Saturday, November 10, 2012

Castles in the Sky

When I was twenty three I was going through a huge transition in my life. I went from being a hot mess that made more messes to a mess who wanted to clean herself up. I felt like a butterfly coming out of the cocoon and now emerging, flying if you will. Replacing nerves that were once calmed by alcohol, diet pills, and destructive eating was the Serenity Prayer. I was also out of an abusive relationship, one that ended in stalking and a different mailing address for my own safety and on the market for a decent man. Enter George Washington.

George Washington had the same name as the president who chopped down the cherry tree. He was set up with me on a blind date by my friend Saul, a friend I worked with on a project. Saul said George and I would be a perfect match. The first time he called me he seemed nice enough and made me laugh. We went out. George underwhelmed me in many ways. He was losing his hair and had abysmal fashion sense. Not to mention that he bored the hell out of me. But he had a nice manner, paid for dinner, and was  a lawyer. Most of the guys I dated dined and dashed and were mostly defendants. My mom had married a lawyer and was happy. I figured I could work around a lot of things. A lot of people settled. Why shouldnt I? Plus he did seem to like me.

Right away George regaled me with his life. Before becoming a lawyer George had apparently played with rock bands and even worked as a substitute guitarist for the Violent Femmes when one player had mono and had been a part of the Detroit Cobras too. He played with many people and played me CDs and even played guitar for me a few times. George could quote Shakespeare and he knew a lot about history. For the first time in forever someone liked my writing. The ex fiance hated my writing and tried to kill my dreams and aspirations. George on the otherhand breathed new life into them and was proud of me. Maybe it wasn't the chaotic love affair it had been with my fiance and maybe he wasn't as hot as the ex cons but I felt like this could be happily ever after in Kew Gardens.

Did I mention he even wrote a song for me?

George used to take me out to the best eateries, only five stars in Zagats. He also told me about some of his former girlfriends. Like me George too had been previously engaged. His ex had been a Smith grad, a Yale grad, and had an impressive job in DC. Apparently she cheated on him. Before that one of his exes had appeared on VH1, then one had been married to Romeo Rojas, a world famous soccer player from Columbia. One had won an Academy Award for costume design. As compared to these women I felt sick to my stomach. My boyfriends had been to jail and maybe had a lawyer from Yale. I knew people on VH1  but had never dated any, I wasn't their type. The only Romeo Rojas I knew sold drugs. I had friends who designed costumes but never got that far. He was probably underwhelmed with me and I just felt this insecurity and chip on my shoulder, something that followed me for the duration of the relationship. Would I ever be good enough for him? Probably not.

Right away George told me of a terrible childhood with an abusive alcoholic father and a grandfather named Shane who was involved with the mob. Jimmy Hoffa had apparently been his father's godfather. My Uncle Frank had known Jimmy Hoffa through the labor unions as well and had even dodged a car bomb planted by Hoffa. Right away he seemed exciting as he told stories of a childhood seemingly plucked from Oliver Twist. I felt for him. Part of me wanted to love him and fix him because he seemed so different than an ex who used me as a mental and physical punching bag.

George wanted to move up in the world and introduced me to his friends. They were born with a silver spoon in their mouths and struck me as snobby and fake. George wasn't born with a silver spoon. Whenever I would tell him just because they were rich didn't mean that they were good people he would fire back about how I couldn't accept his friends. How he was embarrassed because anything could fly out of my mouth. How he wanted to move up in the world. Meanwhile I had grown up among lawyers and judges. I saw how George conducted himself with two left feet. I saw how they rolled their eyes. Whenever I would give him advice it was what do you know?

George was desperate to belong with these people. One of his bosses remarked that he didnt have pedigree and this sent George over the edge. My dad didnt come from a family of lawyers and judges, he was the son of a steel worker. However, my dad was hardworking and brilliant. Not only did he end up doing well but many of these lawyers and judges have my father on speed dial and treat him like the brother they wish they had. George didn't want to go about it that way though. Instead he was always going out to fancy places and spending money he didn't have.

Once he met my mother and took us out for a three hundred dollar dinner. My mom, knowing George was out of law school told him that this was too expensive. She had lived with my dad when they were newly married and  he was working at Price Waterhouse by day and going to law school at night. They had card tables and were dirt broke. George said, "You are a lawyer's wife, this is what you are accustomed to."

My mother, who is the eldest of six and grew up in modest means was taken aback. Sure my dad was a lawyer but we didnt live high on the hog. Most of the time we clipped coupons like the rest of the world and knew money didnt grow on trees. My mom  responded, "George, I am accustomed to paper plates. Applebees would have been fine." At that moment it occurred to me that perhaps George was trying to buy my mother. It felt awkward and sickening.

