Toad Ache


Oct. 4, 1987

            You might call it “Toad ache” – that regular condition of pain that comes at regular intervals, though not always with intention.

            All this is a prelude to the fact that I saw Peggy again last night, a physical dancing Peggy who I had managed to avoid Wednesday night.

            But finally, I decided not to avoid her. This not to say that I intended to seek her out either. I just saw her car in the parking lot once too many times and figured I have as much right to go into the bar as she has.

            I will admit that I anticipated some perverse pleasure at showing up again eight weeks after the last time seeing her just to prove I wasn’t intimidated by her.

            I wanted to think that maybe she came to realize she might have lost something special with me (although I knew better than to hope for this too much).

            The terrifying part in all this is that she has taken up with a man – Mary the bartender called – extremely ugly, , suggesting that Peggy has taken one more step down from even me in the evolutionary bar scale.

            Alec or Alex – Mary wasn’t sure which – is a heavy-set, on the side of being fat, wears glasses and slouches with more than a hint of being lazy, although he is not at all as ugly as Mary indicated.

            He’s the same man she picked up on in June, though he as changed some, looking less adoring as he did then, as to smug, as if he’s been invited into some private club to smoke cigars with the big boys.

            As she did with me, Peggy taunts him a little, sitting with two men at the same time, no longer as she did in June with him alone. Although now, it is not Tom she uses in this second role, but some other guy I’ve not seen before – which leads me to wonder if Tom has taken to avoiding her, too or become an outcast like me.

            Peggy I heard is very upset with the fact that I began writing a novel about her. But I’ve been very careful to avoid giving Tom away as a source of information about her and her past. I don’t mind burning my own bridges, I don’t want to burn bridges for him – we both love her still, but he was able to keep in contact where I’m not.

            Tom really does care about her, and it is important to me that she continue to have people like him keeping their eye on her so that they can lend her help when she goes too far out on a limb.

            The second man with Peggy looks like a rising hopeful, his eyes filled with gleam of a prince in waiting and someone who still has the adoring look that has yet to be stamped upon by Peggy’s endless demands.

            Over the last few months, Peggy and I have divided the bar.

            But last night, things seemed to favor Peggy’s side at first. Mary as usual took my side in a bar split by personal loyalties, a regular battle ground in which we now let others help war. Things did not look well for my side until faithful John showed up with a pal, dividing the bar into entrenched camps of mockery and vicious laughing, both sides pushing the issue until John got out of hand and tried to say something mean to the passing Peggy.

            It was the only dark moment, fortunately it passed quickly.

            Peggy made frequent trips to the ladies room, no doubt for quick snorts of white courage.

            Me, I had to rely on my memories of love.

            I’m still not certain which side won, but I left a little drunk, and more than a little wounded.


Nov. 5, 1987

            I bought another rubber toad today.

            This is to replace the one that had been sitting on my kitchen table for weeks.

            Yes, I know most people do not keep rubber toads in their kitchens (or for that matter in any other room of their homes), but I never really meant to keep the first one in the first place.

            The rubber toad just sort of found a home there after I finally gave up my private war on drugs around last August, aimed primarily in saving Peggy from herself.

            Two terms that seemed to define my life at that moment were “Being in the duck soup,” and “a no win situation.”

            “In the duck soup,” is a phrase popular in the 1920s that described a man driven totally out of his mind by lust, doing foolish things for the object of his affection.

            The “no win situation” refers to the fact that nothing I could do or say might have saved or even reestablished a relationship prior to our breaking up and nothing I could do or say afterwards could rescue Peggy from the life she is trapped in.

            She gets depressed and hopeless at her predicament, but angry when anyone tries to help her get out of it.

            She thinks all men are the same, good or bad, and treats us all with the same heavy hand.

            I guess maybe I had to make one more pathetic effort to show her that someone out here still cares, that I still care, even if she thinks I’m nothing but a toad – her mocking term for people she doesn’t like. So I took the toad off my table and put it under the windshield of her new car on Halloween (I don’t yet know what happened to her old car).

            But then after a few days with the toad gone from my kitchen, I got to miss it, so I went and bought another one today. Just to keep me company.



March 15, 1988

            I found Peggy’s old car, Charlie, by accident yesterday.

            I suppose it makes sense that it should wind up in her father’s back yard.

            This, of course, raises the question why if she replaced the old car with the new car I saw in her driveway (complete with the two all familiar Giants bumper stickers) why she keeps the old Chevy at all?

            Does she have some sentimental attachment towards it?

