In light of Valentine’s Day, I thought that I would share a story from my latest memoir, Hearts on the Line about a bad boyfriend choice I made in the 80′s. I am now happily married, but boy did I pick some doosies!
the cd syndrome
As I drive home, I start obsessing that Clarence Rogers will make trouble, but then I smile and think of the hug I’ll be getting from my Adolfo—who would never trade me in for a younger model. He actually likes me to weigh what I consider to be ten pounds too much. I’m serious. Coming home to someone who loves me makes it easier to tune out the Clarence Rogerses in my job. I’ll fix Adolfo a nice pasta with shrimp tonight.
I pull into the underground parking garage and reapply my new lipstick. Adolfo’s going to love it. I walk down the dimly lit hallway through a pungent marijuana haze. Sometimes I feel like I live in a frat house. Most of our neighbors are clean, quiet, and hardworking—really great. But we also have our share of the “Hollywood artiste/musician ” types with roommates who sleep till noon and smoke weed all day.
When I have to come home to this smell, I usually flash on a guy named Logan and how dangerously naïve I was back in my early twenties. Maybe I want to help people with their dating because I hope to keep them from making the mistakes that proved so devastating to me. I brought my small town openness and trust to L.A., hoping to make it as an actress. Often, all I had to eat was the free bread and soup from the bistro in West Hollywood where I was the hostess and cashier. I thought I was pretty special to be dating the general manager of the restaurant, so when Logan asked me to move in, I didn’t hesitate.
He looked good at first with his sandy brown hair and boyish charm. I knew he smoked pot when we first started dating, but I chose to overlook that little detail, though I was never a fan of marijuana. His habit filled most of his waking hours, and he slept until 3:00 P.M., then polished off at least one bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies every day. I was completely faithful to Logan, but in his paranoid, pot-infused brain cells, he was certain that I was cheating on him.
After my Tuesday night acting classes, Logan would say, “I drove by your class last night, and your car wasn’t there. Where were you?” My car and I were both there, but he kept up the accusations. If I came home sweaty from an aerobics class, he’d say, “That was a long workout. Where were you really at?” I guess a lot of guys think an hour and fifteen minutes is plenty of time to step out for some grubby hanky-panky. That probably sounds good to them.
Logan took me out to dinner one night at our favorite Indian restaurant. In between the vegetable samosas and Chicken Tikka Masala, he took my hands in his, looked at me with his bloodshot eyes, and tenderly said, “Honey, I have something to tell you. I don’t just smoke weed, I’m also a dealer.” If only I hadn’t heard him correctly…but I knew I had. Yes, sir-ee-bob, I was living with a real life drug dealer. High volume. High.
Not long after that romantic evening over curry, I was included in dope runs up to Bakersfield, stash hauled in the trunk of his black Volvo to deliver to a partner. I just sat in the passenger seat praying that the cops wouldn’t stop us. If they had, my green and sweating face alone would have gotten us arrested. I would have shrieked that I would tell them anything.
I used to beg Logan to quit dealing. I told him that I would get a second job to make up for the lost income, but he was piling thousands away in a safety deposit box at the bank. The THC had its hooks in him, but so did the money.
Logan used to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to survive or support myself without him, yet every few months he threatened to throw me along with my things out onto the street. I would call my mother in tears, and my mother, unaware of his main source of income, would insist on speaking to him on the phone. “Now Logan, you must promise NOT to throw Marla’s things in the street.” Somehow, this worked.
One evening, I was on an outing with my girlfriend Bethany’s roommate because Bethany was sick. Logan followed me to the Improv.
He narrowed his eyes and curled his lips like a mad dog. “You said that you were going out with Bethany tonight!”
“Yvette is Bethany’s roommate,” I explained the situation.
“You’re a sneaky liar!” He turned his back on me and said. “You’d better go get your things, or they’ll be out on the street!” And then he walked out the door.
Yvette said that I could stay with her and Bethany until I figured out what to do. I thanked her and drove straight to Logan’s. He was sitting on the sofa smoking a joint and drinking a beer. I went into the bedroom and started to pack some things in a small suitcase.
Logan followed me and stood in the doorway. “What in the hell are you doing?” he growled.
I said, “You told me to get out, so that’s what I’m doing.” I fought back the tears—tears for this clown. I should have been shouting Hallelujah.
“You aren’t going anywhere.” He grabbed my keys and ran out the front door.
