Sunday, July 09, 2006

Would Misery Have Loved Company? I Guess We'll Never Know

Lately I've found myself thinking a lot about this girl I went to high school with, whom we’ll call “Betsy” for the purposes of this entry (“Betsy” being a name I just randomly thought of).
Why have I been thinking about her? No clue.
She appeared in a dream I had a bit ago and since then she’s just popped up in my thoughts periodically.
She's not someone I knew really well or talked to that often, or really even thought about that much, though I will say that she was gorgeous. Her one flaw was that she was really skinny, like rail-thin, though she still had at least a decent body and she wasn’t totally bony and anorexic-looking. If you think Keira Knightley, you really wouldn’t be far off.
The main things about her were her beautiful eyes and her goofy, cartoony voice.
My ex-wife, Lorie, for some reason, was always really jealous of her, though I never understood why. I think she thought that they looked alike (apart from both being really skinny, they didn't look a thing alike), except that “Betsy” was clearly prettier (this isn’t a dig on my ex, it’s just a fact) and somehow in her mind that made her a threat, even though I expressed no interest in “Betsy.” I don't know. There was one time when Lorie's high school basketball team was playing mine (at my school), so I’d gone to the game with my dad in order to be able to see her (we lived a fair distance apart and didn’t get to see each other all that often) and she and I were walking in the hallway when “Betsy” walked past and said hi.
Lorie always claimed that as she walked past “Betsy” slowly ran her hand across my chest and said, "Hi Jonnnn," in a sexy voice.
Now I can be fairly oblivious a lot of the time, but I think I would have noticed something like that, and the fact of the matter is that, outside of Lorie’s paranoid imaginings, that never happened (though she continued to insist that it had throughout our relationship).
Basically, “Betsy” would have had no reason whatsoever to do something like that. In the first place the very idea probably would have repulsed her more than a little. In the second, there was one guy – and one guy only – for whom “Betsy” had eyes (or hands).
Now there was a girl – who Lorie legitimately could and should have viewed as a threat – at my school who would have done something like that, though she would have done it as a joke for the purposes of messing with Lorie’s head (and mine as well).
That wouldn’t have been “Betsy’s” style, though, so again, it never happened.
(As a brief aside, in 9th grade PE we did a section on water safety in the pool, and one of the things we had to do was practice different techniques for rescuing people who are drowning. I was partnered up with “Betsy” for this. I played the drowning victim in one scenario which involved “Betsy” holding onto the edge of the pool and extending her leg for me to grab onto so that she could pull me in. The PE teacher walked by as I was being pulled in and said, “If you were really drowning, you’d be climbing all over her.” Before I assured her that I had no intention of doing so, there was a look of sheer terror in her eyes at the thought of such a thing happening.)
Oh, and one other thing that proves that it didn’t happen is that she never called me “Jon.” Most people in high school either called me Jon-Paul, or, irritatingly, “JP.”
I mentioned that “Betsy” had eyes for only one guy. We’ll call him “Lump,” since that’s all he ever seemed like to me.
From what I could see, “Lump” had zero personality. I don’t think that I ever heard him say anything in my four years there.
But people loved him. They thought he was the greatest person ever.
Especially “Betsy”.
He was actually a year behind “Betsy” and I, so after graduation she waited a year to start college so that she and “Lump” could go together. They stayed together all through college and eventually got married.
(I went to their wedding reception, mostly because my sister was friends with “Lump’s” sister.)
As I said, “Betsy” only had eyes for “Lump.” It was a devotion that bordered on pathology; she would freak out if another girl so much as talked to him.
(Oddly enough, a couple of her friends actually did seem to be trying to steal “Lump” away from her. As I said, everyone thought “Lump” was the greatest. I never understood it. It’s not as though he was especially good-looking, and as I said, he had no personality. I don’t say this from the perspective of someone who was jealous – my jealousy was reserved for the guys who people loved that were assholes, not the personality-less “Lump” – just someone who was, and remains, profoundly baffled by it.)
A couple of years after they’d gotten married I’d found out that they were getting divorced because “Betsy” had been cheating on “Lump.”
That was a “What the…?” kind of moment. I mean, given her total, obsessive devotion to him, who could have ever predicted that?
Some time shortly before I left Michigan for Tucson, I saw her shopping in the grocery store I was working in.
She was uncharacteristically “dressed down” in a pair of old sweats and a sweatshirt and she looked extremely sad.
It was quite a contrast to the last time I’d seen her, which had been a couple of years earlier, on the back of a float in some kind of parade dancing around in a bikini top and a pair of shorts, demonstrating the fact that she had filled out considerably since high school.
In any case, I walked over to her in the store and said hello.
We proceeded to talk for quite a while, probably longer than all of the times we’d ever spoken combined.
I told her about how I was just recently out of rehab and that I was heading to Tucson to try to get a fresh start, and she told me that she’d had some problems as well.
She didn’t get into too many specifics, but from what I was able to piece together it seemed that she had suffered from a hormonal problem that had caused her to behave very erratically before finally reaching a point at which she had to spend some time in a pscyh ward, and ultimately she’d had to have a hysterectomy performed.
(It bears mentioning that the term “hysteria” was coined by Hippocrates who thought it was an exclusively feminine affliction which was caused by the irregular movement of blood from the uterus to the brain.)
This is what I think happened, at any rate. As I said, she was a little vague on most of the details.
In any case, if the condition had been present for some time prior, it probably went a long way towards explaining the sudden shift in her personality that led to her marriage falling apart, though this is largely speculation on my part.
Still, it was clear that whatever she had gone through was weighing on her very heavily, and there was a sort of crazed sadness in her eyes, and I have to say that it gave her a kind of depth that I’d never seen before, as I’d always viewed her to be rather superficial.
Further, as she stood there looking lost, uncertain, and wounded, I actually felt a connection with her, as we were in very similar straits, having gotten to a point in our lives in which mistakes of the past had managed to make our futures uncertain.
Like me she was in a process of recovery, and we were able to share – however briefly – a bond that only two people in our respective situations could share.
She mentioned that she was staying with her mom and that she didn’t go out much. As she self-consciously tugged at her clothes and ran her hand through her disheveled hair, she said, “I must look like a mess.”
I wanted to tell her that despite the shabby clothes and the lack of make up and her messy hair she looked more beautiful than I’d ever seen her look, that the fact that she had gone through something horrible and– shaky and wounded though she might have been – made it to the other side had given her a beauty, and a strength, and a depth of character that she would be able to see if only she looked hard enough. If only she had someone to show her.
Instead, I simply told her, “You look fine.”
(I did say it as earnestly as possible, if that counts for anything.)
If it hadn’t been for the fact that I was leaving Michigan – presumably forever – in a couple of weeks, I might have said, “Maybe if you’re not doing anything, or you’d like to have someone to talk to…” but I was leaving, and honestly, despite that momentary connection…well, I don’t know, but the fact is I didn’t say it.
I have no idea what happened to her after we parted company that night, and I really don’t know why she suddenly popped up in my dream, but the fact remains that – nearly six years later – I find myself wondering what happened to her and what might have happened if I’d spoken up.
If nothing else, me having the audacity to ask her out most likely would have given her a much-needed laugh…
Today is the only day I’ll have off before having to go through five days of training and a day for work.
I’ve manage to totally waste it, as I haven’t accomplished a goddamn thing all day, though I did at least shave and shower, so I guess that’s something.
To close things on a less serious and introspective note, check out dust art.
It’s not quite as impressive as the Etch-A-Sketch stuff, but still pretty cool.
And if you want to see more of this kind of stuff without having to wait for me to share the links with you, check out Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog.

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