How do you know when it’s over?


May 30, 1987

            It is Saturday and as usual, things have turned upside down after the great crash last Sunday.

            I came home after crashing Peggy’s birthday party (stopping off at a few bars on the way) then went to sleep, woke up with a hangover, before going west to Pauly’s little bash, a bit of fluff that helped clear my head some and made the glow of Peggy’s party fade a little and dissolve into some sadness and regret.

            I have to kick myself for being so foolish. None of my friends see my crashing the party as any kind of victory, or understand why was so proud of myself over it.

            Stupidly, it amounted to my getting the last word in, vanishing again before Peggy could recover her wits and respond.

            What made my smug attitude fade even faster was my visit to the My Way Lounge, where I found Peggy dancing that night. She was drunk when I got there and decided to ignore me.

            I spread my notebooks out on the bar, and only after the other dancer started to talk to me, did Peggy come over, flat out drunk, and I wasn’t much more sober than she was.

            She made it perfectly clear how angry she was, and then went off and made a scene with another guy at the bar, putting her legs around his neck, and the later, crawling all over him, kissing him hard.

            But she came home with me – no, that’s not right. I followed her home to make sure she got there safely, and then got invited up stairs.

            We slept together, but we did not make love, and then next morning she told me flat out that she didn’t want to see me again.

            Back to helplessness.

            This time I knew she meant it – although later when I came back to deliver a tape on which I had recorded her songs, she was still dressed the way I had left her – Bobby, her close male friend was just leaving.

            I had intended to go straight to work. This fell through as we walked, me explaining more fully some of what I tried to express a week ago.

            Peggy appears not to care about what other people feel, and does not want to hear about it, painting such statements in the darkest possible light.

            Then we made love, a short session this time, mostly one-sided, and the next day, she was tender again, although somewhat distant.

            We spent some time at her mother’s house before going back to her Harrison Avenue apartment.

            Eventually, she went to sleep and I went to work.

            Thursday was pretty much a repeat, with a brief visit from Bobby, bearing her birthday gifts.

            Yesterday, she got her monthly ritual and was nastier than usual, making even more caustic remarks.

            It was difficult to take the combination.

            With the temperature rising outside, I suppose I’m lucky to be with her at all. She said she can’t go out with a man who can’t supply her with air-conditioning.

            Everything she wants costs so much and I’m already short. I have to back off a little

            But it hurts.


June 1, 1987

            It never ends, not with dreams like Peggy, and perhaps the problem is me.

            Love isn’t invulnerable, and at some point in the emotional turmoil it twists into hate.

            This episode started with the heat, me, sweating, waiting for her to call to invite me to join her and her friends at the pool.

            She didn’t call. So I went anyway, not quite crashing the party like I did on her birthday, but with the same reaction.

            “What are you doing here?” she asked with such hostility that I cringed.

            “I came to see you.”

            “Nobody said you were welcome here.”

            This was true. She had merely mentioned the fact she was going, and how much she believed she would enjoy her time at the pool, and how she wouldn’t have to suffer the heat, but she had not invited me to join her.

            “I said I would be here,” she said from the side of the pool, “not you.”

            So it was intentional, and I got angry.

            “If there’s no room in your life for me,” I said, “then I’m going to have to find someone who has room for me.”

            I walked away. Came back. Said more. Walked away again. Came back to say some more, finally shouting that I would come to collect my guitar from her apartment at some point during the week.

            On my way home I stopped at her apartment to leave a note saying I expected to get back the $250 I had lent her.

            Then, in the heat, I fumed.

            I sat in front of my typewriter and tried to come up with a more coherent note. But could not so I stopped trying.

            I had not intention of running back to her apartment again, but when I did, I was still angry, intending to demand my guitar back and then go.

            I’m predictable enough so that she was there waiting, her door unlocked. Since the apartment was locked, I thought she was not at home when I turned the door knob. The kitchen was dark and cool, and the living room door was closed.

            She was asleep in the bedroom. I woke her gently and told her I’d come for my guitar.

            But when I tried to leave, she shouted for me to talk about it.

            I just wanted to get out while I still had my mind made up.

            She tried talking. I just didn’t listen, telling her that she didn’t have what I needed, admitted it might be too early, but I needed something back from her that I wasn’t getting.

            She stopped talking.

            This wasn’t like the other times. For the first time, she seemed to get it, and she had no answer except for silence.

            I stayed a little while longer, telling her that I still loved her, and that I still cared about her but that things had gotten way out of hand.

            Then, I went, regretting every step, the tape I made for her still in my pocket, my guitar case banging against the rail as I descended the steps.

            As I said, this was different, maybe it really is over this time, but it doesn’t quite feel that way.

            She didn’t threaten me the way she usually did, didn’t say she couldn’t take it any more.


June 8, 1987

            Old habits die hard.