            Anyone who names a car, must think it more important than just an object – except that Peggy had a name for every object in her apartment, too, from lamp to stuffed animals.

            Perhaps she is reluctant to part with the car.

            But it is also possible that her new car isn’t hers, but rather Alec’s, her most current lover. Just because the new car also has Giants bumper stickers doesn’t mean she owns it – merely the man – one of those million and one tiny concessions any man who professes to love Peggy must make in order to keep her happy.

            I remember Peggy’s mother, El, asking me why I didn’t have one of those stickers on my car, as if was a necessary element to be part of Peggy’s club.

            It is possible that Alec may have exerted some will of his own in order to keep Peggy from too much legal trouble. But this presumes some major change in Peggy’s character, which I cam not convinced Peggy is capable of making.

            It is clear that “Charlie” has not been moved in some time, leaves flush against the gate attest to as much, perhaps dating back to early fall when I first noticed the new vehicle in Peggy’s driveway. The old car also lacks license plates, suggesting that it is not intended for use in the near future.

            Knowing of Peggy’s need for independence means of transport, I cannot see Peggy giving up Charlie without have total control of another car, unless she has so changed her life that she was willing to put these needs into the hands of Alec or some other man.

            Yet it would be a good assumption to believe that the new vehicle is registered in Alec’s name, not Peggy’s.

            Peggy once asked me to do as much for her while we were still dating, allowing her to get around the law.

            All this, of course, assumes that Peggy and Alec are still dating, or even still on good terms – not a good assumption from Peggy’s history with other men.

            But perhaps she finally has found the long term sucker she has been seeking all along, some poor soul who will feed her and cloth her and bend to her every wish but will not put any restraints on her.

            From what Mary has said, Alec had a lot of money to throw around – one very important ingredient needed to keep Peggy and keep Peggy happy.

            One startling detail I also noticed is the flag missing from her fire escape. She is either telling the world she had changed or has moved. Word is that she has stopped dancing at the My Way, perhaps suggesting some aspect of domestication.

            Maybe she’s getting married.

            I wonder if she’s dancing anywhere at all?



May 8, 1988
            Seeing Peggy’s new car parked on the side of the Lincoln Avenue house in Little Falls gave me chills.

            At least, I knew why the flag was missing from her Harrison Avenue house the last time I passed the place a few months ago. Maybe she’d moved, coming to live with her mother or her sister, setting up a new life in a new place which happened to be a place full of memories for me that had nothing to do with her, going back to my roots. This is a place where I worked, ran away to, lived, where all my friends lived or grew up, where I had spent a significant portion of my teens, and it struck me as strange to see her invade it with her jigsaw puzzle apparently still searching for the appropriate piece.

            She still had the car, but I wondered, did she still have Alec, her sugar daddy. Moving in with her sister or mother seemed to suggest not.

            I drove on, not even tempted to stop and welcome her to the neighborhood.


June 1, 1988

            Call me crazy.

            Maybe I just needed to celebrate the one year anniversary of our break up by doing something stupid.

            So pretty sure she would be watching the Garfield Memorial Day parade, I show up, too.

            Maybe I was just curious to see if she had changed at all.

            After all, hadn’t she given up dancing? Maybe that also meant she changed her other habits, her use of men, her hunger for cocaine.

            I came to see if I could see any change in her just from her expression.

            Several people told me she was planning to get married, and that she had lost weight.

            Perhaps Alec was still in her life, a rich sugar daddy willing to do things I would not do, like supply her with dope, or lend her his driver’s license so she could register a car.

            She’s once suggested this last to me – and also invited me once or twice to buy some cocaine we could use “together.”

            I also wanted her picture, something she would never let me take while we were together. I intended to get one this time, even though the image of her is emblazed in my brain like a tattoo.

            The only photos I ever saw of her was from when Peggy played maid of honor for her best friend’s wedding.

            I wanted the photo to fill in the blank spaces of all those bar room sketches I had done of her while dancing, a photo from which I could get something other than her usual cocaine squint.

            When she saw me, she looked shock, then enraged, but quickly regained her composure.

            Seeing her, however, explained a lot. The rumors were wrong in one regard, she had gained weight not lost it, also explaining why she had ceased dancing, since no club would hire her the way she looked at that moment.

            I felt sorry for her. A huge part of her life was on the strip stage, and losing that stage, she lost significant power, and a big part of her ability to maintain her addition.

            I took her photograph anyway, because I needed it to help close an important chapter in my life.

            But I felt more lost when I left than when I had come, having lost something instead of gaining anything.




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