This was my Valentine's card this morning. The wife of my college roommate sent. What the fuck? Is he grabbing her breast? I'm certain he is grabbing her breast. He looks like a follower of Charles Manson to me. What would you do if you saw this fellow in your neighborhood? Would you believe him to be anything like you?
It came with a note--"You really haven't changed."
As the elders say, the old ways are best. C'est la vie.
Why is it, though, that the old world looks like such a sparse and barren place?
No segue. I looked forward to the crazy juxtaposition of Friday the 13th and Valentine's Day with eagerness. What would happen. Nothing, really, but plenty, too. Only love can break your heart, they say. . . well. . . Neil Young, actually. . . . and so I wondered about V-day cards on the last working day of the week. I talked to people I work with who do not have significant others and asked them about cards and candies and flowers and received the usual rebuffs about the Hallmark Card Holiday, but like many of my own protestations, they held a tinge of sad regret in them. I seriously hope you are not on Facebook, I said, and told them stories about the old non-P.C. world where we turned shoeboxes into Valentine mailboxes in elementary school. They still do that, I was told. I was surprised by this, of course, because it was such a horrible experience for kids. We would all go to the five and dime or to the grocery store and buy a big bag of cheap Valentine's Day cards. There would be four big ones and a bunch of medium sized ones in the bag. Then we would write something on them and take them to school and sneak them into the Valentine mailboxes without being seen. You had to be early, though, if you wanted to get one into Susan's box, for she was pretty in pigtails and cute print dresses and white socks, and she was the smartest kid in our grade besides. Her box filled up with the largest of the cards quickly. Poor Bebe's box was empty. Of course I gave a big card to Susan, but the others went to my guy friends with some sports comment on them.
No, no, I was told, the kids have to give Valentines to everyone now. Ah, I replied. Everyone's a winner. But you are right, said one mom. They have their own traumatic experiences on Facebook now. It's just moved outside the classroom. Yes, it would be devastating to not be friended or whatever it is they do, to not get a message from anyone in your class and especially not from the girl or boy you loved. Everyone is not a winner on Valentine's Day, I'm afraid.
I, however, may still be. There is a young woman at work who I have been in meetings with a few times when there are legal issues at hand. She is attractive, a J.D., but something, I've decided, must definitely be wrong with her, for the few times I've seen her outside of meetings, she always acts a little. . . jumpy. In another time or place, I might assume that she was a bit attracted to me. . . well, O.K., I still do, but I only say that with a disclaimer for I know why I have let the number of mirrors in my house dwindle. I, of course, always hope that women will see below the surface, more than skin deep, as they say, but I have yet to find a mirror that does. Two days ago, however, she began to email me, and yesterday she said she needed to see me about a risk management matter. Again, she fidgeted, her eyes dancing about. It might be medicine, I thought, or perhaps a disorder. Later, though, she called me and asked me out to lunch. I looked at the calendar. It said 13th alright. I'm not superstitious, of course, and lunch is for next week, but I am suspicious still.
Perhaps, though, it will feed this hungry blog for a while.
I was supposed to shoot with a favorite model last night. She was excited, she said, to do an absinthe-themed shoot on Friday the 13th. She had me very excited, too. But in the afternoon, she texted me that she had come down with something bad and that she couldn't possibly shoot. It was the second cancellation of the week, but I understood, especially with her. Having the night free, I took a "late lunch" which meant I left work around three and headed for the gym. Bing, bang, bong, home by five-thirty and thinking of cocktails. I jumped in the shower and heard a thumping on the wall. Bang! Boom! It was the house repairman. He had come to get his ladder, he said. Fuck you, I told him, I'm in the shower. It didn't bother him. When I finished, he was sitting in my living room drinking a coke.
"Come here and talk to me," he said. I was standing with a towel wrapped around me.
"Let me get dressed. This is too much like a gay bathhouse." He's a redneck, so that was funny. Give me this one.
"What's this," he said picking up the bottle of scotch on the living room table. It was the present my friend had brought over on my birthday.
"It's whiskey you unsophisticated slob." He doesn't drink. He used to, but now he is a legal junkie, hooked on morphine from a back injury. But now things have gotten tight in the old pain clinic industry, and he was having trouble getting his prescriptions filled.
