What Happened with Jeff: Part II

I never talked to the Surgeon about Jeff, but he knew something was going on because I was gradually withdrawing from him emotionally and I was out of touch for hours or days at a time.  He knew.

He put his foot down.

“Whatever you have going on, you need to end it.  Now,” he said.  We were in a hotel suite in Midtown and he was sitting on the sofa next to me, dressed in his suit.  He voice and tone and face were serious.  Serious as a heart attack.   He could be so intimidating.

For a few minutes I tried to deny it and feign ignorance, but it was no use.  He knew me too well, and even if he didn’t, when he turned the full force of his scrutiny upon me (or anyone)…he could tell.  The Surgeon had a surgeon’s eye.  He sees everything, when he bothers to look.

I started to cry.  And, readers, you know I never cry.

“It’s not fair!  It’s not fair to me!  You don’t want me to have anyone in my life but you!”

He paused, considering.  Then: “You’re right, Margo.  It’s not fair to you, and you put up with a lot.  But that’s the way it is.  I happened to your life, and that’s just the way it is.”

“Why don’t you want me to be happy?  Surgeon, this can’t go on!”  I was sobbing and so humiliated, to be crying in front of him.

If this man really loved me, this man who was old enough to be my father, who could never offer me a family or a normal future, he would say something along the lines of: This relationship has been very dear to me and I will cherish it forever, and I will always be your friend and be there for you, and I will miss you, but if you think you can find happiness with this man, you need to move on.

He said nothing of the sort, of course.  What he said was: “I need you and we need each other.  You are not going anywhere.  The sooner you accept that, the easier it will be for you.  I’m sorry that you’re crying, darling, but that’s life, and you brought this on yourself when you decided to get involved (with another relationship).”

Sobbing sobbing sobbing, just sobbing on the couch.  He passed me a kleenex.

“Look, Margo, you are never going to better-deal me.  Nobody else will give you what you need, or understand what you need like me.

Nobody else will ever love you like I do.”

At that, I felt a flash of rage cutting through the grief.

“I sure as hell hope not!” I screamed at him.

His face got tense and I wondered if he was going to punish me for that.  By this point in our relationship, insubordination was a capital offense as far as he was concerned.

He said, in a low soft voice, “I know you’re in pain right now, so I’ll let you get away with that one.”

“It’s not fair!” I whispered, hitching in breath.

“I know.  But that’s the way it is.  Whatever you have going on, you end it now, or else I’ll end it for you.”

I understood this to be the truth.  He would find Jeff, and confront him somehow, call him at home or even at his work.  He would confront him, and God knows what he’d say…tell him about my history of sex work, working in the dungeon?  Tell him where all those bruises really came from?  Tell him the truth about the bracelet? Tell him that I was a masochist who craved, and accepted, awful violence?

I knew that the Surgeon would do it.  He was absolutely unafraid of confrontation and he was not afraid to violate boundaries.

I went home and wrote Jeff an email.  I don’t remember what I wrote word-for-word, but it was something like: I am so sorry, I think you are a wonderful man, but I have an ex-boyfriend who has been contacting me again and my feelings for him and that relationship are still unresolved.  I am unable to give you the complete attention and devotion that you so richly deserve.  From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry for the pain this may cause you, and I am sorry that I wasted your time.  Jeff, I am grateful for how you treated me and our time together.

Yeah, it was not the real/whole truth.  But how could I tell him the whole truth…?

He wrote back: Margo, my affection for you is well known, and I do not want to lose you.  I want you in my life.  But you need to be straight with me.  

I did not respond.  That was our final communication.

The Surgeon took me to Boston the next day and kept me there for a little while so that he could keep an eye on me and refresh my programming.

That’s all.  I’m ashamed that when the Surgeon put pressure on me I folded like a cheap card table.  I was a coward.  I guess all I can say, in my defense, is that it is very difficult to defy or resist the man….and I would not be the only person in his orbit to say so.  In my entire life, I have never met anyone with such a will to power.

Eventually, I started to date other men again, from time to time.  The relationships were all strictly recreational–get dinner, hang out, maybe have sex.  Friendly but superficial.  I didn’t let any of them get close to me (and, if I may add, I never misled any of them.  I was very careful about that, because, after Jeff, I felt very guilty)….

