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John Palcewski's Journal

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So Insensitive!
forioscribe





Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, and half of existing marriages are dysfunctional. So what's happening to me right now is nothing to get too bloody exercised about. What am I going through right now? Life. That's the long and the short of it.

I remain sad about the breakup and forthcoming divorce. Although if Elizabeth were to come to me right now and say she's changed her mind, wants to work on saving the marriage, I'd probably tell her that it wouldn't be a good idea. Too many unresolved issues. Like her loss of interest in sex, probably a side-effect of her Prozac. Like my commitment to writing, which she says makes her feel guilty about her own lack of commitment. Her inability to resolve the multitude of traumas Bob, the sociopath, laid on her. Her inability to make emotional connections, her terror of intimacy. All that faux-formal hand shaking of hers. And so on.

She’s better at starting relationships than she is maintaining them. She makes courtship a wild adventure. She knows how to string it along, build up the sexual tension, so that when she finally condescends to get naked it’s like being caught up in a whirlwind, you can’t get enough, you can’t stop, and you keep doing it until you just pass out in exhaustion.



By now she’s probably told her sisters and brother and her mom what an asshole I am. But I don't care. She can say whatever she wants.

The other day we had a civil conversation, a sort of movement toward “closure.” An absurd word, and a specious concept. Anyway, I told her I didn't hold any malice, and I wasn’t angry, just sad. These things happen.

She said she was deeply disappointed that things didn't work out as she hoped they would, but naturaly she avoided bringing up that “passionless arrangement” thing she'd put at the top of her list when we got married.

Back and forth, a strangely calm talk. But pretty soon tears rolled down her cheeks. What was I supposed to do, comfort her? She was dumping ME, not the other way around. I couldn’t reach over and pat her on the shoulder, nor did I want to take her in my arms.

She sniffed and dabbed her eyes with Kleenex. “I’d shake your hand right now,” she said, “But I know how much that annoys you.”

Being a truly perverse and twisted son of a bitch I enjoyed seeing her cry, and I was grateful that I did not cry myself. She touched my arm. “Are you going to be all right?” she said.

And I said, “Yes, absolutely.”

“Well, at least we're being civilized.”

Amazing, isn’t it?, I thought. How we both so quickly lapse into banalities.

Then she said, “We can talk about the legalities when we feel like it.”


There's a picture of us up at the lake, in an embrace at the end of the dock, the day of our wedding. She’s deeply tanned and lovely in her white dress, and I am thinking: Jesus, how did I get so lucky! I love her so much. I love everything about her. The shape of her hands, her slim body, her dynamite legs, her intelligence, her facility to make puns and odd verbal juxtapositions, her guitar playing, her singing voice.

Then in the evening when they all departed we sat on that dock and gazed up at a big yellow full moon surrounded by a faint glowing circle. An omen. I was so happy.

Elizabeth had the loveliest hands I’d ever seen. Elegant, slim, smooth. Perfectly formed. I loved to caress them, but she didn't let me do it very long.

I love her but she will never love me. I need to let her go. I’m doing everything she wants me to do. I’m making it as easy on her as I can. No bitterness, no enmity. No hateful, spiteful words. No recriminations.

She is wrong in believing I am exactly like her father. “Listen,” I told her not too long ago, “When have I ever cut you to the bone with ridicule? When have I publicly belittled you? Wild Bill is deadly serious and means every nasty thing he says. But my ranting and raving is merely hot air. Drama, histrionics. It’s all just a big bluff. Don’t you see the irony of it? I am an extended parody of my father, just reading the script he wrote.”

“The only thing you just proved,” she said, “is that you’ve got a gift for gab.”

I’ll miss being married to that strange, moody woman. Our trips to Borders on Lancaster Avenue, especially. Prowling the stacks, gathering an armful of books, then sitting at a table in the café drinking cups of strong Columbian coffee and wolfing down huge chunks of chocolate cake with chocolate icing, covered with dollops of whipped cream. Long, interesting conversations. And then she’d say: “C’mon, let’s blow this joint,” and we’d drive home.

I’ll miss the visits upstate to her parents. Those dreamy hot summer days at the lake. I put a cassette into the VCR. I watch a replay of our wedding. See? I couldn’t stop grinning the whole day. I knew I was the luckiest man alive.

On one of my trips back to her house to pick up a few things, I spotted her journal on the coffee table. I could imagine her sitting there on the couch early in the morning, scribbling. Biting her lip. Smoking her cigarette, gulping her coffee. I turned the pages to the latest entry.

“I thought I'd be feeling elation and freedom, but I don't. I feel shitty, like I've done something WRONG.”