"Hey, do you have any more of that oxycontin from the doctor?"
"Nope. I gave you all I had last time."
"None? Fuck. Walgreens won't fill prescriptions for morphine any more. Neither will CVS. I found a small pharmacy that will, but they are charging twice as much. Can you believe that shit?"
"Sure. Money. Why won't the drugstores fill a prescription? Is that legal?"
"The state has cracked down. Haven't you seen it on the news?"
"I don't watch the news," I said. "What are you going to do?"
"Well, the doctor gave me a prescription for 15 mg pills, but I have been taking 30 mg. I didn't know it, but that is the highest dose. I tried taking the 15 mg ones, and I started having withdrawals. Man, the muscles in my back and thighs were cramping up and on fire. I looked around and found an old bottle of the 30 mg pills, but I'm going to have to wean myself off. This is bullshit."
"You can go back to the booze," I said, "though alcohol is much worse for you than morphine."
"Yup. Studies show."
"You sure you don't have any of those others left?" He looked like he wanted to go look through my bathroom drawers.
I poured a drink. I could tell he wasn't ready to leave, and I was right. He began telling me about his wife. She had left him and come back, had had him thrown into jail for domestic violence once, had taken a bunch of his money, but they were staying together, he said, because they had a nine year old daughter. His wife hadn't slept with him in two and a half years.
"Is that normal?" he asked me.
"Sure," I said. "Absolutely."
Just then he got a phone call. He answered the phone and got a strange look on his face, held a finger in the air and walked outside. I wondered why, but when he came back, he explained.
"That was the teller from my bank. I always flirt with her at the drive-thru. I didn't give her my number. She must have gotten it off the computer records. I asked her a few days ago if she wanted to go for a ride on my motorcycle sometime. She didn't say anything then, but she just called to tell me she wanted to go."
"That's a little weird," I said.
"Yea. She's young and got big ass titties." He looked bewildered and maybe a little scared. "I asked her if she called the other number. That's my wife's phone. She said no, she hadn't. I told her to only call this number."
"It doesn't matter. Your wife will know. She probably already does. Your probably dead and don't even know it."
"Fuck her. It ain't normal what she does. She must be sleeping with somebody else. Do you think she is?"
"Of course," I said.
"'Cause it ain't normal, right?"
"Oh. . . it's normal," I said. "It just isn't right. This phone call, that's just your little Valentine's Day card, my friend. Congratulations."
I bent so that I could see the clock. It was getting late.
"What do you keep looking at?" he asked.
"The clock. I want to go out for cocktails." I felt bad. I didn't know I was being that obvious. But I was hungry and wanted food and drink. I wanted to go out and see if somebody would give me a card, too.
When I got home, it was late and I had been drinking. Why had I come home alone, I wondered? I felt handsome. My hair had grown out a bit and I had lost weight. Even the drug addict noticed my belly was gone. I was well-dressed in a beautiful midnight blue wool jacket. A particularly beautiful woman had been eyeing me at the bar. But the bar has changed, or rather the crowd, for now it has become famous and every jerk-ass, loud-mouthed broker and lawyer and developer goes there now to talk in those loud jerky boy tones, and she was sitting with a big group of them. I get so tired of those things, and I had gotten tired very quickly there and then. And so, mid-evening, feeling handsome and oh-so-desirable. . . I turned on the television. Netflix. "Mud."
Fate is often cruel, of course, or at least coincidence is. "Mud" is not a movie to watch as the 13th gives way to cupid. A man gets snake bit. That's the movie's metaphor, I think, for love. It happened to him when he was young, and it happens again to a young boy he has met.
"They rushed me to the hospital. It took over an hour. The doctor said I should have been dead. They gave me the anti-venom. But they can only give it to you once. The next time, it would be like shooting me up with poison."
"What happens if you get bit again."
"I either die or I sweat it out."
That is how I remember it this morning, anyway. Shit. I've been snake bit so many times. But there was one line in the movie that hit my drunken brain hard enough to make me pause the movie and go write it down. It was the father of the boy telling him that his mother wanted to get a divorce.
"You can't trust love, Ellis. If you ain't careful, it will up and run out on you."
All of the men in the movie had been snake bit bad, and love had up and run out on them. I guess, though, that there was something wrong with them all.
The boy in that picture, though, sure does look happy.