Saturday, July 24, 2004

PART 19 - Tainted Love

Soft Cell. King of the One Hit Wonders. Their masterpiece couldn't capture this post any better, so with that, I will introduce this post with their singular hit. Marilyn Manson did a pretty damn good version, too, but when given my rathers, I always pick the original.

Tainted Love
Sometimes I feel I've got to
Run away
I've got to
Get away
From the pain that you drive into the heart of me
The love we share
Seems to go nowhere
And I've lost my light
For I toss and turn I can't sleep at night

Once I ran to you
Now I'll run from you
This tainted love you've given
I give you all a girl could give you
Take my tears and that's not nearly all

Don't touch me please I cannot stand the way you tease
I love you though you hurt me so
Now I'm going to pack my things and go . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I entered 1985 with renewed vigor. I was entering my junior year in college, I was attending a school that I loved, and I was landing some decent temp jobs through a local placement agency. The money I was making was better than decent, and I could work short assignments with breaks in between without going broke. I didn't have much office experience, but I wrote myself a resume and during my initial interview, I was careful to label the Weather Channel job as a "paid internship" which cleanly explained why I left while sparing the embarassing details. My stint at the dress shop had taught me how to "dress for success", and after a few glowing reviews from happy clients, I was getting some pretty plum assignments and exposure to lots and lots of companies in Atlanta.

It might or might not surprise you that I didn't give very much consideration to being engaged. Even though I wore the ring every day, I didn't really feel "engaged". We had never discussed a wedding date. He had never asked me to marry him in so many words. The months following Christmas, I had not looked at one wedding dress, or made the first wedding plan. The initial excitement of the "engagement" became pretty lackluster with my friends and family when they would ask me about plans with wide-eyed expectation, only to see me shrug my shoulders and admit that we HAD no real plans.

When winter quarter turned to spring, I took time to closely examine my transcript. My credits from the technical school were listed, and all of the classes I had completed were listed correctly. I was getting deep into my classes for my major, but I still lacked several elective credits that were required to graduate. I had already preregistered for spring quarter, and I decided to go through drop-add late registration to pick up an elective. Standing in a long line in the Student Center, I poured over the list of elective classes. I saw that most of the art classes were full, and quite a few of the music appreciation courses, too. I hadn't played an instrument since junior high school, and I didn't really want to pick up the clarinet again. There was a penciled-in class that was newly offered that spring. I considered whether or not to sign up for it. I could read music well enough, and I had always (secretly) enjoyed singing, so I signed up for a Beginning Voice class.

I walked into the Music building that first day of class and was surprised to see that the assigned "classroom" was a small studio with a piano, a chair and one woman waiting there for me. I must have looked confused - I had assumed that it would be a large group choral setting. The woman stood from her place at the piano and walked over to greet me. She was a large, very pretty woman with a friendly face, long blonde hair and a mellifluous voice.

"Hi, I'm Hillary," she said as she extended her hand to me. "I'm so glad to see you! I wasn't sure that I would have any students at all this quarter, being added to the schedule so late!" I liked her immediately. She and her husband had just transferred to my school - he was the new dean of the music department and she was a new teacher, but a very experienced opera singer. He and she had founded the Dallas, TX opera, and both were extremely talented.

"I have to tell you that I have absolutely no experience whatsoever. I'm not sure I am the caliber student that you were counting on. I thought this would be a Beginning Chorus class. I think there is still time for me to drop-add, if you think that I was incorrectly registered," I offered, hoping to nip all of this in the bud.

"Well, let me hear your voice first before you dump me!" she said. She was comfortable with herself in a silly way, and she was going to great lengths to make me less nervous, which I appreciated more than she would ever know. "Let's start with a few scales, simple stuff, ok?" she tossed over her shoulder as she got comfortable on the piano bench. "What's your range?" she asked me. My blank stare reminded her. "Oh, right . . . beginner. Gotcha. Sorry about that," she smiled. "Let's just see what you can hit, how's that?" With that, she began to play 5 note scales, up and down, pausing in between to wait for me to emulate the scale. When the scales reached higher and higher, my voice began to crack. "I can't sing any higher in my real voice," I apologized to her.

"What do you mean, your "real" voice?" she laughed.

"You know, my natural voice, not my fake high voice," I explained. "You've reached the top of what I can sing in my normal voice."

"Tell you what, just for fun, let's see what you can sing with your "fake" voice," she said calmly, playing the last scale I had cracked on. I was able to hit the notes by using a much different version of my voice. She played scales that went higher and higher, and I repeatedly hit the notes, my "fake" voice becoming more ethereal, but still pure.

"You have never had any training, ever?" she asked, looking somewhat surprised. Nope, nothing more than singing for myself, by myself. I did tell her that I had grown up with lots of classical music and had always loved listening to music. I told her that it was almost painful for me to hear music or singing that was off-key, and she smiled a knowing smile.

I learned that day and the quarter that followed that my "fake" voice was my falsetto, or head voice. I learned to seamlessly bridge my normal voice and my falsetto voice. I also learned that I had a range that very nearly equalled hers, and I had perfect pitch. She was delighted to teach me, and I was delighted to have my raw skill honed by such an accomplished teacher.

