Daniel came up to me at my workplace to buy a video game and he said, “There sure are a lot of St. Patrick’s Day events…I was hearing them over the radio. Maybe we can do somethin’ comin’ up…”
What I took away from that was, “I’ve never really celebrated Irish heritage or gone out for that occasion. And maybe I haven’t been feeling well. It would be nice to have a good time.”
So even though I didn’t feel very good when the day came (bloated, bad day at work, ghostly tonsil pains and other stupid shit), I “started over” after work with a fresh shower and “built myself back up”, telling myself to be psyched for my boyfriend. Once I was ready I took us to an Irish dive bar just 20 minutes from the house. I figured he could get the green beer, silly costumes, elbow-to-elbow comradery with a live band and decent food. Those were my goals.
I let him drive my car.
Of course the place was packed by 7 p.m. I asked a more conservative-looking couple if they would share their table, asked a waitress for the chair she was using across the way and hailed Daniel over. We happened to be front seat to the band and had a great view of the walkway where everyone paraded in their green gear. Once Daniel was handed a menu of Irish specials I really, really thought I had done a good job.
Well. I had just set us up for disaster.
Over the course of the 3 or so hours we were there, the woman we sat with became increasingly drunk and loud. Daniel would look at me as she raised her arms and screamed the lyrics to classic rock songs and I gave him a look back that said: just appreciate the enthusiasm and laugh. The couple seemed to really like us, wanted to talk with us, thought we were great together and yadda yadda. Then the woman (Maureen, I learned when she showed me her Facebook), started calling to other gentlemen to approach the table – young men walking to the restroom, waiters, other customers… she always had something flirty to say and I held my breath, giving sympathetic looks their way although everyone mostly obliged by accepting the attention and hugging her or what-the-fuck-ever.
I shook their hand every time, nodding, trying to excuse them from the table. It worked pretty well aside from the guy who had a green hat painted on his face. He asked us, “Would you ladies like one too?” and re-appeared with big, tacky temporary tattoos. Ecstatic, Maureen fetched a glass of water and I applied the tattoo to her cheek and then she did the same for me. I didn’t want to admit that I was appeasing a drunk, trying to salvage my night, and I downsized the threat of Maureen as I clapped along with the songs and tried to keep my eyes forward on the band.
The guy Maureen was with had a sophisticated green hat. He was older and seemed like a decent, relatively quiet counterpart. He would routinely remark that he “loved us” and he had to get right in Daniel’s ear in order to be heard. What I didn’t realize was that Daniel was not happy with the seedy atmosphere. He didn’t like the noise level. He didn’t like the common people (he would refer to them later as “blue collar”). He didn’t like the band and had somehow talked with the bass player who made a remark that he didn’t appreciate…
“I used to be in a band,” Daniel had started to explain. The bass player proceeded to insist that there was a successful, much bigger band out of Detroit with the same name. He basically called Daniel a garage copycat and I would have to hear him screaming later, “FUCK those guys, and we NEVER would have played a fucking place like THAT. If it didn’t have a stage, we didn’t go on…”
I am always pursing my lips, asking for a kiss. I try to take photos of us together, sometimes, using my phone…Daniel either looks away or doesn’t smile. I chalk it up to his complex over “glory days”, his dread of a bad photo…I wish he understood the power of not looking your best but smiling really big and looking happy and winning, anyway.
Eventually Maureen grabbed me and pulled me to the few feet of dance floor between the band and our table.
I had to smile big and prance and turn around like it wasn’t a big deal. Play the part. After about thirty seconds there were two or three more people pushed right up against us. Then I realized this guy in front of me had his hand on my hip and started to grab harder –
I grabbed his hand, pushed it back over to his body and patted his shoulder in order to show no hard feelings. The advancement caught me off guard and was definitely not invited. A little more saving face, big smiles and I went right back to the comfort of our table.
As I put the credit card in to my purse, Maureen caught on that I had just paid our tab. She shot a look across the table and said to him, “We have to talk.” And from then on, she eyed him differently…like she was cautioning me… They would never talk. We promptly left.
What I learned later – what Daniel drove us all the way home before revealing – was that in his mind, he looked over and saw me “dancing with another guy”, so I got an earful about how “disrespectful that was” to him, how inappropriate, how I should have “ran right over to my man”…
There was some silence as he sat on the edge of the bed looking out. He said, “I don’t think you should be with an older man.”
Every time he said something, I had no idea where it came from. It was like poison from his mouth to my heart.
The other part I couldn’t believe, was that he claimed that nice-looking older man had gone up to Daniel’s ear and explained through the blaring noise that he liked to “dominate his women like in 50 Shades of Grey” and that if Daniel ever wanted to “explore the dark side, to give him a call”. No fucking kidding. And whether it was made clear or not, Daniel perceived that as the old man proposing that we all leave together and sleep together.
Eventually he said that if I was “one of those people” I should leave and not come back.
“I don’t make an effort to keep someone like that. Bye.”
After two years and everything I’ve done he said, “Bye.” With a dismissive, purposeful southern accent. “Baaaah.”
I was in shock. This was not the first time Daniel had lost his mind over something he heard or saw while we were out together. There was a couple at an Applebee’s bar a year ago…I was talking with them, being friendly, and Daniel had blown up and told me that they hoped I would “leave him and go home with them”… the time we went in to the furniture store and he saw me talking to a male salesman, accusing me of flirting with the guy… little things that told me had issues with jealousy and some delusion from trust issues…
Were these episodes worth it? What if he threw me out one day, over one, and I lost everything? Do I really want a relationship that teeters on his emotional stability?
Maybe I should just wear a burka.
Maybe it’s time to make some new resolutions…
When I grabbed my purse he was almost certain I was going back to the bar…that’s how messed up he was…
“I’m taking Duchess and I’m going home. I’m going to see my mom. She knows…about your fits. Everything I’ve done done for you, everything I do, and you’re throwing it away over 30 seconds when someone jumped in front of me-“
I broke down, started bawling, and started talking about how I should have known better.
“Only, always only, without other people. No one else can be around…you get crazy…” Now I’m freaking out, doubled over, gasping, tears running down the ugly tattoo on my cheek. I don’t know what to do and the person I love is breaking my heart.
“Why do you hurt me so much?”
Daniel changes, like night to day. Something about my reaction, the things I’ve said…for some reason my mother has a sobering effect on him. He stood in front of me and asked for a kiss… I couldn’t do it. But I hugged him and felt my tears fall off my face on to his chest.
I dreamed of Billy Joel.
I was holding glasses like he wears, a concert souvenir, but they had broken. I was walking through a plaza looking for him after a show…I found him twice and both times I could only stop twenty feet from him in fear that I would burden him with the usual OMG SO I LOVE YOUR MUSIC AND YOU ARE JUST SO AWESOME fan gush… being so close, before someone so great, afraid to lose him and unable to approach him. Billy, why have you stopped writing lyrics?
Today I was sending these digest texts of this very passage to Daniel’s phone. I know he had started reading them because he called me despite being in class. The first time I didn’t answer because I was afraid. He called again immediately and I answered.
He was acting super nice. Suggested I go to his desk and grab a Starbuck’s gift card so I could start my day with a cappuccino. I mean just real off-the-wall nice.
Maybe he knows he’s crazy.
Maybe he knows that I know.