31 August, 2008

The story of Scott and Valerie

Location: Anywhere, Massachusetts, 1998
Mood: catalyzed

I wasn't going to tell this story. Then I was. Then I wrote a song about it. But then I never finished it. And then, as a result of some rather bizarre interactions that happened just this week, I decided that I will tell you the story. Because it is a pretty good one. Now I am starting to wonder if I actually told the story before, which would be an indicator of my cognitive decline. But let's pretend I didn't.

In 1998, Edna and I moved to a house in a town that I'll call Anywhere. We moved into a house that was owned by a Portuguese woman who lived a few doors down. She owned a local liquor store, and her (alcoholic) husband was a retired firefighter. It was a triple-decker house, not uncommon for the Boston area. We lived on the top floor, and the bottom floor was occupied by people whom I do not remember. The middle level was occupied by Scott and Valerie. There are other stories I could tell you here, for instance about how difficult it was to move into this place. For one thing, there was a tsunami (only slight exaggeration) the day we had to move, and everything was soaked, and it was also like 85 degrees outside. Then, to make matters worse, the stairway going up to the third floor was so narrow and awkward, we ended up getting items stuck in the stairwell, such as a large and heavy desk. We got it wedged so tightly that it was literally suspended in the air, jammed between the ceiling, railing, and wall. It was quite traumatic. But that's not the topic for today.

Scott and Valerie were a married couple, a year or two younger than the two of us. They were very pretty (both of them), and super nice and friendly. The kind of neighbors who reach out to you right away and make you feel at home. They make you feel like you belong, and it was nice to have some new friends. I remember one evening, the week or month that we moved into the house, where we sat on their balcony, and had some drinks, and enjoyed the warm evening, and company. And it seemed like everything was good.

Scott and I started hanging out quite a bit. We bonded much more than Edna and Valerie did. Probably because Edna was not much a "bonding with the girls" kind of girl. And Valerie was a fairly girly-girl. But Scott and I went to the gym together. We would go for dinner together. Talk about life. Talk about our problems. Talk about everything.

As time went by, and I probably mean a matter of months, Scott began talking about more serious topics. He confided that he and Valerie were having some relationship problems. He'd been sleeping the couch a lot. Sort of like "falling asleep on the couch" not that he was willfully going to sleep on the couch. Well, at least that's how he put it. But then the story morphed a bit, that he was sort of feeling like he wanted to sleep on the couch. And let's say their romance was not what it could be or should be. This shook me a little bit, because I had put them on a pedestal as being the perfect couple.

As more time went by, Scott and I were still hanging out and doing all this stuff. We would go bowling a lot, and that was fun. He was better at it, but we sometimes had a decent match. Eventually, he told me that there was something he needed to talk to me about. I could make a long story long, and I wish I remembered the dialog to relate it to you here. But I don't remember it. I remember the walk we were taking when we had this discussion. But I don't remember the words. All I remember is that Scott informed me that he thought he might be gay. And in this same conversation, he also seemed to be probing to figure out if I might be gay. Which I was not. But I guess I can understand why he might have probed. First off, some of the issues that he and Valerie were having were superficially the same as some of the issues that Edna and I were having. And he knew about this, because we shared a lot. But he also needed to confide in someone, and I was the best candidate. He trusted me. The problem is that he had not ever given any inkling of this to Valerie. We proceeded to discuss this. Not for days, or weeks, but months. Of course, I told Edna, and she was appalled that this was occurring behind Valerie's back, but agreed it was not our place to intervene. Over time, it came out that things were a bit messier than just "I think I am gay". The reality was that he thought he was gay because he had been having relationships with men! During their relationship. So now, I have all of this rather horrifying info of infidelity and deception, all residing just below us, contained within the guise of "the perfect relationship".

More time went by, and finally after much prodding by me, he told her. He had a lot of reasons why this was difficult for him. Ending the marriage, for cause, would be painful. He loved her. But he did not want her. His father was apparently a very "straight" hard ass, who would probably disown him if he found out. But Scott had to follow his true self. He could not hide this forever, and especially not if he was going to continue having incidents behind Valerie's back.

When he told her, it was a complete disaster. They didn't separate immediately. He was sort of there, and sort of not. Then Valerie was alone. And things got messier. Because of my idolization of their relationship, I think I had a little bit of an infatuation with Valerie. And because of the difficulties that Edna and I were having, I stupidly (but perhaps, naturally) toyed with the role of "supporter" to Valerie. Hung out with her a couple of times, and had drinks. Believe it or not, nothing actually happened, but it was certainly an infidelity of the mind, on my part. But Valerie, who was extremely frazzled by this whole experience, took it upon herself to tell Edna about what had "happened" between Valerie and myself. And she told Edna that I shouldn't be trusted, or some such thing, and that I was not good for her. Interestingly, Valerie may have been right for some small, but important reasons. Nonetheless, as a result of her meddling with something I held dear, I exploded at Valerie. Big blowout. Big fight. I think she might have had a twisted, vulnerable, but easily understandable idea that she and I might have a rebound relationship. But that wasn't going to happen. And Valerie and I ceased to be friends.

Then Scott finally moved away, and in a strange, poignant, parting gesture involving his desire to unload all of his belongings (in a pending move to New York City), he offered me his bowling balls. I considered this to be a rather appropriate metaphor. I didn't want Scott's balls, though. I thought about rolling them down the giant hill on our street. But instead, I settled for bringing them to the local bowling alley and saying "Here! See if anyone wants these!".

And that was the last I saw of Scott.

Then, in September of that year, I moved away from that place. Away from that street. Away from the relationship that was the "perfect delusion". Edna and I survived 7 more years after that... in spite of the fact that Valerie's observations may have been correct (and to be truthful, I don't think I will ever really know exactly what Valerie had said to Edna, but I knew that it threatened something close to me).

Years passed, and I have not forgotten either of them. Scott and Valerie were probably the first example of a relationship that taught me that "nothing is what it seems" and that there is no "perfect couple". Everything is work. And everyone has a dark side. The couple that is all lovey-dovey may be more likely to fail than the couple that fights constantly in public. Life is not a movie, because there are countless scenes that are cut from the film of our lives, never to be seen by the public. Learning this, and then relearning it again and again, has helped take some of the pressure off that quest of finding "the perfect relationship". Because it doesn't exist. But it's a bit jading too, because I wonder is it better to have the dream that there is that perfect relationship, and never find out you're wrong? Or is it better to know that it doesn't exist, and just try to make something special with each opportunity you're given?

Again, I don't know the answer.

1 comment:

  1. Can you ever really "know" that it doesn't exist though? :-)