I began to spend more and more time on campus. I had become good friends with a girl from my Political Science class, and I began to hang out with her and her friends most afternoons - my weekends were still reserved for him. Tiffany was a fun girl, smart as a whip, beautiful and independent. She drove a Camaro, smoked Virginia Slims, and a wicked laugh. She reminded me alot of Donna, actually, who I had not seen since I left high school. I was one of the few female friends that Tiffany had; we got along perfectly. Through her, I met a group of guys that she had been friends with since high school, and we all hung out nearly every afternoon, shooting pool and goofing off.

Somewhere toward the end of fall quarter, when we were all stressed about finals and depressed at the harsh cold temperatures, someone suggested that we should all start making plans for a Spring Break trip to Daytona Beach. Everyone got excited about the prospect, talking about accomodations, and how much each of us would need, and how much liquor to pack, and how much fun it would be. I enjoyed their enthusiasm, but knew that I couldn't go - he would never, ever allow such a thing. It would be the end of us. One of the guys, Charlie, was exasperated with my refusal to even consider going. "What the hell?! You aren't MARRIED! He's not your DAD! Goddamn, we have never even SEEN the sonofabitch in the 6 months that we've known you! I sure as hell don't need MY girlfriend's permission to go. If she left me over a vacation trip, I would laugh and tell her not to let the door hit her on the ass on the way out!" That began a constant barrage of encouragement for me and beratement of him, bent on the destruction of my objections and my presence on the beaches of Spring Break 1986.

God, I was so tempted to go. I had missed my high school spring break trip, and I had not been on a vacation of any kind in years. Through Christmas break, I thought about bringing it up to him a time or two, but I never did. When I returned to school in January, I was ambushed by the group. "Well, did you tell Daddy that you want to go to the beach? Or did you pussy out?" Tiffany said with a laugh and a perfect O-ring of smoke. "Let me guess - he won't let you, right? What bullshit . . ." she said with disgust.

"I haven't even had a chance to tell him I'm going yet!" I snapped at her. A big smile crossed her face. "You ARE going, aren't you?!?" she screamed as she threw her arms around my neck and hopped around and around. Yeah, I was going, damnit. I wanted to go. I was going to go. I gave my buddies my part of the hotel money and tried to keep my excitement contained as I thought about 7 whole days of fun and partying with my friends. We had all seen the commercials on MTV about their plans to broadcast live from Daytona Beach, and we were staying within a stone's throw of the action.

I mentioned the trip to him 2 weeks before we were scheduled to leave. Despite my carefully worded delivery, he erupted like a volcano, pacing the kitchen while I sat on the couch, watching him boil over. With three long strides, he was across the room, his finger in my face, his face inches from mine. "There is NO FUCKING WAY you are going to go on Spring Break with a bunch of guys. What are you, some kind of GODDAMN WHORE? What do you want, a GANG BANG? God Damn Rita, you are out of your fucking mind! Don't you EVER mention that to me again. EVER!" I sat there, motionless, while he ranted and screamed, and then as the fury subsided, he sat on a chair opposite the couch, his head in his hands, looking at the floor. "What kind of fucking dream world do you live in?" he wondered out loud. "Here I bust my ass every day - every FUCKING day - and all you do is prance up to that college and giggle with your friends - and you have the nerve to come in MY house and tell me that you are going on vacation with a group of guy friends. You must think I am an idiot. I bet you are fucking every ONE of them, you bitch . . ." He was beyond furious. I had never, ever seen him this mad. I grabbed my keys and headed for the door, and as I got into my car, he leaned out the door of his trailer, still screaming after me, "Yeah! Run home to daddy, you fucking WHORE! Don't EVER come back here!"

Driving home that evening, I flipped from being scared to death to feeling like I was set free. I was elated and scared and crying and mixed up. I was mad, too. Mad enough to withstand the fear this time, and mad enough not to talk to him when he called my house every night for 2 weeks. The night before I left for the trip, I answered the phone, knowing it was him. When he heard my voice, he was in tears. "Please - I have to see you. I am so sorry, please, let me see you for just a few minutes." I agreed to let him come to the house, and I told him that we could talk outside. He arrived a few minutes later, his face a mixture of happiness and panic. He hugged me and told me how much he had missed me, and how wrong he was to have yelled at me that way.

"What if we took a trip, just you and I?" he offered. "I could use a little time away, and I know you are disappointed that you missed the Spring Break with your friends . . ." I interrupted him at that point. "I haven't missed a thing. I am leaving tomorrow. I don't have alot of time to talk, I am packing. Thank you for telling me that you are sorry. Maybe we can talk about it when I get back," I said as I turned away from him to walk back toward my back door.

He grabbed my arm - tight. "You aren't going ANYWHERE! You hear me? If you go, you and I are THROUGH!" he screamed.

"Let me end the suspense," I said as I cooly took off the ring, handed it back to him, turned on my heel and went into the house without a backward glance. I finished packing, called Tiffany and told her that there was a change of plans. We were leaving and we were leaving NOW.

2 hours later, she and I were headed south on I-75. Van Halen was blaring from the stereo, and when she caught me looking down at my naked finger, she lit a cigarette, took a long draw, and said with complete confidence and without glancing off the road, "Best thing you've ever done. Now forget about that fucker and let's go party!" She was eloquent like that.

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