to leave the steady paycheck and familiar routine.   And yet even these may not be enough for you, especially when you’re alerted to something greater beyond them.

Hence the quandry, which in essence is not conflict between others, but internal strife.  When you realize that the hot mess you’re in is of your own creation, suddenly you have no one to blame and the long watch begins.  It’s a lonely black night sitting with yourself, ruminating on all the detours you’ve taken.  You might rail against all those choices, despairing over your inability to hit the bull’s eye.  But who of us do on the first try?

You might feel ashamed that you didn’t learn sooner and had to involve so many people in your journey.  But how can you thank those who are ignorant of the role they’ve played?  Or angry and dismissive when you do?  No amount of explanation, however earnest, will convince them.  Just as you have, they must discover these subtleties on their own.

And they will… in time.  But for now you must sit quietly in the dark and wait.  The light of understanding will come, not carried on a tray by a rowdy host of friends and family, but slowly over the horizon.