It is a strange thing knowing that the end is coming. It is a strange thing to know that this night very clearly marks the end of an era in your life. It is also very strange to know it isn't going to end quickly. It is going to end very slowly and very painfully. It is also very strange to be sharing these circumstances with someone who is pretty much in the same boat. They are also going on a long ride of disaster that will begin the following morning. Their ride might not be quite as difficult as yours, but you both realize what this means.
"This is the last night. This is the beginning of the end."
It was New Years Eve, December 31, 2006. It was a cold night in New Hampshire, but most nights are cold there in winter. For almost two years I had been reunited with and living with the woman I used to call The Muse. Things had gone through rocky periods and insanely difficult periods, and although her official diagnosis was bipolar disorder, psychiatrists later on, after she had spent time in-patient in a psych ward, wanted to take her off her meds to reassess because she was showing signs of being a very extreme case of borderline personality disorder.
Part of The Former Muse's approach to life involved needing to create chaos in order to, basically, feel alive. Much of that is discussed elsewhere, but one of the things she took to in order to inject chaos into the system was her penchant for compulsive sexual behavior. This reached certain extremes at times, and often these actions were combined with the waves of desire she felt to hurt me or drive me away. These waves would be tempered on the other side by desires to make me feel good and to keep me from leaving. One of the things she did that combined both elements was to bring another woman into our relationship.
For two months it seemed to work perfectly. It worked a little too perfectly. There was balance, and I was in a relationship with two bi-sexual women and it was nothing to complain about. And then the Former Muse decided it wasn't working. She needed to be the center of attention. She slept with Katie and I did not. She slept with me and Katie did not. We were almost never all in the same room any longer, at least until the day before New Years Eve when we went together to pick up Katie in Connecticut so she could come back from visiting her family earlier than planned and spend time with us.
The Former Muse had a major episode and demanded that I go to bed that night because she had a lot of catching up to do with Katie. It got to the point where I announced that I was leaving and it was over.
"I can't handle her on my own. I can't do it without you. I need you," Katie told me.
"There is only so much I can do. Give me a reason before she does."
The thing was, the Former Muse always spends New Years Eve babysitting her nephew so her brother and his wife can go out that night. She's been doing this since her nephew was a newborn. This meant that Katie and me would be alone together on New Years Eve.
6:00 pm, December 31, 2006.
"Want to split a bottle of tequila?" I asked.
"I would, but that will get us in trouble. She'll kill us both."
"She can't even kill herself, how do you think she'll manage to kill us?"
"This night can't be about getting shitfaced and fucking. I know you know what I mean."
"The last night before everything goes black."
"Something like that. She's going to be pissed no matter what we do. That doesn't matter. I think this night has to be special, in its own way."
"Right. For us."
8:00 pm, December 31, 2006.
"Show me everything. Show me your writing. Show me your favorite movies. Put on your favorite music."
"You know that is exactly the thing that pisses her off. We connect on other levels. She's insanely jealous of us having so many similar interests."
"Tonight she can fuck herself. You pick first. Movie or music?"
I went with music. I started it off slowly, but with a punch. Peter Gabriel. Here Comes The Flood. You have to start a live mix tape with something poignant.
There's no point in direction
We cannot even choose a side.
When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You're a thousand minds, within a flash
Don't be afraid to cry at what you see
The actor's gone, there's only you and me
And if we break before the dawn,
they'll use up what we used to be
We did a lot of crying. We did a lot of laughing. The knowledge that everything is about to turn to complete shit is a very powerful thing. We took turns putting on songs. I pulled out my files and showed her my writing. She brought out her yearbook and told me about how she had once been the president of her high school Christian Angels group.
"Maybe if I stayed with that I wouldn't be in this situation, but I don't think I could have dealt with not getting to meet you, or her. I'll tell you a secret, though. While I was trying to figure out whether I was a lesbian or not, I met you. And I had to get to know you better. That led to her and all this. She doesn't know, but you were the reason, not her."
"Starting tomorrow she will try to destroy me before I can leave her, and she will try to monopolize every moment of your life. Did you know that you were born nine months after her and I went on our first date?"