I ran after him in time to see him throw my keys on the roof. Without even a glance in my direction, Logan walked right past me back into the house, closing the door and locking it behind him.
“Open up Logan!” I said through the door, trying not to wake up the neighbors since it was midnight. I knocked and pleaded for about five minutes. No luck. I finally hit the glass on the top half of the door with the heel of my right hand. The thin pane shattered, slicing the base of my thumb. Blood gushed everywhere, and the pain was so excruciating, I thought my thumb would fall off. The door flew open, Logan swearing at me for breaking the glass. When I tried to enter the house, he gave me a swift kick in the right thigh and slammed the door in my face.
Cold, devastated, and bloody, I finally pleaded through the door for Logan to drive me to the emergency room. He relented and took me.
Several hundred dollars later, ten stitches, and a huge bandage
wrapped around my hand, I was back home with Logan who begged me to forgive him. Too exhausted to argue, I ended up staying the night, but I was so disgusted and depressed, I silently vowed that I’d move out immediately.
In the morning, Logan apologized again and handed me my
“WHAT?” I asked. “When did you get them off the roof?”
He said he never threw them up there. “I just pretended,” he said.
This was outrageous enough, but the look on his face? So damn smug.
I screeched at him. “I went through all of this shit for NOTHING? You had my keys the WHOLE TIME?”
The arrogance disappeared then. He hung his head and looked at the floor. “Well, yeah,” he said. “I didn’t want you to go.”
As a dating coach, I’m still profoundly baffled at the way anyone old enough to own and operate a penis or vagina interactively could think that being mean and destructive is a good strategy for enticing any owner of the desired anatomy to stay around and interact. I needed a technical term for a person exhibiting such bizarre behavior and, after serious consideration, developed a highly accurate and useful expression: Clueless Dickhead—Logan being the prototype.
The CD syndrome had become so pronounced in Logan that after four years, I’d finally had enough. Yet, why had I been so reluctant to break the bond? If only I’d learned about dating coaching and positive attraction earlier….
Just remembering Logan makes me want to rush joyfully into Adolfo’s arms as I walk in the door of our apartment and kick off my shoes. I hear Adolfo in his studio, working on a new song.
“Hey, Ricky, I’m home. How was your day?”
He steps out of the man cave, frowning like he means business. “Mi amor, please don’t call me Ricky anymore. I really hate it.”
Not exactly the homecoming I was picturing. “Eight years of Ricky and Lucy and you suddenly hate it?” Was something changing?
Adolfo looks serious. “Listen honey, I’ve been thinking about this. I never liked it. It’s embarrassing. I am NOT Ricky Ricardo.”
“Gosh, I’m sorry honey, but I don’t know why you think it’s embarrassing. Ricky Ricardo is a beloved icon.”
“I need you to understand something, Marlita. Ricky Ricardo is Cuban. I am Mexican. I’m proud to be Mexican. My friends would laugh at me. It’s embarrassing. And I don’t like feeling like I’m your pet, or something….”
“Oh?” I pucker my luscious lips. “Not even when I smother my pet with kisses?”
Normally, this would work. Tonight, he says, “I’m not at all like Ricky, but you are like Lucy, ’specially with those bright red lips,” Ow….I just stare at him.
“And don’t even think of calling me Ricky in your book! Why don’t you write fiction? All you do is get material from me and your mom. Show your true talent and make something up. Just using our stories doesn’t take any talent.”
I’m stunned. Could he say anything more hurtful to a writer? I feel contempt in his words. If I told him that putting anything relating to me in any of his songs just showed his lack of talent, he’d be crushed.
I bet I know what you’re thinking. That CD syndrome I was talking about? The one where a Romeo hurts his Juliet even though he loves her so much? That CD syndrome lurks in the best of us, apparently. Adolfo is telling himself he’s not being mean, he’s just helping me with my true talent here. Yet there’s obviously some kind of anger and hurt underneath the hostility. There always is. Just like there was with Logan. Only Logan was too big of a mess and too destructive, and I had no desire or ability to cope with it. But this is my Adolfo. I’m saying nothing, but my eyes are probing his. My silent eyes are speaking more effectively than the words you clueless dickhead, what the hell are you trying to do to me?
“Aye, Marlita…” He looks back into the man cave, back toward the work he wants to return to that was frustrating him because he thinks it’s not yet good enough to sell to a studio so he can bring in some extra money. “That came out wrong.”
“Need to talk about something?”
He shakes his head. “Just…no more Ricky.”
