On the brink of disaster



April 20, 1987

            It is the day after Easter – perhaps one of the most significant times of change for me over the years.

            This year is no different, although I still don’t fully understand what is going on in my life or the woman with whom I am currently involved.

            It is almost as if I have gone back in time to the days of my confused youth, wandering through a strange, perverted and terrifying underworld, scared out of my wits, yet at the same time, thrilled by the experience.

            The big difference from then is the lack of hope.

            Back then, when I wandered in this underworld, I assumed that things would get better for me and my companions.

            I do not see that kind of hope now.

            Peggy’s condition has taken on a sense of permanence, as if her use of drugs and their associated mood swings will go on and on, until she wears out and ceases to function, unable to maintain her place in the straight world and lose control of her facilities which allow her to maintain herself at the office.

            Right now, I believe, she survive s on the ability of her drugs to motivate her, getting her moving in the morning so she can pass through the day until she has to crash at night, later, winding herself down from that tension with another drug or maybe alcohol..

            When she sings, she almost screaming, making herself change roles.

            No wonder she suffers from ulcers

            The whole Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde change of personality she undergoes morning to night cannot simply be explained away with everyday tension, nor can the rage and cursing she displayed on Saturday.

            I’m more than a little startled by the fact that she believes I have control over her because I can please her sexually, and she fears I might somehow use this power to hurt her in the future.

            She hates feeling vulnerable, even when it feels good. She needs to maintain control even if it means denying herself pleasure.

            She lives in a very sad world.


Dec. 20, 2010

            In transcribing old journal entries from 1987, I noticed several memories of Peggy that I apparently neglected to jot down.

            Although I mentioned the American flag she had displayed on her third floor fire escape of her apartment at 238 Harrison Avenue, my journals didn’t detail just how attached she was to it. She told me she would never take it down, and that it belonged to a hero relative. My best guess would be Peter Yacyniak, a Garfield resident who had perished in World War II and is among Garfield’s noted deceased veterans who died during the Normandy invasion in June 1944.

Peter was most likely Peggy’s uncle, the brother father and the son of her grandparents, George and Mary Yacyniak, and likely grew up or lived to a time at 439 Lanza Avenue, with his parents – although records show his enlistment site as Trenton.

Born in 1917, he worked in machine shops locally before enlisting into the U.S. Army on Aug. 11, 1941, four months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor plunged America into war.

At five foot seven inches tall and 148 pounds, he was hardly John Wayne, nor was he well-education since he only completed one year of high school.

Later, the Memorial Day after our breakup in May 1987, I saw Peggy at the Midland Avenue Memorial Day ceremony near the foot of Harrison Avenue, honoring those from Garfield who had perished in the nation’s war, suggesting maybe that the flag was Peter’s burial flag, although I never did count the number of stars displayed on it.

The flag later missing from the fire escape was my first clue that Peggy had moved out of the apartment to relocate to her sisters on Lincoln Avenue in Little Falls.

            Although briefly touched upon at various points in my journals, Peggy’s taste in music. While at home, she listened to softer stuff – except during those times right after work when she needed something more head-banging in order to make the transition. She was particularly fond of James Taylor, but there was one song that she loved above all others, a song by Fleetwood Mac, called “Landslide” which later became popular, but was largely one of those songs most people didn’t remember from their early albums.

            Peggy was shocked that I even knew about the song, let alone loved it nearly as much as she did.

            She seemed to regard the song as the theme song of her life, and perhaps it was.

            One of the more humorous memories I neglected to record involved a shaving razor. During one of my first visits to her apartment, I had to wait for her to get ready for us to go out somewhere – I don’t recall where. She wasn’t yet dressed and said she needed to shave her legs. She vanished into the bathroom and a moment later I heard plastic tapping against tiles.

            “You do that, too?” I asked.

            Her head popped out the door.

            “Do what?”

            “Hit the top of the razor to get the hair out,” I said.

            She gave me a queer look, as if she thought I had a camera in the bathroom. I explained.

            “I have the same problem with disposable razors,” I said.

            “I hate them,” she said, then went back to finish.

            As if straight out of the film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Peggy adored her cat, Jesse – a sleek, black cat with golden eyes who nuzzled my legs during my first visit, something Peggy found very odd.

            “She doesn’t like men,” Peggy said.

            But apparently the cat liked me, and continued to hang around me during my subsequent visits, even before I discovered the cat’s love of treats.

            These came in round cardboard containers Peggy kept stashed around the apartment, and for kicks, Peggy would take out one or two while she was seated on the couch and throw them into the kitchen to watch Jesse scramble across the slick ties Dog-like after them. Peggy, while she permitted me to give the cat treats now and then, she scolded me when I tried to throw them into the kitchen.
            “Only I can tease my cat,” she said.



