We recovered from Jamaica and settled back in to daily commuting from my Connecticut house to Manhattan. Mr. Humidifier was working with his new partners and learning a new aspect of advertising. I was learning a new aspect of living with this man, paying for our life in more ways than financial. But I was finally with the man I loved.
In the previous year we talked about whether we would have children but decided to give our attention to his three boys. While I had never ached to be a mother, it was a tough and final decision. I could not know then why he was so intent on a vasectomy. He admitted that he never wanted to have children which I thought was honest.
He was still spending time with his boys in Manhattan on alternate weekends. When I hold the magnifying mirror to me I know that I had some resentment about those weekends. But the time came for me to meet them at a restaurant where instead of the steak, I was grilled. It was never really clear whether the oldest boy remembered meeting me at my house in East Hampton, #26 The Lucy Episode. All that mattered that night was, I wasn’t Jewish. His father Mr. Humidifier had never been religious, but suddenly it mattered. Naturally the boy resented me. But at the time it felt like he was a rabbinical midget and I hadn’t studied.
Their father gave up his apartment and the boys spent weekends with us in Connecticut. Never have I pursued a job more seriously or with more futility than the role of weekend step-mom. I cared about them before meeting them and they hated me before meeting me. Well they didn’t all hate me but the oldest boy was the leader. And he hated me. If he didn’t like a meal I prepared, no one liked it.
The harder I tried the worse it got. When I gave up, it changed and we started to have fun. I helped the oldest learn lines for a school play. I taught him to play guitar. I taught them all to ski. It took nearly a year, but we found our own bond. If that sounds like a happy ending, read on.
Mr. Humidifier turned in the hated company car. The car where if you stepped on the brakes, the back seat light went on and locks fell out of the doors. Suddenly he could afford a Cadillac. Then he bought a stereo and a couple of television sets and we took weekend trips. This was the man who couldn’t help with our monthly expenses. Once when he gave me a check for half my monthly mortgage he asked for the money back.
His business improved. He and his partners threw an extravagant party in Manhattan. He bought me a new dress. I remember dancing and dancing, and his madly swirling me in circles.
One evening in spite of my dislike for drugs he talked me into trying marijuana. It was not my first experience. Ten years earlier when we worked together he introduced me to his fun. I hated it. It made me even stupider. I’m no dud about it. It’s just not for me and he said he had quit. On this occasion I agreed. I sat on my couch paralyzed. Literally, I couldn’t raise my arms or move my legs. He told me he had no idea what else was in the stuff. I believed him.
He set up a meeting for us with an investment advisor he knew. We were to talk about marriage and setting up school trusts for the boys, but it was all about peering into my income and net worth. I was uncomfortable but of course we were doing this for the future.
That spring he took me to Europe. His business travel agent planned everything. We first went to Amsterdam where we saw only two things: the house of Anne Frank, and the neighborhood with the convenience of hookers in storefront windows and drugs on every other street corner. Then we boarded a Rhine cruise drinking champagne cocktails and spent a few days in Switzerland. This was with the man who couldn’t afford groceries a couple of months earlier.
In Zurich Mr. Humidifier left to go to a bank, for a few hours. Then he splurged for crystal to have shipped back to my house. We stayed at the most exquisite hotel in the region.
A few days later, waiting at the Geneva airport for our flight back to New York he seemed to have the flu. He went to the men’s room all sweaty and shaky at least a half dozen times. There was nothing I could do to help. At last we boarded and got him home.
I hope you’re smarter reading this than I was living it
That summer Mr. Humidifier decided he wanted to build a pool in my yard to entertain his children on weekends. Mine was a modest house in a modest neighborhood with a modest yard and I was no swimmer. Suddenly there was a backhoe taking down the fence we had built for the brief stay of the dog Biff.
Our relationship always remained passionate but was changing. There was a low key strain and I couldn’t keep up with him and his sudden cash flow. Though we ate the same food, he was losing weight. One night he was up all night working on a presentation for a new client. He had me read it in the car on the commute in the morning. He was a very smart guy but this was scribbling that made no sense. Remember that when he had nose bleeds, I BOUGHT HIM A HUMIDIFIER!
The backyard was mostly mud, but the pool was almost finished. That’s when he called me at my office one afternoon to say he had to stay late. I should take the train and a cab home. It was the only time we didn’t travel together. He never came home.
And then the news started pouring in. We were in the small community of New York broadcasting/advertising and everyone seemed to think I’d like to hear the rumors. For the next three weeks I ate nothing, slept little, worked hard, and lived on coffee and cigarettes.
People now told me that he had developed a very expensive and I mean VERY expensive cocaine habit. When a friend helped me pack up his belongings we found plenty of evidence. Drugs explained some insane behavior, but gave me no relief. I also learned that the clients for whom I made Christmas cookies were given cocaine by the competition.
Only two months after he disappeared, he married a woman from his office. He told everyone how terrible I was because I wouldn’t bring his tuxedo shoes to him for his wedding. I hadn’t even gotten all his things out of my house yet. He bought her an emerald ring. He bought her a house. He left me the bills for the pool. I wanted to turn it into a giant planter.
I never got to say good-bye to the boys. I wondered about them attending their father’s wedding.
I dislike the phrase by the way, but by the way, their wedding cruise with 100 mostly drunk guests got stuck and tugs had to tow them back. I didn’t mind that news.
There were plenty of startling stories about the high flying and newly married couple. I know friends thought I’d want to know. But he had left me with more than a broken heart and bills.
Shortly after Mr. Humidifier’s departure my doctor delivered the horrifying news that I had an STD. It could not be cured with medication. Frequent and painful treatments didn’t work so I had to be hospitalized with surgery. Aha, the vasectomy.
