Johnnersintheraw's Blog

May 10, 2010

My Three Favourite Love-Affairs

And how I sometimes got it wrong

Now my original intention today was not to write about any of my sorry, long-term relationships.  After all, they weren’t all that funny (at least, I didn’t laugh all that much when they were crumbling under my feet) and I am emphatically not here to write a sob story.  But then, as usual, my febrile little mind knew better than I what it wanted to do, and it instantly channelled one of Cloris Leachman’s characters (I believe it was ‘Nurse Diesel’),whereupon I went into a trance and when I woke up again, this little sweet and sour saga was on my computer.  And would you believe it?  I could not delete it for love or money.  Not only that, I was threatened by Ms. Diesel with the withholding of my fruit cup if I refused to post it on to my hitherto merry little blog.  And if you are unaware of the importance of a ‘fruit cup’, I advise you to go out and rent Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety” before you do anything else. Otherwise, you won’t understand a bloody word and I shall be forced to bore you with many thousands of words of an explanatory nature.  So here we go, which is my cue to take a deep breath and prepare to wallow in self pity.  And also to feel sorry for myself.  And please don’t feel obliged to join my pity-party yourselves, and pleeeeease don’t let it remind you of the times you were an enabler, because it is my story; not yours.

Let us start off with long-term relationship number one.  Now, this one lasted a good many years; we loved each other dearly and we never had any personality clashes whatsoever.  I don’t think we even had a spat. The only difficulty was that, while we were being ever-supportive and ever-loving and as bland as white bread to each other, she was also getting married and divorced on a serial basis.  To be fair to her (she was Greek, you know, so I must make allowances), when I first became involved with her she was separating from her first husband; she was on the verge of obtaining a Decree Nici and gearing up for a period of strict celibacy and good behaviour – as was, back in ‘thim thar days’, the usual procedure.  So we played the game.  We were both very discreet, and it also gave us time to let our relationship unfold is a lazy manner. Or as some people might say, to blossom. I appreciated the extra time because it provided me with space in which to breathe, and also a period in which to get to know her better without undue pressure.  Now, her divorce had been particularly acrimonious, and because of the nature of the (then) waiting period, she was extra careful.  There was also the question of alimony and I believe her ‘ex’ was contesting the judgment passed in the divorce court.

So anyway, there we were, very discreet, very relaxed, and to all intents and purposes – as far as the outside world was concerned – brother and sister.  In fact, her ex-spouse knew who I was, but he thought I was some faggot she’d picked up and was so hopelessly bent that I presented no threat whatsoever.  Consequently, I squired her to restaurants and theatres, etc., with impunity.

Now, the only problem with this was that, while I was taking her here, there and everywhere and keeping her company on the odd afternoon, she was – unbeknownst to me – sleeping with a real estate agent in South Kensington.  You have to understand, I’m a very easygoing chap; I don’t put much faith in chastity or monogamy, and am so pathetically unjealous (at least as far as interpersonal relationships are concerned) that I tend to overlook some very obvious signs.  Now this real estate agent – and I cannot remember what his name was or else I would tell you – was an extremely nice person. So nice, in fact, that since he was a real estate agent, I should have been suspicious.  But, of course, being as blind as a bat, I wasn’t.  Now, the thing was, even after her divorce had become absolute and she had  – without telling me – married this real estate agent (who had – in the meantime – divorced his own wife) I still didn’t catch on.  I continued to see her and to squire her about town, and was somehow deluded into thinking we might still have a future.  That being said, once the penny dropped and I realised that I had plenty of time to ply my troth (as one does), I moved to Moscow to study, and then to India – where I stayed with a girlfriend and her millionaire steel-merchant mother and then – when that fell apart (and it is a wonderful story, and you’ll be glad it didn’t happen to you), I moved back to London, and then immediately to Vienna.  And in Vienna, yes, I moved in with my little Greek friend and her step-parents in their tiny apartment in Vorgartenstraβe in the 11th district (which was in the old soviet quarter, and which was – and perhaps still is – called Stalingrad). Now just so you know, whilst I was studying in Moscow, and playing polo and riding race horses in Calcutta and in the middle of yet another doomed relationship – my little Greek friend had separated from her real estate husband and was cooling her heals in Austria.  Needless to say, we immediately took up our relationship from where it had been so rudely interrupted.  And to be honest, it was very, very comfortable.  However, not so comfortable that I turned down an offer to move to Spoleto with a certain theatre company that just happened to have a rather good reputation.  In fact, as I remember it, I immediately said “good-bye” and crossed the Alps – never to look back again.