I also became close with George's mother, an eccentric Al-Anon veteran, husband to a recovering alcoholic, that read my blogs and wrote me letters that God had instructed her to write. In each she would tell me how God was commanding her to tell me that she and her kid belonged together. I laughed it off. She's a mom. What could I say or do? But looking back this was another warning sign.

A week after meeting my mom I met his dad. They seemed like a nice duo. We went to a Mets Game, used Saul's family's box, and hug out some. While I liked his dad it seemed like the two were trying to put on a show for me. From what George told me his dad had been a violent drunk. Now they were getting along great and his mom even called. It's like they were the perfect family, beyond the Clever's, something smelled like an act. George insisted that he had grown up in Corktown, a terrible area of Detroit, but his dad insisted the family was from Ann Arbor. He was hardly the towering ogre descried in his son's stories as well. After the meeting his mother sent me a letter that is still suspicious to this day, "I am glad George's father gets to meet you. All of George's girlfriend's disappear before we can meet them."

During the four month mark in the relationship George told me that Alex Kelly, the man responsible for being the first one convicted of date rape had grown up outside of where he was from in Detroit in a gated community. Anyway, one of the victims was from his part of town. George told me after Alex Kelly was captured in Europe where he had been hiding with family money and brought to the US his friend's dad was the prosecutor that coined the term date rape. I remember going on wikipedia and looking this stuff up just to see his friend's dad's name. What I found surprised me. Alex Kelly happened in Darien, CT, not even remotely close to Detroit. At that moment I began to wonder, was I in a relationship with someone who lied for the sake of lying? The thought raced through my mind. I found myself ashamed and surprised. George had always done what he said he was going to do. He had been a man of his word. Maybe it was a similar story.

As the relationship went on however problems, major problems began to emerge. A lot of George's stories about ex girlfriends in particular were constantly changing. This would usually come out during one of my jealous rages. He would tell me I was bad with timing. We made a vow never to talk about exes or the past but something always lingered in my mind. He treated me well and spent lots of money on me. Why was I always fighting with him? I found myself acting out in rotten ways too. Whether I was getting the  number of a different guy or lying about how I was single I couldn't stop. Friends told me the relationship was a good one and I was scared. But what was I scared of?

Around this point the truth about George's financial situation reared it's ugly head. He was in debt, big debt. It started when I accidentally answered a call from a creditor. Then he confided in me that he hadn't opened his bills or paid them for several months. We went from fancy dinners to me footing the bill. I didn't mind it. I loved him and told him he had to make it right with the creditors. At the time I had a little money and even offered to bail him out. He told me he could handle it when really he was falling deeper into debt.

Our already fragile relationship plagued with fights was put on further thin ice when George's friend Jenny moved in with him. Apparently they had accidentally gotten drunk and messed around when they were kids once but didnt want it to ruin the friendship and they had since been seeing other people. My friends all warned me to be weary. But George let me know I had nothing to fear and that she was happy about me.

 Jenny seemed nice when I met her, and told me horror stories about what a psycho George's ex fiance was. I heard how this woman wouldn't eat, how she just ran all the time, and was miserable to be around. I also heard about how she forbade George's friendship with Jenny. But Jenny told me this woman had been such a wreck she already got fired from her job in DC that she had lobbied so hard for.

But the second Jenny moved in she began to demand all of George's time acting as if she were the girlfriend. In an attempt to drive a wedge between us she demanded George take off work to take her to the doctors. Then she also would purposely break things so George would have to fix them when I was there. Jenny would also make allegations that people assaulted her so George would have to risk his law license and threaten them physically. One time she even poisoned her dog in order to have George drive it to the animal hospital. The fights became more intense and the unhappiness more profound. I stopped eating and my moods changed. This was hell. Either she had to go or I would. I didnt want to but I made the demand with George. He told me I was imaging things and Jenny didn't know not to keep bringing up the ex fiance that was gone.

The beginning of the end was during a dinner with an obnoxious couple George and I knew where the husband took a jab at me because of my past. My boyfriend didnt step up to defend me. Then his wife was equally obnoxious. After they left Jenny told George something and a huge fight broke out between us. We had two more fights, finally ending in complete hell Labor Day Weekend. When he called me to break up I was done and gone already. I had erased his number from my phone.

I was hurt and crushed. But my dad said something important to me, "April, the secret to being in a relationship is you actually have to like them. And also, lawyers are nuts. I don't even like other lawyers. When I can avoid spending time with them I do."