            Maybe I’m just one more piece in Peggy’s jigsaw puzzle after all, putting notes under her door the way her ex-lover Robert always did, reacting with the same desperation Marsha’s boyfriend Michael did when he discovered them with other men.

            Maybe I was destined from the start to feel the way they felt and to repeat their mistakes.

            I went to see my daughter, but rushed home, feeling impending disaster, which I pretty much got when I rode passed Peggy’s apartment and saw her car gone, and made the mistake after that of traveling up to the Club House Saloon, presuming she was dancing, and she was, although at first I did not see her, then would not give her the card I bought, knowing that she would not read it now that she had turned me off, and that I had become one of the jigsaw men that no longer fit in her life.

            In truth, there are only two kinds of men in Peggy’s existence, those who do for her and those who don’t, and once you stop doing for her, you cease to exist.


 June 9, 1987

            It has been years since I’ve been here, this place where the river meets the bay, and the long dock stretching out into the infinity of the water, small beach still over run with geese and ducks, while the old hotel my uncle used to watch being rebuilt long gone, victim of the owner’s frustration at a failed business and his need to capitalize on its insurance.

            I’ve come here to clear my head of Peggy, but I can’t, she has become the symbol of a particular kind of woman in my life, the kind that always causes me to feel pain.

            I hesitate to call her “bitch,” because none of this really is anybody’s fault, or if anyone is at fault, it is me, expecting too much too soon from someone who is incapable of giving me what I expect.


June 19, 1987

            Peggy showed the kind of class I never expected from her, but then I always knew there was more to Peggy than she let show on the surface.

            Of course, I shouldn’t have gone to the bar at all last night. We both need space for all that went on between us to settle and heal.

            But the minute I saw her car outside the bar, I knew I would go in, and I did, knew I needed to see her again, and knew that she would likely get angry at seeing me.

            And this is Peggy’s world, not mine, a world she controls giving her power to cause me great hurt if she so desires, and I’m so much more vulnerable now than I was in the past, trying somehow to prove I’m somehow different from all the other men she has known before when I’m really not.

            Except in one respect. I really do care about what happens to her, even though we no longer have a relationship. I have left notes and cards on her door step over the last few weeks, urging her to seek help with her drug problems, and to let her know that I still care despite our breakup.

            Foolish acts, although none so foolish as to invading her space like this,

            I was there too early, even though I had wandered around the neighborhood to kill time, and found myself seated at the bar well before the dancers came out, clinging to the side of the bar where Mary, a sympathetic barmaid worked. I tried hard to ignore the fact that Peggy was seated on the other side of the stage and I ordered a shot and a beer in order to get drunk faster.

            Peggy looked over at me and grinned, asking, “How’s it going, smiley?”

            It wasn’t a wholehearted greeting, but it was not a vicious attack either –giving me some hope that we weren’t totally lost to each other, that some of the old feelings still remained, even when we could no longer remain lovers.



 June 28, 1987

            The truth comes out – eventually – although that does not guarantee anyone will understand anything any better. And I’m not sure it’s true, or at least, I refuse to believe it.

            I talked with Tom tonight and finally came to a different perspective on those things I was most confused about – although I’m not sure he has any clearer an understanding of Peggy than do.

            He believes Peggy uses all men, and this has become such a habit with her she can’t “not use” men even when she likes them.

            Tom, however, thinks Peggy dislikes men in general, or perhaps dislike is too strong a word. She seems to think that men are lucky she allows them to be around her. He sees her as a kind of prostitute, although not one where there is a clear trade between cash and sex – a conclusion I denied the whole time I was dating her.

            She doesn’t get money every time she takes a man to bed, Tom said, but she gets other things. She always gets paid somehow.

            He said she doesn’t get as much as she used to, age and her value declining on the open market.

            In the old days she used to get invited to mob-operated restaurants, trips to Florida, treated to mounds of cocaine, and her choice of men came out of some of the most elite social circles: football stars, rock stars, made men.

            These days, Tom said, she’s had to settle for less, especially after she became hooked on cocaine, settling for lesser men like me from whom she could score an extra hit or two which kept her from crashing or if not coke, then drinks.

            This jigsaw man thing still hurt, since Tom said Peggy was notorious for lining up the next man even before she was finished squeezing the dry the man she was with. He called men like me Peggy’s fast food, and once deplete, she simply tosses us away.

            But he admitted that there is something deeper going on inside of her, an ache to have one man in her life – a man who will become a total slave to her -- the way her playmate friend, Marsha managed to do, a man she can use and abuse, and even cheat on, but who will remain loyal to her regardless of everything.

            “That man ain’t me,” Tom said.

            Peggy, however, may feel too cheap to deserve that man, and keeps on picking up the same type of man again and again – men like me.

            I just won’t accept Tom’s view totally, perhaps blinded by the fact that Peggy means something special to me, even if I was unable to handle it when I was with her.





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