Tuesday, August 31, 2004

PART 41 - Love Hurts

Hard to know how many readers remember Nazareth, but I am hereby resurrecting their tune in honor of today's post:

Love Hurts
Nazareth

Love hurts
Love scars
Love wounds and mars
Any heart not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain
Love hurts

I'm young, I know
But even so
I know a thing or two - I learned from you
I really learned a lot
Love is like a flame
It burns you when it's hot
Love hurts

Some fools think of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves, I guess
They're not foolin' me
I know it isn't true
Love is just a lie made to make you blue . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The next morning, I swatted at the alarm clock and dozed back to sleep, when suddenly the previous evening entered my head. Like a bolt of electricity, my eyes popped open, I threw back the covers, and hopped gingerly out of bed. I say gingerly because I was aware of a constant ache just below my abdomen, like I had been punched. From the inside.

With some trepidation, I stepped into the bathroom to survey the marks. Even without my contacts in, I could see the garish black splotches in the mirror. Upon closer inspection I discovered, if it was even possible, that they were worse than the night before.

I panicked. There was NO WAY I could miss work that day. I was finalizing a huge proposal and had 2 meetings scheduled with different company executives. I popped some Tylenol and washed them down with a handful of water out of the bathroom sink as I considered my options. Did I have a garment, ANY garment, with a neck high enough to disguise most of the carnage? I poured through my wardrobe in my mind as I quickly showered. I remembered one top that might work.

Dressing a bit later, I slipped on the top and was pleased to see that it hid MOST of the bruising, but there were still 2-3 inches of dark splotches just under my jawline that were easily spotted, especially if I did something like, say, turn my head.

No way. There was no way that I was going into meetings looking like this. It was Friday, and I knew that by Monday, I would be in the clear. Besides, I NEVER called in sick. I began to rationalize the absence. Fuck them - if they couldn't get along without me for a day, I wasn't making enough money. That thought made me smile, and I began to relax once the exit strategy was in place.

Now just a quick call to the boss . . . this early, I was bound to get his voicemail, I thought.

No such luck - he answered on the third ring.

"Hi, David. This is Rita. Listen, I'm not feeling well, and I can't come into the office today."

Silence.

"Don't we have meetings today?" he asked.

"We sure do, David, and I'm not going to be able to be there," I said, curtly, and said nothing more. I was determined not to grovel or apologize or feel guilty.

"Hmmm . . . well, do you think you will feel better later today? Maybe you could come in at lunchtime?" he asked, half whining.

Time to pull out the big guns. "Well, here's the thing, David . . . I am having some feminine complications . . . and, well, uh . . ." I began to trail off.

In a bit of a panicky voice, David quickly responded, "OH! Oh . . . ok . . . sure . . . I understand. No problem." He kept on talking just to make sure I didn't continue down that path of conversation. "Well, you just . . . . feel better and . . ." At that point, he wasn't sure what to say, either. After I offered to put in some time over the weekend, he let me off the phone.

I gratefully crawled back into the bed, waiting for sleep to overtake me. I reassured myself for awhile that not going to work was the best course of action. After all, I WAS having some feminine complications - I was sure that I was just as bruised on the inside as I was on the outside.

What the hell had gotten into Rick, anyway?

I had some time to analyze it, laying there. Maybe he was angry that I had led him to break his vow of fidelity to his ex. Hell, maybe that was WHY she was his ex. I didn't really have any clear indication of what his motive was, but part of me thought that he might be one of those men that saw 2 kinds of women: those you respect, and those you fuck. Maybe I had slipped from Column A into Column B when I had divulged my crush, and he was doling out his own punishment for my lack of restraint. Who knows? Maybe that was the same kind of aggression that had driven him to enlist in the service when he knew he would be sent to Vietnam, and be a cop, despite the danger.

Thinking more along those lines, I made the connection that maybe that kind of aggression had driven my ex in the same way.

And in a final illuminated thought, I began to wonder if that kind of aggression wasn't exactly what had drawn me to Rick in the first place.

THAT was a scary thought.

Scary, but plausible. Both of them were very masculine, very decisive, and both of them were very driven. Both of them saw the world in black and white. Both of them could overprotect you and hurt you at the same time. And most importantly . . .

Both of them were like my dad.

Holy shit.

It was an "Aha!" moment for me. What was probably crystal clear to the rest of the world had escaped my vision until this very moment. But why, why would I be attracted to men like my dad? My dad was a bastard. He was mean. He was cold, he never had a loving word for me. He had beaten his own children, sparing me from the pain but not the sight and the sound. He had instilled debilitating fear in me, for him and the outside world. He had left me . . .

