In my life I have known the inside story of two perfect couple, each separated from the other by a decade and I wonder, truly wonder, if sometimes two people do not get together and say, “We have an image to protect so this is how we’re going to act in front of other people” while back at home it’s a cross between trench warfare and some psychological torture test where each person tried to be the last one to run fleeing from a room that is on fire, and full of angry weasels. Both times I got a close up look at what had happened and both times wish I had not.
The first perfect couple was two people I knew back in High School and Jim and Barbara got married even before she graduated, and he had already dropped out. They seemed an odd couple for he was a drummer and she was a reader, but they did make a perfect couple. It was two or three years ago when her second husband died that Barb told me about some of the things Jim had done, and after he was arrested on a sexual assault charge against a minor did I realize that the dream world did not exist, and things were not as they seemed anywhere. Barbara married young to escape the sexual assaults from her stepfather and whatever was happened to her when Jim was around she at least didn’t have to worry about her own mother’s complicity in the crime, at any rate. I found it very odd she traded monsters like that, but the older I get the more I realize it is not odd at all. Well, it is odd, just not uncommon.
Mark and Jolene were a young couple I met right after I moved to Valdosta and there were no monsters here, and they seemed to be the perfect very young very happy couple fortunate another to have found who they were meant to be with early in life. Jolene was an intense and beautiful woman, part Asian and part feline, who stopped conversations when she walked into the room. But she was also a genuinely nice person. She and I once sat down and discussed why my own relationship was sinking slow, and I didn’t realize until she pointed out that if I was at a party without the woman I was supposed to be in love with, and it was the woman’s choice, maybe things weren’t altogether right. The woman who was the object of my affection wasn’t a drinker, and I never could see why that was a problem, but Jolene did. As much as she tried to explain it to me, I missed that point, and a few others.
Mark was a very good example of a man who was intoxicated with the idea of having a woman like Jolene loving him, but instead of trying to keep her, he spent his time trying to prove to other people he was so good that even a woman like Jolene would allow herself to be done wrong and still be there for him. He started singing in a band, and even though he really wasn’t very good, men in bands tend to believe they are always on the very cusp of greatness, and the next gig with less than a hundred people there will be the one that sets everything in motion and sets everything on fire. I’ve seen this sort of thing before, and it always seems the men involved make the choice to take on a lifestyle that is going to lead to a lot of personal destruction in the name of being someone they wish they could be instead of being who they really are. I think Jolene might have walked away in the middle of all this but she got pregnant, and this is where I got a front row seat to all of it, with popcorn.
After the baby arrived Mark decided that it wasn’t in his best interest to live with Jolene and the baby so he moved in with me. In public, Mark liked to tell people in general, and women in particular, how much in love he was with being a father and having a son, but the truth of the matter was he would stand out in the yard, a foot from the road, and wait for Jolene to arrive so he could all but fling the child into the car with her, and he could be on his way. He still went over to her place to he could get a free meal and get laid but Jolene with a kid, even his kid, was an anchor dragging him down. He told me one night that as much as he loved her, he was born to be a lead singer and there wasn’t anything he could do about that because lead singers were always that way. Lead singers also get stoned with their friends, tie dye a bunch of stuff, use their roommate’s towels to wipe up the dye, and then stuff the towels into their roommates dirty clothes basket and forget to tell them. The next time I did laundry everything I owned got dye all over it, and Mark bailed rather than pay for the damaged clothing. Like most people in his life, I picked up the tab for him being him, and he thought that was the way life would always be.
Jolene found someone new, someone interested in her, and helping her raise her son, and Mark tried to get her back, and failed, and failed publically, and miserably. After years of having her chase every stick he threw, Jolene put him on the road and more or less let him know his days of pretending to be a father were over. Mark went off the deep end, realizing what he had lost, and they had to put him in rehab for a while. Jolene and the baby went off with her new man, and Mark was left to wallow in the life he had tried for so long to make his own.