Indeed you have, sweetheart. You should have given it more time. You should have tried harder. I was willing, you weren’t. It shouldn't have been your unilateral decision. Because you and I had a contract. We made promises to each other.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t violate her privacy by reading her journal. But what the hell. I’ll do it again the next time I come. Maybe she’ll get around to writing about finally achieving "closure" with her beloved Bob.

I remember when she threw a potted plant at me when I insisted she take off the dark green tee shirt Bob had given her. I'd demanded that she get rid of all traces of that sociopath. She said that was WAY out of line. She liked this particular tee shirt, by God, and there wasn't any reason why she shouldn't keep it. AND the little rocking horse puzzle he’d given her, along with the big art poster he'd brought back from that anarchist convention in Paris.

She must have felt then exactly like I feel now. It's supposed to be over. But then maybe it’s not. There could be a reprieve. A miracle. Suddenly everything will fall into place and there will be a perfect realization of true love and all will be well.

When we were loading the van in the move to our new house I told her, "Please, please, for God’s sake, don't bring along Bob’s memorabilia. Get rid of it." She said OK, but then changed her mind. It was her stuff, she said, not mine. Those gifts were reminders. About the consequences of her misplaced and inappropriate trust.

A few days later I made another visit to pick up what was left of my dark room equipment. I went right back to her journal.

“I’m lonely!”

Oh, poor baby!

Then an entry about some guys she used to know when she worked at Chase Manhattan. She located their addresses and telephone numbers, but she was pretty sure they’re not available.

“Joe probably wouldn’t approve of my smoking. Maybe he never approved of ME, a truly ugly duckling…”

Then a series of short scrawled sentences.

“Should I see a shrink?”

And,

“Should I write a letter to J?”

I felt my skin tingle. Does she mean ME? Or Joe from Chase Manhattan?

“Should I write about Neil, my pregnancy, and abandoning my daughter?”

Oh, are you finally ready to revisit those traumas and face them squarely?

Remember when you seized my big three-ring binder and hurled it across the living room? It hit the wall, fell to the floor. You were furious at me. Because I was treading on some dangerous territory. Exploiting you. Stealing your material.

But then I wasn’t writing about you at all, I was writing about my mother, and about myself, the child she abandoned. It was the chapter where I describe my mother’s unwanted pregnancy, the result of her yielding to the sexual demands of a drunken guy—my father—who was inappropriate for her.

Don’t you remember that bright Sunday morning at Marlane Diner, and our breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage and pancakes? I asked you to tell me what it felt like being pregnant. You said your nose bled during your pregnancy. You gave me a few other details, which I put in the book. You didn’t seem at all upset then. If I’d thought those probing questions distressed you, I certainly wouldn’t have asked them. You seemed perfectly fine telling me, and I was grateful.

But later you threw the novel across the room, and trembling and in tears you said, “God, how could you have been so insensitive?”

* * *


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It is impossible for a writer of any substance to be "sensitive." If you had to take into account what everyone else thought, which is what is implied by that term, you'd only spend your time calculating the angles on adjectives, placing your prudence on pronouns and vacillating between verbs. No work accomplished, and what was done would devalue the paper on which it was printed.

"It's the writer's job to tell the tale, regardless of who it affects."

At least, that's what one of my Writing profs at college said. I pocketed that philosophy for the longest, wanting to use it often, but generally not, because my desire to be "well-liked" superceded my desire to give good story. And also because the one time I did craft a "brutally honest" short story, with only a scant amount of pseudonyms to cover the people behind the characters, I got raked over the coals for it!

But I've finally reached a point in my life where that's not the case. Or more accurately, I now realize the error of that kind of thinking.

Clearly, you have too.

I think as long as my father was still around I worried deep down that he just might show up at my door and give me grief for something I did or said or wrote. But now? Ha! There's not a damned thing he'll ever be able to do about it. Thus I may write whatever in hell I please. And I find it ultimately satisfying that Maria was the one who brought me the news of his death.

After all that has happened, do you believe that people can have healthy long-term relationships or marriages... or are we doomed to making choices that somehow don't quite work out in the long (or even medium) run?

I'm reading this and it's bringing something up for me, something intangible... Something about people never truly being who they are when they first enter relationships -- or not seeing each other for who they are and acknowledging that things may never change.

I'm an optimist so I say yes, it's possible to change and to quit making bad choices and indulging in bad behavior. But we have to be willing to do the heavy lifting that's involved. At the very same time, though, there's something to be said about exile and solitude. All alone you think more about things, and you're less likely to hurt someone you care about.

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