I saw a Ramones tribute band recently in the east village. The lead guitarist was this guy with thick black hair cut in a longer 60s rocker style, cool waves shaped around his face. Across the top of his head was just the hint of a shine, a covered bald spot. He reminded me of my ex-husband so much, he was even the same age, which is whatever year it is, knock off the entire year, and at this point, put a five in front of the last number. The guy would hop a few times and bob his head into his shiny purple and white guitar while he played the main "dah, dah, dahs" of I Wanna Be Sedated.
The more this guy did little hops of joy, the more I sunk into memories of my overbearing self in my first marriage. Poor Bob. After the divorce, I didn't want anything to do with men my height or shorter. I didn't even see men who met my gaze. Too short, I'd think. Or maybe not even think, just excuse. I was still suffering from my own short-sightedness, and I'll call it my external wants that covered internal insecurity. That first marriage snobbiness, and meanness came splashing on me at the Ramones concert. If I could have turned colors, standing there, I would have gone a Kelly green, to a puse, to a bruised purple, to a black. I soaked in the black.
During the divorce phase, one has to adopt that "this is right, head the course" mindset and excuse any whittling down or backing out thoughts. "He'll be all alone without me." "I said until death do us part." "Who will clean?" "I'll never see his parents again." That one is true. I haven't been able to keep up a relationship with his barb-b-cuing, lake-going, RV travelling, football watching, amazing food crafting, knock-knock joke telling parents. I had sat on their comfy and new living room couches, writing and musing over when I'd be able to retire and have fun like they do. When will Bob and I realize the house by the lake? The RV? The pergola to sit under while I squirt gobs of ketchup on a bratwurst?
In our long thirteen years together, seven of those years found us in a five hundred foot apartment on Logan street in Denver, a few solaces being a five by five plot in which I'd planted pineapple sage and tomatoes, most of which would be stolen by the patrons of the Church's food bank, kitty-corner to us. Another solace, a walk-in pantry. Bob was a chef, so the gas stove came in handy. Bob and I sacrificed and worked our butts off. On the weekends, we'd cook. I made the salad, he cooked some meat with a complex sauce that I'd "mmm-mmm" to him and he'd ask, "Really? It's really good, right?" He perfected his sauces and eventually would work at a five star restaurant as a chef, then slide into the sommelier position, after studying wines since I'd known him. He was sophisticated and caressed his pastas, coddled his gnocchi. For most of our marriage, I needed someone to be with who was fancy pants about something. It matched my world view of myself which was some distorted vision of a grand writer, only sitting down to pure masterpieces, only reading the best literature, drinking the best wine.
Some of that notion came from my big family, where if you had something you loved, you hid it, kept it in plastic or a bottom drawer, in the closet. Otherwise it would end up in the backyard, or outside in a tree, or worse, lost in the electronics department at a GEMCO. My need to control the life that unraveled from my teens came strong and I went through over-shopping, over-drinking, over-cleaning stages to get an equilibrium that unfortunately came after I'd left Bob. Bob was in my seven year over-demanding phase. He was a soft spoken guy when serious and laughed out loud at cerebral humor shows. He used to keep me out of the kitchen unless I was baking or chopping because my pans weren't hot enough for meat. His capacity to love went deeper than most, and I think I took advantage of that, unknowingly. I asked him to give up a lot. Not to his face, but over time. He used to stay out late Monday nights and come home with a hokey and huge plasticky Foosball trophy. The bars he played in (I followed him to a couple and sat bored on a cracking vinyl stool), had porn stuck to the bathroom walls and I had to duck out to get a breath of smoke-less air. After a while, I wore him down, "Don't you want to watch a movie with me instead of playing with all those dorks?" He was an amazing guitarist, too, and he used to play in a band. Key phrase: used to. The hottest picture of him still, (very much like the version of him I saw in the east village) where he's sandwiched between two girls I instantly hated, ear pierced and spiky hair, was taped to his wine office wall. He had keyboards and all kinds of instruments collecting dust in a closet. Once we went to see his friend's band in a corner of a corner bar. The crowd was decent, about fifteen people. They played covers that Bob fingered on his leg or air strummed. After the gig, he came back from talking to the open shirted, long haired singer, and said, "Typical Carl, he's doing lines of coke off of some girl's breasts." That was the wrong thing to say to an overbearing wife, insecure of her husband playing amongst druggies and sluts into the late night.
On the way home, in our cracked front shield, eighties in the nineties Subaru, I basically read him his rights as far as bands went. If you play in a band, you can't do drugs, you can't talk to girls, you can't play past midnight, and you definitely can't do coke off of their tits. When he joked, Why not? my immature, insecure little mind went to every scenario Bob could be in with coke, girls, breasts, and Carl while playing into the night.
I'm so sad now that I had that kind of power over him. I'm not sad we divorced, we needed to part ways, but I still wonder how we'd be if he'd have stood up to me. Watching this spry doppelganger riff Ramones, earring dangling, skinny jeans sexy to all the girls down in front, I just wanted to cry. I want to think that we all make choices in the world. That Bob could have pushed back and told me where to go while he grabbed his satiny guitar, slamming the door to go play in a dark bar with Carl. That he could have raised high the dorky trophy and told me to Back off, Babe. This is something I like to do. You don't have to like it. Often, I go back to our apartment in my head, swing open the door and say to him, Wow King Dork, you are the King of them all. And I would be kidding.