December 23, 2010
One of the things my journal only touched upon from 1987 was the ritual of my guitar playing which played a huge role in the relationship.
Now understand, I was a remarkably bad guitarist in 1987 and while I am marginally better today, Peggy’s fascination with my ability (or lack of) remains one of the great mysteries of that relationship.
She knew I was terrible, too, yet insisted I come play for her every night, and I would sit on the edge of her bed and play.
I even wrote a few bad songs about her which she tolerated well enough (my better songs came after our breakup but I’ll recount them later) but she also insisted I play a number of cover songs, her favorite being a Dean Friedman song which she made me play again and again, and for some reason all these years later, it still reminds me of her, called “Sandy Eyes,” and talks about love being more important than circumstance, unconditional love, rich or poor.
The first song I wrote about her basically described the scene I found when I came to her apartment for the first time. I don’t remember the tune and I haven’t performed it since the break up, but these are the lyrics:
There’s a flag in her window
Blowing in the breeze
Starts and stripes and geese in flight
Rising high and free
There’s a heart carved in her table top
Sealed-in with glass
Echoing the endless hope of love
With roses in a vase
There’s a flutter outside of children’s cries
Flowing along the street
And me like stone on her soft couch
Shuffling my feet
John Wayne photographs
Hanging on the wall
Hands upon his two six guns
Standing very tall
Riding off in the great sunset
Upon a unicorn
There’s a silly black cat named Jesse (she made me change this to Jessica)
Rolling on its (she made me change this to “her”) back
Eyes so wide with wonder and dreams
Waiting for a snack.
There’s a song upon her stereo
Of love and peace and dreams
And she sings with them every word
Bursting at the seams
There’s a world of wonder inside of her
Rolling like the sea
Breaking thunder and rolling surf
I want apart of me.
These sessions became so routine that she would not go to sleep until I played at least a little, and often, she made me play until my fingers came close to bleeding. She would just sit back and watch me for a while, and then, slowly, while I was playing, would touch me, tenderly, on the shoulder, and then scolded me when I tried to stop and turn this into a romantic moment.
“Don’t stop!” she’d say
“But you’re touching me.”
But she was, and it took me a long time to realize just how wonderful those moments were and how huge a gap they bridge in her, allowing her to show affection she was afraid to show, and how much I still treasure the memories of those times, long after everything else evaporated.
She insisted on having one of my guitar picks, drilled a hole in it, and hung the pick around her neck, wearing even after one of our breakups and perhaps even later, when I betrayed her and decided I could no longer travel down the dark path she was leading me on.
Sometimes even now, when I play guitar, I imagine her there, listening to me.
April 28, 1987
(from a letter)
Things have settled down again into a not so dull routine with me still pondering what exactly happened over the last few days.
The phrase that you used once still haunts me about pushing the buttons, and I find myself caught up in the subtleties of manipulation, wondering just where I can draw the line between conscious and unconscious. While I really haven’t settled the point, I have come to some generalities about Peggy and what caused her to react so violently to my letter. And just that shows a kind of frightening fragmentation, and a lack on my part to pick up what seem to be very obvious clues now.
The first issue, of course, is the reasons for her odd statements. Thinking back, I realize she has always made similar remarks if only in passing, though the escalation of them rose after the incident with the police.
Peggy seems to be telling herself that she is still freed to move around.
She told me many times that she didn’t want to get seriously involved with anyone every again, and yet at the same time has become involved with me. Her statements seemed design to reassure herself that she is not caught up “that badly” on me. There may be a conscious level to this, but if there is, then I’m in love with the wrong person.
So like a clumsy clod, I stumble into her sensitive areas with my note, telling her exactly what she least wants to hear, that I am looking for a long term permanent relationship – something that scares the hell out of her.
I’ll probably never know how conscious any of her actions or reactions are, or whether or not she says these odd things to be as a kind of test.
One thing I did not know until after I gave her the note is that her ex-lover Robert often used notes as a means of attack, so that the medium set up connotations which I had not intended.
She also believes the note was my attempt to dump with me looking for an excuse to move on while passing the guilt onto her.
She wasn’t exactly wrong. I had intended to end the thing, but not with the note – at least not consciously.
But all this harkens back to remarks she made when we first started. She frequently asked, “What? You’re not sick of me yet?”
She called me from her mother’s house to tell me that her apartment door was open and that I should go and remove my things. I believe she expected me to still be there when she got there. We apparently just passed each other when I left. But instead I actually took my things, leaving behind a small note of apology and a painting I bought her for her birthday. I found the painting on my doorstep a short time later, which is when I called you fir the first time
Then I went back to her apartment, not so much enraged as needing to settle some things.
I knocked on her door. She said for me to go away. I told her we had to talk this out and that I hadn’t meant any harm by my letter. I simply needed to clear something up about her remarks.
Glass smashed inside the apartment. The door flew open. She told me to leave, then walked back to her window leaving the door fully open. I entered.
“No, no, leave,” she said, crying, enraged, walking through the remains of glass – a shatter water glass that she valued a lot. I bent to pick up the pieces.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m picking up the glass.’”
“I told you to go. Leave the glass.”
I told her not, I needed to talk, that I wasn’t leaving until the mess was cleaned up.
She then proceeded to dump more glass objects from her dresser onto the pile. I started to pick these up, too.
“I’ll keep breaking stuff,” she said.
I said that would only keep me there longer.
She did not break anything more
I told her what I meant by the letter, that I sometimes had a hard time explaining myself verbally, that I needed to writ it, and if I failed to convey my meaning, then I would never be able to express my feelings.