I didn’t see my little Greek friend for about three or four years.  I was busy working and didn’t particularly notice that absence made our love stronger; or that it made it any weaker.  It just stayed where it was like one of those custard puddings whose sole purpose in life is to be eternally bland and never to acquire a point of view.  And so, like that custard pudding, our love affair continued and continued and continued.  It simply coasted along in the old familiar way and both of us thought (if and when we thought about it at all), “Que Sera, sera!”

We shall now cut to the summer when I had been performing at the Jerusalem Festival. When the engagement was finished and I was planning to return to New York (where I was hanging my hat at the time), I thought it might be fun to stop off in London en route and see how my little Greek friend was.

Now this is where we get to the bitter pill.  I landed in Heathrow, took the underground to South Kensington and trotted along to her flat.  Needless to say, she had resumed her off-again-on again affair with the real estate agent, who had eventually dumped her and had gone back to the wife he had had before the wife that came before my Greek friend.  With all this to-ing and fro-ing going on, she had somehow found the time to start drinking. And when I say drink, she was like the Thames.  Completely sodden.  And by the time I appeared in London, she was existing on booze – and booze, alone – and was clearly on her way out.  And, of course, that was when she finally decided that I was the man for her.

In the end, the real estate agent put his new marriage to his first wife on hold and came to help her sort herself out.  And since I was obviously in the way, I returned to New York.  I only heard from her one more time.  That was when she was dying. Or at least, she said she was dying, and I respect and love her enough not to listen to all those conflicting rumours that give her a much less romantic, La Boheme, ending.

Now, as my wonderful little Greek was either dying or she was not, I became involved with an activist type in Beverly Hills (I know I forget to tell you, but by this time, I had moved there).   I wasted no time in settling in with her and with her five dogs and fourteen cats, and we all lived together in her teeny, tiny former carriage house in the hills.  And for the most part, things were fine.  I spent my days writing, she spent her days ‘activizing’ and protesting  and generally ruining other peoples’ fun, and then at night, we would go out on the town and then finish up with a great deal of noisy, rampant sex.  Now this went on for a while – say three weeks and a half – and then she decided it would all be so much simpler if she just started getting drunk every night.  Having just been through this, I thought to myself, “Hmmm… I don’t really know about this,” and I had a feeling it was time to move – and quickly.  But, of course, since I was still young, optimistic and incurably, I thought (you know what’s coming), “No, under my sober and calming influence everything will work out.”  And, it goes without saying the “everything” did work out, in quite the opposite direction.  In other words, her drinking got heavier and heavier, her next-door neighbours – who had always kept an eye out for her – both died of AIDS-related whatever, and she started to get violent.  And all this time, my inner voice was saying, “You blithering idiot, Get Out Now!”  But I didn’t.  I knew nothing was going to change, except it did:  it got a whole lot worse.  Until at the end, she stabbed me.

Now, I don’t know if you have ever been stabbed, but it hurts.  As soon as I saw the knife in her hand – (it was a lovely summer evening, we were lounging under the bougainvillea and she was tossing back a half-gallon glass of vodka and grapefruit juice (with the emphasis on the vodka)  – I thought to myself (perfectly rationally), “This is going to hurt.”  And the reason I knew it was going to hurt, because I had been there before – back in Calcutta (which is part of the story to do with India, a story which I am saving up for that sad, rainy day when I can’t think of any more ‘willy’ ditties).

But getting back to the stabbing, do you want to know something?  It did hurt.  Just as badly as it did before, and even worse, because this time my assailant slipped in a pile of dog shit and managed, not only to plunge the knife into my flesh, but to severe a nerve and get the point stuck in a bone.

The upshot?  I did finally did move out, and she ended up in some sort of ‘program’ in Palm Springs (or someplace like that).  I didn’t bear her any ill-will; the relationship had clearly passed its sell-by date.  However, in spite of the fact that she had blanked the whole thing out and was in denial about the police reports, she wanted me to move back in with her, so we could start all over again.  She even mentioned that she missed our sex.  And this really baffled me, seeing as how – after the first three and a half weeks – we hadn’t had any; if she had been having great sex, it certainly was not with me.  I had been sleeping on the other side of the room on a beanbag, and she’d been lounging in bed alone and snorkelling vodka.  Memory is such a wonderful thing.