He had left me.

Suddenly, A flash of memory popped into my head. I was in the Winn Dixie with my mother, it had to have been early 70s. My mother ALWAYS shopped at the Winn Dixie, and more times than not, I was with her.

The vision was so clear - I was wearing a red dress with three pockets across the front. It was my favorite. There was a man with a little girl walking past us as we waited in line to check out. He was holding his little daughter's hand. I walked right up to that little girl and shoved her away, insisting "That's not YOUR daddy. That's MY daddy. YOUR daddy is gone away on an airplane!"

I could see the little girl, scared and crying, shouting back at me, "No he isn't! He's MY daddy!" and bursting into tears. I watched her dad pick her up, putting her on his shoulder, tenderly shushing her and patting her back, petting her hair.

I remember feeling confused, and scared, staring at the floor, studying the speckled linoleum tiles, counting the patterns and trying to ignore my mother apologizing profusely to the man while she explained that my father was away on business. I remember watching our food travel down the belt and into the bags.

God, I can still see the aqua green polyester uniform top that the bored, overweight checkout lady was wearing. I remember watching her fat, stubbly fingers grabbing cans of Astor vegetables and pushing in the register buttons in a rhythm . . . snick snick, jingledy snick. 29 cents took three movements . . . the round 20 button, then 9, then the big rectangle grocery button. Snick, snick, jingledy snick. Over and over. He had been gone for more than 3 months by then. An eternity for a 4 year old.

He had left me.

I laid in my bed, letting hard painful sobs shake my body. The tears were more painful that the bruises. I sobbed for the little me at the Winn Dixie, for the countless times I had needed my dad, for the pain of still loving him and hating him at the same time, for feeling weak enough to still need him, or someone like him, for what my life was amounting to, for all of it.

That day passed with me drifting in and out of sleep, waking long enough to grow teary again, and then fading back into quiet, serene rest.

When Saturday shone bright in the window, I dragged myself from the bed and started a hot bath. Slipping into the depths of that hot soapy water was curative; hot baths had always helped. Always.

Feeling drained, but surprisingly serene, I dressed for the day, donning dark sunglasses and wearing the top I had picked the day before for maximum coverage. I had a few errands to do that morning, and since I had some actual work to do, I decided that day to finally go buy myself a computer. I knew just the one I wanted, too - a Mac Quadra.

Later that afternoon, I was unpacking the brand new machine. I had set up a little desk area in my large bedroom, and the giddiness of the purchase seemed to sweep away the hurt that had overtaken me earlier. I quickly made all of the connections and soon started up my precious Mac for the first time. Wondrous.

I, of course, had been a Mac user for several years by that time, so I knew what to expect out of the machine. What was particularly cool about this one was that it had QuickTime loaded, and a demo CD that came with the machine displayed the glory that was the latest in digital video technology. It also came preloaded with an application that I had heard a bit about, but had never really used before: America Online.

After a few failed attempts, I was able to actually connect to this amazing . . . . world, for lack of a better term. I had never seen anything remotely like it. It was all breathtaking and compelling, and there was so much to see and do! I clicked on everything - the shopping, the entertainment sections, and into an area called chat.

I jumped in my chair when I heard a series of chimes through my speakers and saw a little box pop up on my screen. What was this? A message in the box said

"Hi! Care to chat?"

What was I supposed to do? I studied the box for a moment and decided to click near the bottom of the box. Could I answer? I began to type "Hi there" and then I clicked the Send button, and lo and behold, my response appeared right below the original one.

Damn, this was cool! Immediately a response came back, along with that pleasing chime. As I exchanged tentative messages with this person, another box popped up, and then another.

I had worked with computers for years by that time. I had even used a BBS in college and an online file exchange system at work for sending files to commercial printers, but I had never, ever seen anything like AOL.

In the span of that weekend, even though I didn't leave the house and barely ate or slept, I had alleviated my lonliness and despair and had a ball chatting with people from every corner of the USA. I learned my way around AOL, and I had created a fledgling friends list.

I didn't get a damn bit of work done, but I had just been introduced to a whole new world. AOL took my mind off all of my troubles, and gave me a whole new place to play.

Monday morning at work, the calls started pouring in from friends and family. "Where WERE you? I called you ALL WEEKEND and your phone was busy?!?!" I must have heard that at least 10 times.

I just smiled and said, "I needed some 'me' time," and left it at that, all the while waiting for 5:00 to arrive to get back to my new, secret little universe.

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