Thursday, June 13, 2013

I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) - June

(I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) appears monthly in
Growing Old With Rock & Roll; January to December, 2013)

I Love Distortion - chapter six 

"Well now, you can't love your wife
And your outside women's, too"
- Cream, 1968 (by way of Blind Joe Reynolds, 1929)

There were definite cinematic elements to the affair Nicole and I carried on that formed I Love Distortion.  The closest equivalent was probably that movie Valley Girl with Nicholas Cage that came out in 1983, about a punk rocker and a girl from the suburbs, except you've gotta picture the super-intelligent, brunette Amy Irving from that Richard Dreyfuss movie The Competition (1980) in Nicole's role, rather than perky blonde Deborah Foreman.  There was also a great 1978 made-for-TV movie directed by Ron Howard called Cotton Candy that pretty neatly mirrored our story.  (Cotton Candy has never come out on DVD, but I think you can check it out on YouTube.  It's pretty great.)

The most cinematic aspect of the story was that Melanie found out about Nicole and me and the affair ON OUR ANNIVERSARY.  Yes folks, exactly four years to the day we got married my wife was apparently searching through the back of my Fender Twin Reverb amplifier while I was at work (ostensibly "to try to think of something to buy me for our anniversary" as she explained later, a reasoning or story I never was able to quite work out, but couldn't exactly call her on at that moment) and found a myriad of letters & poems from Nicole.

Nicole and I had started writing to each other almost from the very beginning.  By the very nature of the relationship we really didn't talk much on the telephone, plus we both fancied ourselves poets & writers, so we wrote, ya know?  Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald had nothing on us.

The K-Mart I worked at has been out of business for decades, but if we broke in I bet I could show you the exact spot where I was standing when I caught sight of Melanie walking towards me.  She had that precise combination of livid, sad & vengeful look on her face that only the truly screwed-over can master or muster.  I knew the instant I saw her that the jig was somehow up.  I was talking to a female employee of the store who was not Nicole and I am grateful to this day that Melanie did not just start slapping the shit of that poor little innocent bystander girl.  The girl had started to turn and walk away even before Melanie said icily to her, "Could you excuse us for a moment, I need to have a word with my soon-to-be-EX-husband."  The associate, whose name I cannot remember, actually shot me a quick look as she exited the scene that eloquently communicated, "I am not at all sure what you have done, but you are DEAD FUCKED."  

The first words hissed out of Melanie's mouth were, "I am going to make sure you lose your job."  I was the receiving manager at that store, Nicole was an hourly toy department employee, the K-Mart Corporation had a VERY strict no-fraternization policy, and Melanie knew it.  I shot right back with, "If I lose this job I don't think we're going to be paying the rent from your crummy little florist job." and we were off to the races.

I told Melanie, "I'm off work in an hour, just go home and we'll talk about this there."  Tears were just starting as she turned away to leave and I remember thinking, "It's gonna be a LOOOONG anniversary."  I walked back to the warehouse where Jeffrey Jay (who I had gotten hired on at the store) was stacking pallets and I told him what had happened.  "Well Sean, you HAD to know this was going to happen someday.  How long did you think you were gonna be able to pull this off?"

That was an excellent question.  I'm not sure I had ever really given it that much thought.  One of my worst traits in this life is that I tend to LET things happen to me rather than MAKING things happen.  I'm better at reacting than acting.  Once I had made the decision to begin the affair and the band with Nicole, I had just started letting the chips fall where they may.  Regular readers of I Love Distortion may wonder how I had managed to pull off all of the extra-curricular Nicole activity for almost six months before Melanie happened upon the affair.  It was relatively simple: I had been in bands for as long as Melanie had known me.  As such, she was used to me being out of the house at all hours of the day & night for rehearsals and gigs.  And for the first three years, when Melanie and I were together dating, she was intensely interested in my band activities and shows.  But once we were married it was as if putting that ring on her finger signified the end of a journey, a quest, a contest.  She had won the game and now she didn't have to try anymore.  I don't think Melanie had attended a single gig in the four years since we got married.  Truthfully, there was a small part of me that believed Melanie had known about Nicole and the affair since maybe March and simply didn't care.  (I was wrong.)