“Okay….I sort of understand.” I guess. It feels like you’re cutting
the fun out of our relationship. “I sure will miss it. We really are like Lucy and Ricky.” Or at least, we used to be.
Adolfo rolls his eyes. “I don’t know about that, but you’re a real character for sure. And I love you. I’ll fix dinner.”
He does housework too, by the way. And I did include our Ricky-Lucy bit in the memoir I’m working on without consulting him. The publisher likes it. I’ll have to see if I can sweet talk him into leaving it in. Later. Much later. Adolfo is a WYSIWYG kind of guy, I tell myself. (What You See Is What You Get.) So, he was just having a tiny CD moment. This is as deep as it goes…I think. However, I’m still upset.
Adolfo is making quesadillas in our small kitchen, and I add some refried beans and tomatoes, but I find myself getting irritated at having to work around him. I set a knife down a little too forcefully and toss the can opener back into the drawer with a jarring clatter. Adolfo wisely pretends not to notice.
Over dinner he says, “Hey, you’re going to love this. You know Becky? One of the hostesses at Via Alloro?” This is where he plays several nights a week at the piano bar. “She read both your books and told me to tell you she loves them.” His puppy dog eyes ask if this is enough to buy an absolution of his sins.
By the end of dinner, neither one of us is angry, although I won’t forget his contemptuous words any time soon. He returns to arranging music while I clean up the kitchen—since he did most of the cooking—in his opinion. A pantry moth flies out of one of the cupboards. Yeesh. I’ve been fighting this infestation for weeks, thoroughly cleaning, cupboard by cupboard. Adolfo blames me for this problem, so I’m glad the moth stayed put while he was in here. This insect has the power to deliver a lecture that goes like this: “My relatives and I like living in apartment complexes, so if you have a problem with that, you should go buy a house in the ’burbs. This means, Marla, that you’d better work hard to keep your job and not spend so much time writing.” That’s what the damn moth is saying.
In my office alcove in the living room, I can’t seem to connect with the muse—too much tension—so I go to work on some PR material for my books, thinking the whole time how much I wish could make enough from my writing that I could quit Double D. Writing is only half the job for a writer. The other half is promotion. Working full time, I barely have time to write, let alone work on networking, media contacts, and follow-ups. And I certainly can’t afford to hire an expensive PR firm like so many writers do these days.
At around 11:00, Adolfo steps out into our living area where I’m working. He’s wearing a devil-may-care expression and a newly inherited Playboy golf tournament smoking jacket. It’s deep green with black velvet trim. When Adolfo first tried it on, he liked the Hugh Hefner feeling. The handsome playboy steps closer, sets my laptop aside and pulls me into an embrace.
“I did like that new lipstick you were wearing,” he murmurs into my ear.
Okay, he’s scoring points. Forgiving someone to the extent of not fighting is one thing. Forgiving someone so completely as to be able to surrender soul and body…is a bit more of a challenge. I’m allowing myself to be kissed, but I’m not exactly responding. Yet here is where the Latin lover takes over. Another guy might have gotten pissed at my lukewarm kisses, snarled a just-forget-it, and left to go get a beer and a joint. Adolfo’s kisses and murmuring about my skin and hair make me feel so beautiful and desirable and cherished that I just can’t help myself. These are the arms I rushed home to….
During the night, Clarence Rogers is swearing at me in one of my dreams and I wake up, dreading another day at the office. I take Adolfo’s arm and pull it around me, waking him enough to give me a small caress, but I can’t go back to sleep. After a night of intimacy and snuggling, I’m feeling so close to Adolfo, I think about telling him how I feel about work. Maybe if I tell him about the phone sex guy….
“Marlita,” he says over a bowl of oatmeal. “Last night I kept seeing us in a different place. I can’t wait until we have enough in our savings to buy our own house. So, honey, if anything bothers you at work today, just think of how nice a king-sized bed in a roomy master bedroom would have been last night.” His eyebrows go roguish, and he grins. “You keep that job and we’ll be there pretty soon.”
Gotta keep working on that positive outlook.
Driving to Starbuck’s, I come up with a way to handle Mr.
Clarence Let-Me-Be-Crystal-Clear Rogers, but it all depends on the file I tossed into my Portofino wastebasket.
I love the feeling of being a New York Times best-selling author when the time is right.
I love the feeling of having a rewarding and meaningful career.
I’m grateful that patience and maybe an old smoking jacket can suppress the CD syndrome.