Two days later I ran into a lawyer friend who knew George. He said George had not been employed for months because of judicial misconduct and was in danger of losing his license. I wanted to find out what else Mr. Fabulous, JD was lying about. I googled the Detroit Cobras who are a revolving door band and list all their members. He was no where to be found. I also googled every ex girlfriend he ever mentioned. The Playboy Model was so well known Google couldn't find her. Romeo Rojas was not famous for playing soccer but owning a paint company. The chick on VH1 that he met at the Comedy Cellar never plays their, she is an alt girl. As for the winner of the Academy Award for Costume Design, the year she supposedly won the award went to a man. And his Violent Femmes concert on CD, I found the Haitian who sold that in Harlem on bootleg. The tie to Hoffa was fake as well. Everything was fake.

No wonder his girlfriends disappeared before anyone could meet them, fake women do that. I still remember the picture of his ex-fiance from his law school graduation, looking miserable like Emily Dickinson dragged out of hell and wanting to kill him. Out of morbid curiosity I googled her and found out not only was she happily running and winning road races but had gotten a promotion with the Department of Justice, the job she supposedly lost. I went from being jealous as hell to feeling bad. I gave six months to this perpetual truth adjuster while she had given two years. Poor thing.

At first I was angry I had been lied to like I had been. Had I been so wicked and awful that he felt the need to bend the truth? I felt violated. George knew about all my trust issues and went the extra mile just to lie to me because I was so clearly so desperate. People told me I should have been more careful trusting, meanwhile it took me so much work to trust him. I was so angry that I could have just beaten him with a baseball bat. For once I felt like I had a good man only to be played by the greatest liar of all time. More than anything, I was angry at myself for being so stupid.The kicker was the song he wrote me was playing on the radio about a week later. It seems Snow Patrol stole it.

Angrily I blogged about him. My mother begged me not to because she insisted his mother was crying. My response was, "Let the bitch cry. She's a psycho who tried to pawn me off of her kid. God hates them all." I also rebelled by dating the worst guys possible because at least they were honest. But the truth was, I couldn't go back to dining and dashing. I couldn't go back to paying someone's way. I had been treated to well by George Washington, attorney at law. That made the whole thing sting even more.

I found out about a year later he told some story about having cancer. I told a mutual friend I had doubts about the cancer being real. Our friend yelled at me and said, "What if he dies?"

My terse response was, "For once in his stupid fucking life he will be telling the truth."

My dad of course had the best take. He said, "Wherever that boy is going, let him go. Because he doesn't even know."

Stories have gotten back to me from mutual friends and acquaintances that unlike his namesake who could not tell a lie, George Washington, attorney at law, cannot tell the truth. A compulsive liar is someone who's self-worth is floor level and feels the need to alter the story constantly. It is someone who has something to prove. It is someone who is hallow. It is someone who hurts others, and most of the time unintentionally. It took me some time but I don't view George as evil and don't have an ax to grind. If anything I feel bad for him, always living a lie and telling so many he forgot where the lie ends and the truth begins. Always having to remember and never quite remembering who he told what to.

The lessons I walked away with were that I had settled, setting the bar very low because that was where my self-worth was. Some of it was the product of being treated badly, and some of it was just young female insecurity. But I wasn't the gum on anyone's shoe and I certainly was good enough for someone of quality as long as I believed I was. Just because someone had a suit, a job, and benefits as well as a nice pad didn't make them a good person. They deserved to be scrutinized like everyone else. Maybe life had been such a nightmare that I wanted to believe the guy who looked good was heaven when really he was hell, just in a way I never imaged.

For as much as I hated George's friend Jenny I am now grateful for her. If she hadn't broken us up I may have married George, had children, and after six years in some change discovered who he really was. That wouldnt have been painful. It would have been tragic.

I used to tell him when I was going to see him I would rip him up. Tell him to fuck off, fuck his fucking psycho mother, and maybe he would fucking die.

Now I realize he builds castles in the sky, not because he is evil but rather because he is sick and confused. In his mind he lives there, not because he wants to be alone but because the world is too cruel and reality is too painful. When you are in the castle in the sky, riding in the chariot in the wind, you don't live in real time which can be cruel and reminds us all that we fall short. While it's not the road I take, as I spend more time on this Earth I realize there are reasons why people do what they do.

If I were to see him now I wouldn't rip him up. Instead I would thank him for making me run after my dreams and getting me to talk about what I wanted to do with my life instead of dating ex cons. I would thank him for treating me kindly when not many guys I dated did, because for a while he did treat me like a princess. In a way he also raised the standards in my life for a bit.

However, I would tell him, "I know life is hard and lonely for you and I am sorry. I hope one day you do find whatever it is you are looking for. I hope you finally get to move into your castle in the sky."

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

Come to my book signing at Symposia on November 15 at 7 PM
510 Washington St. in Hoboken
Portion of Proceeds go to the American Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy

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