The following winter I got an entertaining call from the IRS. The news wasn’t over. Mr. Humidifier had claimed my house on his taxes. His only proof was the one cancelled check to me which was for half of one month’s mortgage. And he asked for that money back. The man from the IRS was much smarter than I, and had a sympathetic voice. He must have though me an idiot.
About a year after his disappearance I answered my office phone and didn’t recognize Mr. Humidifier. He did not say his name. I heard a speeding voice invite me on a vacation. I wish I had said, “I wouldn’t have a cup of coffee with you.” But what I think I said was, “At most I’d have a cup of coffee with you.” That subtle difference didn’t matter. He hung up. I could only guess that he was looking for a stupid traveling companion to get him through customs again. This was the love of my life?
I hope that’s all on Mr. Humidifier. It isn’t all, but it’s time to revisit so many other “Stupendously Stupid” stories.
In the summer of 1985 my High School Class from Port Angeles, Washington held its 20th reunion. Living 3,000 miles away for the previous 15 years was the primary reason I had never attended one of the events. Also it wasn’t an ecstatically happy time of my life so why revisit? But a few good friends were going to be there so I planned a road trip.
The business I had started in Pennsylvania in 1984 was flopping. My two young male partners and I were not doing well as a group to put it much too mildly. I needed to consider shutting everything down, but couldn’t give up. My tenacity never allows that, but my life savings was hemorrhaging. I needed more than a stroll on a beach to think this through.
So get this, instead of staying and fighting and getting help, I planned a two month summer road trip across the country for our reunion, then down the west coast. In spite of the business disaster I was or wasn’t facing, it was probably the greatest trip I’ve ever taken. I was on my own, visiting friends along the way. I got to see childhood friends, my mountains, beaches and lakes and I got to know my little nephew. I found a perfect beach community in Oregon where I still want to live. Nothing beats the dramatic coast drive to California, sunroof open, driving through the giant redwoods or blasting Vivaldi with lights off, winding down from Yosemite with stars overhead. On the way back east I visited an aunt in St. Louis I hadn’t seen since I was twelve. So that trip doesn’t make the “Stupendously Stupid” list. Standing by a 2,000 year old tree puts business troubles or anything into perspective. A decision a couple of months later however does make the list.
When I returned to Pennsylvania that September a friend from the reunion invited me to meet her in Florida. Her college roommate was going to be on NASA’s shuttle flight that November and I could attend some functions and watch the launch. This was at the top of my life wish list. I worked on a budget for a trip to Florida and considered the cost of leaving that dragging business behind again. My decision? There would always be another shuttle.
The next shuttle launch was the Challenger.
Days after #26 The Lucy Episode, Mr. Humidifier announced that we were going to Jamaica with his two business partners and their girlfriends for a long weekend. It was a free trip from their client to a self-contained hedonistic resort with no cash, just pooka shells and teeth from long dead sharks. I did not want to go and said nothing.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch and there was nothing free about that trip. When we landed in Jamaica there was a long bus ride to the resort, so we chartered a small plane. Except for the fact that we landed a few feet from a small airstrip, I never knew where I was.
I know where I wasn’t. I wasn’t at a resort with air conditioning. Much of the power on the island was out. The food was hot from gas heated steam tables and the drinks were warm. We were baking. Even the pool was hot, maybe because very drunk men were peeing into it.
On the first night I was horrified when the men in our little band of six went scouting for drugs. Mr. Humidifier admitted that he tried cocaine for the first time that night. I hated drugs. So little Miss drug monitor me was stuck in that oven, and angry enough to try to sleep on a very short couch.
After three days of relentless heat, some in our group were sick and Mr. Humidifier developed red blotches. Finally, finally the weekend was over. We took the short flight and got to the airport where yes, they were overbooked. The men immediately vaulted over the desk trying to bribe a supervisor resulting in another twelve hour wait. At last only four seats opened up for the six of us. One of the women drew eye liner on a shark’s tooth and put it into a backgammon cup with two pearly white teeth. Mr. Humidifier drew the blackened one. The others ran for the flight before I could ask why I had to stay behind. Best two out of three?
The airline herded us onto a sauna of a bus into Montego Bay. It was the first time in my life I was sure I was going to faint.
We were deposited at a hotel where they provided one room for the men and one for the women to wait for flights to open up. We got our own room. We’d been living on dinner rolls for days so we wandered a few blocks away and found a coffee shop for food without steam. Back at the hotel a housekeeper walked in on our make up sex. Could the weekend get more demeaning? Hours later back at the hotel we got a call that a flight had opened up, another sauna bus ride to the airport, where we waited again for several hot hours.
Everyone, and I mean everyone was testy by now. We went through customs with a group carrying large coral sculptures and had to duck to avoid getting sliced in the face. The man in front of us who spoke little English had his pocket knife taken from him. His grand daughter screamed that it was the only item his dead father had left him. They did not give it back. Probably a good idea, but what about the weapons of coral?
The plane was filled with the same people from the resort who continued partying on the flight back to JFK. We limped home in my little car having lost two days of work, and nearly the will to live.
Mr. Humidfier was still hot and the red blotches didn’t go away. Turned out he had the chickenpox from his son from the #26 Lucy Episode. Two others from our little group landed in the emergency room.
I’ll write about the year that followed, when I was oblivious about the signs of cocaine use by the man in my life. Just a reminder that when he developed nosebleeds, I bought him a humidifier.
I’m sure it’s a perfectly fun place, but thirty years later I’ve never been tempted to go back to Jamaica.