She did not appear to be listening.
I told her I cared for her, that I would have done anything for her, that I still would do anything fore her. And then, believing I had hit an emotional wall, I left.
I don’t pretend to know what went on in her head, then or now, but I do know several things. One, she was wearing the guitar pick around her neck that she had asked from me. I play guitar regularly for her. She was also wearing the football shirt I’d given her – she’s a New York Giants’ fan, and none of the broken things had been things I’d given her, despite the fact that several items had been on the table and dresser before she started breaking things.
Not that any of this made sense at the time.
I was too busy whining like a hurt kid, as full of self pity as any male gets.
I really hadn’t meant to hurt Peggy, I simply needed to express my own doubts.
I wasn’t and I’m still not trying to chain her down, I just wanted to maintain the fantasy that at some future time it might be possible to have a relationship that was “ours.”
In some ways, this had already happened. We’d seen each other nearly every day for two whole weeks and the only time we didn’t is when we had to work our straight jobs.
But she did keep mumbling that it was happening too fast.
Her timing was off, too.
When I took her for food, she remarked that her dates had to feed her or she would find another date that would.
When we were cuddling on her couch, she said she had canceled another date that night to be with me, and that dated other men even when she was “going out” with a man. The worst remark came later after a near accident in her bedroom when I told her I would bring condoms next time and that I hadn’t brought any this time because I hadn’t wanted to appear suggestive.
“Oh, you can leave them here,” she said. “Lots of men do.”
More than slightly taken back by her remark, I asked, “Should I put my name on them, too?”
“Oh don’t worry, I would never let another man use your condoms on me,” she said back.
I wasn’t so concerned about other men being with Peggy, I just didn’t want them thrown in my face, especially during our time together.
I failed to see these remarks for what they were, a defense against something that was already happening between us.
Anyway, Saturday afternoon just around the time Peggy usually called, she called.
“Alfred, I want you to know that I’m going to return your fifty dollars,” she informed me.
(I had given her the money to pay a bribe to the city official who had impounded her car).
I told her she didn’t have to, that I merely wanted to talk things out now that both of us had calmed down.
No reaction. There was a pause, as if she wanted to say something else, but could not or would not say it.
I spoke instead, telling her I was sorry for hurting her.
She said she was sorry, too, saying that we could have had a beautiful relationship together.
We hung up.
I was calmer that evening and night and thought about the whole matter while working, and it was then that it began to become clear, the reasons why she had reacted so harshly to my letter, and how she could have seen some of it as an attack. I re-red the letter and realized that I sounded like a jealous school boy, and that I could have phrased much it differently.
There was anger in those words, which Peggy clearly picked up on. The fact that her remarks were likely a reaction to love rushing at her too fast shocked me
Anyway, true to form (and ignorant of her possible manipulation), I wrote yet another note – a hand-written one, telling her that I finally understood why she was so hurt and that I was an idiot for not seeing it sooner. I told her to keep the fifty dollars and that when she was ready to talk – a day, week, a month or even years later – she should call. I wasn’t leaving out a chance at seeing her again.
She called all right, exploding with tears, asking me why I just couldn’t leave her alone, why did I have to keep doing things that would upset her life, that she didn’t want to see my any more and that was final.
She went on like that for a good ten minutes before I could get a word in.
Then, shocked, hurt and guilty had hell for hurting her yet again, I don’t her I wouldn’t bother her any more.
I hung up.
Five seconds later the phone rang. It was Peggy, she telling me she wasn’t through talking yet, demanding to know why I’d hung up on her. All this was totally confusing, me wondering if I was capable of doing anything right.
She went on some more, calming as she did, going off on tangents about her mother and others, coming back to the point that I had blown a good thing. By this time, it had become evident that she did not want to stop talking. She said she was at her mother’s house looking for cat food but her mother didn’t have any.
I told her I could buy some for her.
She said she didn’t want me to buy her anything, but that she might borrow some if I had extra.
As it was, I was out, so I headed for the store anyway. I told her I would leave a box outside her door if she wanted. She wouldn’t even have to see me.
Well, she said, I could stay a moment and talk.
From that point on, the manipulation became more and more obvious, and I simply played my part in her game, fencing with her until where were before I written my offensive note to her.
Oh, she didn’t let me forget it, casing barbs my way to remind me that I had offended her and would have to earn my way back into her good graces. Perhaps she needed to be talked into something she wanted all along.
For instance, she said she was hungry. I offered to take her to get something eat. She said no way, not after my note. She would go to her father’s house. He would have something for her.
“But if you want to come back later for a little while, you can,” she said.
“All that sounds like a waste of time,” I said. “Why don’t you just let me get you something now that that we won’t have to travel all over creation…”
I don’t know where manipulation begins or end, or what her motivations are. I don’t know when she is lying or if she is lying about wanting a permanent relationship.
Everything with her seems to be shades of truth.
She said she convinced the cop to post her bail after she got busted, and he even drove her home.
She says she skin pops cocaine, but I’ve had more than enough opportunity to explore her body and I’ve seen no marks. While she has all the other tools for using cocaine, I’ve never seen her use it – although she suggested we might buy some and use it together. She does have a joint she never smokes, and she does abuse alcohol and various prescription and non-prescription medications. She does not eat a lot. She is extremely moody. She has perpetual headaches and bleeding ulcers and currently has problems with her sinuses.
Tell me what you think. But please, do not laugh too loudly at my obvious folly.