April 21, 1987

            With Peggy, everything has a price.

            And there are unpredictable things – events that trigger off emotional responses, booby traps I have no way to foresee.

            They do not show on the surface as anything dangerous.

            What scares me most about Peggy is her inability to give, and I find myself stung over small things because she won’t give anything back emotionally.

            Last night, Tom showed up. He’s a sweet guy at the My Way Lounge she’s known a lot longer than I have, who I once mistook for her boyfriend or her pimp on several occasions.

            He has without a doubt been Peggy’s lover, but for some reason, can’t advance is case for him to become something more to her.

            His relationship to Peggy seems a lot like my own, a hanger-on, who hopes for an opportunity to become more.

            He is so much like me he feels like my twin, similar humor, intelligence and overall attitude, and above all, we both buzz around Peggy as if she was our queen bee.

             My feeling hurt really has nothing to do with Tom, except that he has become a target of Peggy’s attention, loaded with the stock phrases Peggy uses, must use, on all men. The fact that I was just coming into the bar just as he was leaving, doesn’t matter any more than the fact that I seem to have taken his place in Peggy’s life.

            But that’s wrong, too.

            I really am somebody special in Peggy’s life. She tells everybody that and everybody tells me she says it, the only person she doesn’t say it to is me.

            But she does show it in her own way, it’s just not the way I want her to. I’m always looking for something else from her, something more personal, something that separates me in her estimation from the other men she’s known.

            All this, of course, is foolish.

            I have to remind myself that Peggy comes to me out of an environment of pain and mistrust, and other men have used her for as long as she can remember.

            I just have to brace myself for each emotional shock that is bound to come, especially for the potential that she might get sick of me as she had other men.

            She won’t get rid of me entirely, she’ll just let me fade away the way she has Tom, one more wraith existing on the fringes of her life, watching life mistreat her, we hoping for another chance we know will never come.

            Considering the criminal side of her, this fringe living might not be a bad thing. “The point” revelations on Saturday have made me focus more on how much she uses it herself. Originally she denied using it, then later admitted to skin-popping cocaine. This morning she mentioned the fact that she spent a little time in county jail.

            Again I am stunned by the contradictions, her ability to be a Republican volunteer, a speech therapist, a charity fundraiser, and an certified public accountant, while also having all the markings of a hardened criminal, fully immersed in the underworld, dealing narcotics while using drugs as a miracle curt for her emotional pain.

            But she is a time bomb waiting to do damage to herself and to anyone close to her, and that terrifies me.

            Yet even more terrifying are the old feelings being around her seems to bring out of me, feelings I thought were dead and buried, jealousy, emotional childishness, fear of losing her, fear of keeping her. And I’m so busy watching what she does that I barely realize I am rapidly becoming out of control myself, and that I am also a time bomb waiting to explode.

            I’m already wondering how on earth did I manage to get myself hooked on her as hard as I am, and how I can possibly get out of this without causing pain to both of us. I think, “Maybe if I withdraw slowly.”

            But that’s not what I want. To touch her, to hold her, is to want her always.

            And that’s another thing. She is very careful not to use the word “love” with me. It is always, “I like you,” or “I like you a lot.”

            Yet last night at the bar, she used the word “love,” very freely with Tom, saying exactly what she would normally say to me, except with “love” instead of “like.”

            Perhaps us drones come in rankings, and some of us deserve like while others get love, and if so, is there a way to graduate from one condition to another?

            This, of course, leads to yet another question as to what comes after love?

            Are we destined to complete the full cycle, to go from like to love and then finally to the most passionate of all words, “hate?”

            Maybe every man she meets goes through these stages, a constant stream of lovers that are cycled out of her, passing through her life and then get tossed aside.

            If so, then why is Tom still here? Why does he still get the rank of love when he has already passed from her interest as a lover?

            And why am I still in center court?

            Maybe it has to do with kindness and his ability to step aside for a person like me to enter into Peggy’s life. Maybe he knows what I have yet to learn that no man can have her completely, and that to try to keep her is to lose her, and he would rather have this secondary role where he can hear her say love when she gives her love to another man like me.

            If this is true, then I admire Tom greatly. I’m not sure I have the stuff to be so generous as he is.



April 23, 1987

            I begin to understand how nearly impossible it is to love someone like Peggy who has learned early in life to put a price on everything – especially herself – and how she has raised herself to take as much as possible while giving up as little as necessary, and to never give away her heart if at all possible.