"I heard you liked younger women."
"I'm a sick fuck. What's the next song?"
The actor's gone, there's only you and me.
10:00 pm, December 31, 2006.
"We've burned almost all the wood for the fireplace. Either we burn the rest or turn on the electric heaters. It is about -10 outside."
"Yeah, you know what will happen. She'll claim we used all her wood in the process of betraying her."
"Fuck her. We're keeping her pets warm."
Max, the Former Muse's companion for more than ten years, a very sad labrador retriever looked at us both with a look that said, "You can get out of this. I can't. Run, motherfuckers, run!"
"Did you see that look?"
"Sometimes dogs are smarter than we are."
11:58 pm, December 31, 2006.
"Okay, time to pause the movie. It is almost midnight. We have to be ready for the toast and the kiss--"
The telephone rang. At first we figured it was the Former Muse, calling to wish us a happy New Year. It was a bad guess. It was actually The Nightingale, one of the great loves of my life, with whom I've had an ongoing thing for several years. We always talk to each other at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve. I should have known she would come through.
"I love you, baby! Happy New Years!"
Katie laughed. "You aren't making up these stories of yours, are you?"
"Anything about my life I made up would be a lot more boring than the truth."
"The fucking flood."
"How does both of us being slowly tortured and crucified play on your former Christian Angel life?"
"A toast to us both surviving. It isn't going to be pretty, but we'll make it. I don't think you're going to leave as quickly as you say you will. She'll hold you here. And she'll hold me as well."
"Psychopaths have that kind of power, don't they?"
"I will toast to us coming out on the other side and not hating each other in the end."
"We'll hate each other along the way, but not in the end. That I promise you."
1:00 am, January 1, 2007
More music and another movie. It was an indulgence, sharing our most favorite things with each other. It was a worthy indulgence. We knew what was coming. We were both in love with and trapped in a very sick relationship with a very sick woman. Neither of us could leave, at least not yet, but we knew we would come out on the other side. It is a hard thing to understand if you weren't there. One would think that to run and hide would be the preferred option, but it wasn't like that.
"Okay, two hours of nothing but comedy. We need to laugh."
"Deal. Can I get you another drink?"
3:00 am, January 1, 2007
Holding strong, wrapped in an embrace on the couch, watching After Hours which contains some poignant references to a suicide with the same name as the Former Muse. We both laughed at the horrible reality of it all. The horrible reality of the situation. Then she introduced me to Eddie Izzard and Freaks and Geeks. I introduced her to music from before her time. She introduced me to music from after my time. There was balance in the system.
There was an old piano that didn't work amongst the crap the Former Muse tended to collect and decorate her living space with. I put on another song and went to the piano, pretending to play while I sang along.
Now you see this one-eyed midget
Shouting the word "NOW"
And you say, "For what reason?"
And he says, "How?"
And you say, "What does this mean?"
And he screams back, "You're a cow
Give me some milk
Or else go home"
Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
--Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
We would share our most intimate details and our most guarded secrets. We would open up to each other in ways we never had to anyone else. All while knowing that when morning came we would become mortal enemies fighting with each other over a woman we both loved and both knew would destroy us.
"It is the way of things."
7:00 am, January 1, 2007
"As soon as this movie is over, I have one last song to play and then I really need to go to sleep."
Funny how the time just flies.
How love can turn from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you've memorized
To keep your winters warm.
There's no yes in yesterday
And who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away
As long as I'm still in the game I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love.
So here's to life and all the joy it brings.
Here's to life, the dreamers and their dreams.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that's good get better.
Here's to life, here's to love, here's to you.
--Shirley Horn, "Here's To Life"
It took almost six months before we met each other again on the other side. We both survived, but we both took a lot of damage. The Jack of Hearts and the Fourth Queen. As much as we came to hate each other during those months, and we hated each other as much as two people can hate each other, there was a little smile inside each of us. We knew we'd be okay.
When I left New Hampshire I tried to make a CD of the songs we listened to that night, hers and mine. And after she listened to it all she told me was, "I'm just glad you put 'Here's to Life' on it."
We would never forget that night. It was one long kiss we held onto for as long as we could.