"Are you nice now?"

Last night I hung out with my friend Madelena as she was determined to make me eat something. She's a San Francisco native, born and raised in the Mission, and decided we should meet at Arturo's. "It's a total North Beach place" she noted, and lord it was. The jazz, the italian food, the bulbous wine glasses lit by candlelight and not so stingily poured--it was magic, like being on Columbus for one night contemplating a nightcap at Vesuvio's.

Today I finished going through everything in my apartment, determining the things that are Chase's, and boxing them up to hide away in the closet. I've spoken to two social workers about this task--one at the doctor's office and one at the DA--trying to figure out how I would be capable of performing the task at all when I couldn't even talk about it without crying. Both asked me the same thing: "Didn't he already come and get his things? he should have been issued a court order to retrieve his things." Yes, I told them both, he came and got some stuff, but he left some stuff too, and I promised I would get it to him. They both had the same advice: "You're not legally obligated to keep it. Just throw it away."

But these things! Throwing them away would be even harder than keeping them. These are wonderful things, useful things, sentimental things. The drawings his nieces made for us and tons of pictures of them. The copy of Still Life with Woodpecker I bought for him with the post-script I added. His concert posters and mic stand. I went through all of our albums noting that the Zeppelin and Gershwin are mine, the Chet Atkins and Gordon Lightfoot, his. His copy of Catcher in the Rye. His inspiration sperometer.

I don't know why I have to keep this stuff for him, but I know that if it were me I'd be devastated if it were suddenly gone; losing the Robbin's novels alone might send me into a tailspin. It would kill me to have it happen again like when I was 16 and I shoved my camera and a sketchbook in my backpack with some underwear and never saw a baby picture of myself ever again, or the doll I once cherished, or the blanket I carried around as a toddler. It's killing me that I love him enough to do this when all I want to do is to return the favor and love him as little as he did me. It's killing me just to admit that.

I spent my time as Chase's girlfriend being routinely shamed by him, embarrassed, and humiliated. I can't even count how many times he'd scream at me to the point that I would just chose to walk away, a chorus of his rants behind me--and these are just the times that it happened in public, when he'd get a minute alone with me and pick a fight in front of a bar or on the sidewalk, and my friends would be left inside wondering what happened to me for the rest of the night while I or we had just vanished. "Stay in your lane!" I was once advised on a rare occasion that I actually admitted to someone that it had happened again; you kinda have to say something when you're crying into a beer for seemingly no reason. "Stay in your lane. You don't deserve this, he owes you an apology."

Chase would sometimes say the word sorry, but real apologies were never his forte. I didn't stay in my lane, but rather whenever he had started in on me and finally cooled down, I'd simply ask, "Oh, are you nice now?" and he would generally respond yes, and this was my que to forget that it had happened and go on with my day. People are telling me it's not my fault, but it's hard to believe that when I routinely emboldened him to treat me like shit.

Last night after about a half of a glass of wine, Madelena finally turned to the bartender and demanded to see a menu immediately. "We're getting pizza, and you're eating some." I agreed, and when our pizza came it was all melty and gooey, and covered with anchovies. I ate three pieces.

Anchovies! I love anchovies, but Chase didn't. And in that little bar on faux Columbus street I realized that I hadn't eaten a single anchovy in three years, nor have I worn five inch heels, listened to The Who, worn granny panties or visited my best friend in Phoenix for the exact same reason. As much as I thought it would feel amazing to eat the leftovers in bed today, it just reminded me that I had handed my life to a man to disassemble at his will. And that thought is killing me, too.

Are you nice now, are you nice now, are you nice now. I said it thousands of times and it has never done anything, and yet now I'm asking myself the same question, wondering if I'll ever smile again. It's the only question in my mind when I wake up in the morning and it's what goes through my head when I'm trying to sleep.

I'm hoping it's not much longer until I can answer myself "yes."


Anonymous said...

The things we are, are transient. They come and go, weaving a personality out of ethereal threading. That doesn't make them any less real or important, or make us feel any less impotent when someone unravels them.

Miranda Moure said...

Anonymous comments are the antithesis of this blog.