            She insists on testing the dedication of her lovers by making material demands, and when they can no longer provide her with material things, she gets rid of them.

            Is that what drove Robert to violence, frustration at not being able to squeeze out of Peggy what he wanted from her? Was he jealous when she decided to move on to someone else who could meet her demands?

            This is not to say Peggy is ungrateful. She’s said thanks more than once. But for some reason, it is not enough. It lacks the conviction I thought I heard in her even up to a few days ago.

            She said she had an encounter with the police the other day, and this seemed to harden her again, bringing out that streetwise cold-hearted side of her she needs to survive.

            I think she wants to give more, or at least is struggling against her habit in desire to be something she has never been able to be. She admitted several times that she wants to be able to give and wants the good feelings that come from making another person happy.

            But she also said she will never give her heart away again to any man. In fact, she said, sill will not stop dating other men even when she’s seeing one man regularly – meaning me I suppose.

            I foolishly asked what she meant by “going out,” and she made it very clear that even if I’m in her life there will be other men sharing her bed. While I’ll be “special” to her, I won’t be exclusive.

            This, of course, causes me only pain, painting a future without hope that we might share each other without others.

            And yes, I explode with jealousy, and I see only more and more pain, and suddenly see the need to get out of this thing before I really get hurt or hurt her, or worse, make an utter ruin of my life, pining after something I can never have.



April 23, 1987

            Dear Peggy:

            It takes me a long time to come up with what I think and how I feel, putting my mind in order the way someone might work a jig-saw puzzle, taking all those little things that come up during a given period to explain what is what.

            Over the last few days, I have come to some serious conclusions about myself and what I want from life, and they seem as different from what you want as our politics are.

            You have spoken several times over the last few weeks about the potential for me to hurt you, this by getting too close to you and knowing too much about meaningful moments in your life. But I’m not sure you realize that by getting closer to you, I have opened myself up to that same potential for pain, and that in the process of the last few days, I have come to realize just how vulnerable I am. You could break me in half without even realizing it.

            You have already touched upon areas of sensitivity without knowing it, causing great doubt in me, and have said things that at some later emotional state might flatten me. I don’t believe you would do this intentionally. That’s what I mean about you never understanding.

            Let’s take the question of your car keys.

            This goes deeper than merely a passing suspicion that I took them, and that you had held back your temper because I had been “kind” the previous night.

            “Kind” is the wrong word. For the last few nights I have put myself out in a way I thought I never would for another human being, staying up with you when your back ached, not because I wanted to be kind to you, but because I wanted your pain to cease and I was willing to do just about anything to help that pain go away.

            For you to sum that up in a single word like “kindness” is to misunderstand the depth of my feelings.

            I care for you and what happens to you in a way I have never felt for anyone else in my life, and you seem grossing unaware of me at times or what I want from being near you.

            I called you insensitive several times in the last few days. I wasn’t trying to hurt you. I was simply being honest in how I feel.

            What I want is someone to share the future with, some special person with whom I can spend my life.

            I don’t expect you to drop everything to service my needs and desires. I’m merely looking for the possibility of tenderness.

            You told me that even if you’re going out with someone you will continue to see other men.

            This really bothered me.

            I have no illusions about being the only man in any woman’s life, but I wish for it, I want to be able to work towards being the sole being in my lover’s life, and want hope for a future singular relationship where she and I can share each other’s live exclusively, and I would love that woman to be you.

            You have a broader vision of the world than I do, which is all right. We each have our own lives, needing different things to make us happy. But this does tend to make any serious emotional contact between us difficult, leaving us open to the potential of current and future pain.

            What is the point of me being tender and kind when the future I want can’t possibly exist?

            What is there to look forward to if I will always simply be “one of the boys?”

            This is a fatal flaw.

            I wince each time you remind me that I can be replaced with the wink of an eye.

            The other day, you mentioned the fact that you had cancelled a date to be with me, telling me it was a complement.

            I didn’t take it as one.

            It seemed to be one more reminder of how little I have to gain working towards gaining your affections when there will always be the shadow of other men capable of stepping into my shoes should I fail to meet your requirements.

            You also told me you expect to get fed on a date or you will simply find another date that would.

            I was also stunned the other night when you said I could leave my condoms at your place and that you would never let another man use the ones I brought.

            Who else you see in your life is your business. I simply don’t need to be reminded of them repeatedly.

            I would like to live with the illusion that when you are with me you are thinking about me, and not thinking of my possible replacement.

            I see these comments as insensitive. Perhaps you are right in thinking I am overly sensitive. But I really do want our time together to be our time. Please let me have my illusions, too.





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