“You do that better than I do.”
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Nashvegas and Trashing the Doormat
What the fuck am I doing here?
Once we got to Nashville, Nicole and I piled into Jack’s car and began the search for housing. Now, exactly why didn’t he start looking for a place to live before we arrived, I will never know. I was shocked to find out just how afraid he was of discovering a different way to get somewhere. He had been living in the Nashville area for several years--surely he understood the flow of the topography? IF I65 and I24 both lead into Nashville, and we were in Franklin which was south west of Nashville and we wanted to go to a town that was due south of Nashville, don’t you think we could have taken Highway 96 east and have found this town called Triune? He would have no part of it— we had to drive all the way back to Nashville then go East on Old Hickory Blvd. to just head south on Nolensville Rd. "Going around your ass to get to your elbow."
We finally found Triune—15 miles south of Nashville and just 12 miles east of Franklin on Highway 96 and 13 miles west of Murfreesboro. Even though I had never been to Triune, it was perfectly obvious to me that we could have just taken 96 East and arrived at our destination. The terra firma was connected wasn’t it? I mean the sun still worked in the same way it had for millennia-- right? We did survive as a species before GPS, didn’t we? Finalmente—we arrived in Triune. I was tired of driving around with Mr. too afraid to ask directions and too stubborn listen to me.
Our new home was to be a trailer. I had never lived in a trailer before—more fodder for the country songs I would never write. Why did we move way in the country? How could either of us hope to create income in the middle of a bunch of farmers? We had two cats and a bird--too many pet fees. In Triune, there were no pet fees and the cat population eventually bloomed to over 20.
I liked the peace of the country and grew to know and like the farmers. I needed solace to begin healing from the loss of my mother. But, what had I gotten myself into this time? Years ago when I divorced Jack, Mehair’s husband said “American women are so foolish; they think they can cure or change men. They never can. A man that leaves his family will never change.” Note to self: did you put your ears in the basket along with your brains? IF so, kindly retrieve them as soon as possible as you may need them shortly.
The first thing Jack did was turn down a road gig. “I didn’t want you to unpack the truck all by yourself.” What? Right—of course, he waited until after the fact to tell me --he knew I would have told him to take the gig. Drummer boy refused to do anything but play the drums-- so why did you turn down work? I began wondering what had he been doing for that couple of years he had been in Nashville. He wasn’t teaching—he excelled at teaching. He gigged only sporadically.
It took me about two weeks to realize that this was the same load of poop in a slightly older less enchanting package. The clouds of fog began to ooze from my gray matter. He stared at the television all day. He smoked and drank continuously, refusing to get any kind of job. Only if a gig dropped in his lap would he move. It didn’t matter if there was a child to feed or not.
Once, he worked a couple of days as a day laborer and, I suppose, in his mind, that was a huge contribution. He was so dramatic about it. It didn’t take long for the ten thousand dollars I inherited to dribble away. Somebody had to work --so off it went.
I found a full time job as a shift manager at The Slice of Life Restaurant in Nashville and, in the fall, I started grad school at Belmont. I was working full time and going to school full time. Even though my salary was low and didn’t cover everything, he refused to contribute squat. After a month, he said “I don’t know how much longer you can go to school if things don’t improve around here.” My hair stood on end. I thought “what?” You have got to be fucking kidding me. You who are contributing virtually nothing to your own sustenance -- you are going to tell me what I can and cannot do.” Kajing-- the light went off in my head. I suddenly remembered the poems I studied in English class. “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf”. I set “no assistance” to music as a theory project my last year of undergrad. I am not black; but, I am a woman and these poems profoundly resonated with me. The poem darted though my brain:
with no further assistance; no guidance from you I am endin this affair
this note is attached to a plant
I’ve been waterin since the day I met you
you can water it
yr damn self
There was no way I was going to quit school while he sat on his ass doing nothing except picking the child up from school and, on Saturdays, taking her to ballet lessons. She would have to ride the bus like the rest of the kids. I told him “You have to get some kind of job.” After copious whining, he got a part time job that he kept for a short while. Straight away he was back sitting on the couch with vodka in hand—wearing those same old leopard spots.
I came home from work one Saturday afternoon dead tired. He said “Nicole is hungry all she has eaten today is a couple of pieces of candy.”
“Why didn’t you make her something to eat? What have you been doing all day? There is macaroni and cheese. She likes that—why didn’t you fix her macaroni and cheese?”
“You do that better than I do.”
“You do that better than I do.”
(Containing my annoyance) “It’s really simple. There are directions on the box. All it takes is a pot and some water. How hard could that be?” I said. No reply.
Apparently, I had two children to support, one of which had a lot of expensive habits. Thank goodness I had enough sense to not marry him again when he asked. I started planning his departure.
I was worried about the effect on Nicole when I made him leave. She had just lost her grandmother and been ripped away from the people she knew and loved. I decided to wait until the end of the school year when I could take her to my sister’s for a week.
When the time came, I told him he had to leave. He refused. Nicole stayed at Aunt Kathi’s for another week. He tried to lure me into heated arguments. Man, all that therapy I had was a blessing. I could clearly see the pattern of engagement. It was soooo theatrical. He would spout garbage and leave a space for my reply. I stood in silence. “Aren’t you going to talk to me? Don’t you have anything to say?” he said between sips of vodka.
“No, I am not going to discuss anything with you. You have been drinking.”
I turned and headed out to my car. He chased after me yelling “you weren’t very nice to your mama when she was dying.” Good lord. Not the mama card. He really was desperate. I went to the movies—great therapy.
I talked with the landlord and, since we didn’t actually have a written agreement, she created one for me to sign--sans his name. Still he would not leave. “Can’t we work this out?” he moaned. He found a four leaf clover in the yard. I looked at him blankly. What am I your mother? Not, no-- but hell no. I kept my own counsel and said nothing.
Finally, I got an attorney to write him a letter telling him to vacate the property. The day I knew the letter would arrive I went to the movies again---“Faceoff” seemed appropriate. He was gone when I returned.
He got a job at Opryland as a night auditor and rented a room in a motel about 5 miles from us. It was amazing how quickly he found full time work. He did say “well, I guess I am just going to have to pull myself up by the bootstraps.” “Yes, you are.” I was done.
When Nicole came back, I took her to the park to explain. She didn't say much. About a week later she said “it’s ok Mama, I’m glad he’s gone. He won’t be sleeping in my bed in the daytime anymore and the bathroom smells a lot better.” Gotta love the honesty of kids.
Much to his chagrin, I sued for child support. At the hearing, he even asked that his visitation privileges be reduced since he was working and couldn’t take Nicole to ballet on Saturdays. I wasn’t sure what his real motivation was, but, I think it was the pity me syndrome.
He visited about as much as he ever did— a few times a year. It never seemed to matter if he was 5 miles or 500 miles away, the frequency was the same. He eventually moved back to Atlanta where he started teaching again. For a few years he was the manager of a Mars Music store. Um. Why didn’t I sue for more money? Women don’t ask—we were taught not to make waves and to be nice. That frickin’ doormart musta been creeping up on me again. Lord—where were my brains? Note to self: Retrieve them now before it’s too late before they dry out completely from disuse.
I never let him back into my life.
Dear Doormat: You can no longer glue me to the floor. I am ambulatory and moving about the cabin now. Mama said “Lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.” Had me a real nice flea bath, focused my attention on raising my daughter, finishing my master’s degree, and, ultimately, finding work in my field.
But, nothing lasts forever.