Plus, the fact that Melanie desperately wanted children and I did not contributed mightily to the distance we had put between us in four short years.  You can say I was irresponsible and selfish in that stand, I prefer to think of myself as realistic.  I knew my limitations.  I chose to barely function as an adult at that point, I certainly was not prepared to become a father.  I had seen too many other musicians fall prey to that sort of deceptional thinking: They were now either out of music entirely, mired in jobs they hated and relationships they resented; or they continued playing, leaving resentful wives and neglected children behind in quiet, lonely homes.

When I got home at 5 o'clock that June afternoon Melanie and I fought for THREE STRAIGHT HOURS.  Every perceived slight, every unspoken criticism, every raw emotion that had passed between us in the last four years got trotted out, thrown in each other's faces and endlessly sliced, diced & dissected.  It was grueling.  It was excruciating.  It was exhausting.  I couldn't believe how far apart Melanie and I had grown in four short years.  And then, after three solid hours of emotional death, doom, terror & destruction - amazingly, inexplicably, uncomprehendingly - Melanie insisted that we still get dressed up and go out for the anniversary dinner we had planned before she found the letters that day.  I couldn't believe my ears.  I felt like I had been beaten to a pulp.  I'd had physical fights in the past, been punched out by guys where I felt less beat-up than I did right at that moment.  But I was not exactly in the position to say "No" right at that juncture, was I?

We went to dinner at what was to that point our favorite fancy restaurant up on Route 161 on the North Side (which I never once returned to after that night, believe me) and the shrimp dinner I ordered might just as well have been soot & ashes for as much as I enjoyed it.  After dinner Melanie decided she didn't want to go back home, so we got a hotel room by the freeway and settled back into the earlier fight, only now with quiet sadness replacing the earlier verbal yelling fireworks.  The only break I had caught in the entire amplifier discovery process was that the last letter Melanie had read from Nicole was one of the ones where we had tried to end things.  As far as Melanie knew the affair had ended weeks before.  It was a past tense to her.  "Did you make love to her?" Melanie asked, her averted eyes red from crying, lying in the half-light of that Holiday Inn.  "No, I didn't," I replied, and that was the only time the rest of the night I told the truth.  "Were you in love with her?" was Melanie's next question and my reply of "No, I wasn't." was by far my single biggest lie of the night.

Melanie and I both called in sick to work the next day and spent the afternoon at the movies.  By time we returned home the next evening I could tell Melanie was going to adopt an attitude that nothing had ever happened, no letters were ever found, that life was going to go on just as it had before.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I didn't get to talk to Nicole for the next three days.  Obviously she knew something was up when I didn't come to work and word had gotten around the store about Melanie coming in livid.  Plus she had talked to Jeffrey Jay; who was his usual vague, defensive, noncommittal bass-player self, so she got no useful information there.

We met at the game room of my apartment complex clubhouse.  I remember sitting on the edge of the pool table, holding both of Nicole's hands in mine, telling her what had transpired, her tears falling on our hands.  She was wearing an electric blue pantsuit I had never seen her wear before and never saw again afterward.  "So what happens to me now?" she asked quietly, her eyes downcast at the floor, not looking at me when I was done explaining.  Until that very moment I really didn't know.  I knew that what normally happened in those circumstances was that the husband cuts the girlfriend loose and goes sheepishly back to the missus, pleading eternally false fealty.  There's an Elliott Murphy song called "Caught Short In The Long Run" that contains the lines, "Romantics may run free in the darkness / But come the light, they're the first to kneel."  I could hear Elliott singing those lines very clearly in my head at that moment.  I never made things happen, I just let things happen.

"What happens to you now is that I love you and everything changes." I said, lifting Nicole's chin, looking into her usually shining eyes, her lashes wet now with tears.  I left Melanie the next weekend and got an apartment with Jeffrey Jay.  The beat goes on.

© 2013 Ricki C.

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