Let us now lurch forward ten years or so.  I was beavering away on whatever I was doing to support my writing, when I received a phone call from an acquaintance.  He mentioned that a good mate of his had just been released from hospital; he was at home, but in traction.  He obviously had regular nursing care, as well as home-help.  However, this acquaintance of mine wanted to know if I could look in on this guy, and I said, “Absolutely.”  So he took me along, the two of us were introduced, and right way, “Bingo!” and my good sense flew out the window.  Obviously, because of his physical condition we did have a number of months to get acquainted before our relationship could progress to the next level; but all in all, it was a wonderful period in my life.  And, also, since neither of us knew whether sex would ever be possible, we didn’t have that sort of pressure.  We simply took things as they came and enjoyed the moment.

Now at this point I should probably make a confession.  I am not a drinker (I might like to have been, but the booze said, “No,” which as it turned out was probably just as well), and with one or two exceptions, I have never hung out with drinkers (we will slide over my stand-up partner for the present time, but – don’t worry, I’ll get even).  Frankly, I do not like to be around drinkers.  Not even any of my casual flings have been with drinkers. Having said that (just so you know how virtuous I am), the reason this guy was in traction, was that he had gotten smashed on a bottle of Irish whiskey and had leapt through a second-storey window on to a barrow.  One or two bones may have missed out on the fun, but let us just say, he was really a disaster area. 

But of course, being me, I was in love and I didn’t pay attention to certain little warning bells in my head. You know – the same ones I had ignored before?  And, believe me, they were ringing loud and clear.

Anyway, over the coming months the two of us formed a wonderful bond, and eventually, when he was up and about (and on a Zimmer), we slowly and without any planning, let things take their course.

And everything in the garden was lovely.  I was content and he was happy; so happy, in fact, that – had I but known it – he was fey.

Then one night when I was busy with some project or other, he called me on my car phone (yes, it was that long ago) and asked me if I could possibly interrupt whatever I was doing and hurry over to his house.  He said it was urgent.  And because of the way he sounded, and because of what he had been through, I put my little roadster in gear and complied.

He met me at the door, and he was sloshed out of his mind.  I asked him what had happened; he begged me to make love to him then and there.  And during this love-making – (and this love-making was the desperate love-making of a man falling off a cliff) – he confessed that he was terrified that things might go wrong again; and that he had never been so happy.  He simply could not face any more of what life had to offer.  But then he smiled, and added, “but it’s all right now.”

The stupid fucking idiot had drunk an entire bottle of Irish whiskey – just as he had done so many months before – only this time he had also swallowed two bottled of painkillers.  For during all those months in traction he had been storing them up.

So he died on top of me.  I phoned his case worker (who was furious because I had roused him out of a sound sleep), and then I called the police.

And the upshot was, I had an enormous fight with the social workers and with his doctor and with his family.  Because, you see, they had glossed the whole thing over.  It was officially declared an accidental death.  And this was when I went to war.  Because my friend knew exactly what he was doing, and he felt very strongly about it.  It was what he needed to do.   What it more, he wanted other people to know it had been his decision. But, of course, in the end, the insurance companies, his case worker, and his family – who hadn’t paid him a single visit during all those months I had known him – had the final say.  It was declare accidental.  In other words, they had all decided that their own good and what other people thought were more important than his little bit of dignity. 

Anyway, that was that; life moved on. It was a few years ago and in a faraway country and nobody but me remembers.   But he deserved a whole lot better than what he got.  And that’s all I shall say on the subject.

NB. At some point in the future we shall take a little trip: it shall be to India, and to astrologers, and elephant polo, and horse racing and platoons of servants and a random stabbing or two and the sinking of a yacht and a nervous breakdown and all the other good and fun activities that make life such a merry-go-round… and (he sighs deeply) once again, to a celibate life when all I went there for was a little bit of what everyone else seems to get (or, at least, what they say they get).  A bit of “how’s your father?”

‘Til tomorrow…. bye bye.


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