….until the Mathematician, when I decided to make a break for it.  We all know how that turned out.   I lost that “relationship,” but at least I got my freedom.

And now, to wrap this up, I’ll tell you the dream I had about Jeff:

I dreamed that I was at this restaurant we liked to go to, close to Tompkins Square Park, in my neighborhood.  It was crowded in there, as it often was, and I was standing in the bar area.

I was looking around, and I saw Jeff seated at one of the tables in the dining area, across from a brunette woman who I immediately assumed was his new girlfriend.

I wanted to approach him and tell him how sorry I was, and that I hoped he was doing well, and was happy, but I felt self-conscious.  So, instead, I waited until they were done with their meal, and then they parted ways and I followed him to the train station (just as I’d followed him OUT of the train station the first time I met him).

(Interesting note: in my dream, the car looked like an NJ Transit train car, and not like a PATH train car.)

He took a seat and started to read from his magazine.  I approached him and told him that I was sorry.

He ignored me, like he couldn’t hear me.  As if I was a ghost.

Maybe I was.


What Happened with Jeff (part I)

Note:  I know I don’t come off very well in this story.  I had no right to get so close to Jeff when the Surgeon was in my life.   I feel awful about it and always have, though I know that does not absolve me of responsibility or ameliorate the confusion I caused this decent man, who treated me with nothing but respect and kindness.

*                             *                            *

Last night I had a dream about Jeff.

It was a complete surprise.  I haven’t had a dream about Jeff in a long, long time.  Several years.

I feel it’s time to talk about Jeff, and what happened to that relationship.  I wrote a little about him when I started this blog, but I never wrote about what happened…its conclusion.

I picked up Jeff on the PATH train.  The car was mostly empty, and I noticed him sitting there reading The New Yorker.  I liked the way that he looked.  I can’t tell you why, exactly…he wasn’t ugly by any means, but he was not a very conventionally handsome man.  He was my height, lean and wirey, my favorite body type (the Surgeon’s body type).  His face was angular and he had a slightly crooked nose and big eyes and glasses.  His clothes weren’t flashy, but he was very neat and put-together and fastidious-looking.  His hands were big for a man of his size, with long, spindly fingers, and downed with brown hair.

I thought he was cute.  I was attracted to him.  I hoped that he would look up, so that I could catch his eye, but he was absorbed in his reading.

Well, he stood up to leave at the 9th Street PATH station, and I decided “Fuck it!  Approach him!” and I followed him out of the car and up the hall and onto the street.

I plucked at his sleeve and said something along the lines of: Excuse me, my name is Margo, I don’t mean to bother you but I was watching you on the train and I like your magazine and I thought you were really cute and if you’re not busy or married I was wondering if you’d like to get some coffee or lunch.

We exchanged numbers and went out for lunch the next day.

And we hit it off, right away.  I liked the way he spoke, his mannerisms, his understated-yet-confident bearing.  He was courteous.  This is what I wrote about him on my blog, shortly after we’d met:

We shared a meal together and I liked him right away.  I talked quite a bit, which is unusual for me on the first date—I usually encourage the other person to do most of the talking, so that I can learn about them.  Jeff was very easy to talk to.  I felt comfortable with him. Warmth came naturally.  He was polite, unaffected, knowledgeable.  He made sense to me.  I felt like I understood his disposition, his temperament.  I enjoyed watching him—his gestures, the way he ate his food, the way he carried himself.  And I liked the way he treated me.  Present and engaging, without radiating expectation.  After we left the restaurant, I told him that I found him attractive and I would like to see him again (again, that look of pleased surprise!).  I was confident that he would like to meet me again; I knew intuitively that I had charmed him. 

And so began our relationship, which lasted about four or five months.

He had an ex-wife with whom he shared custody of their five-year-old daughter.  He had an apartment in a nice part of Jersey City and a modest-but-comfortable middle-class job.  He commuted into Manhattan every morning for work.  He had a college degree, and he wasn’t a super-cerebral nerd like me, but he read, and was plenty intelligent, and when I was discussing something obscure he could totally keep up with me.

There were so many things I appreciated about him!  He never said anything derogatory about his ex-wife.  He didn’t try to have sex with me right away–he had healthy, mature boundaries.  He didn’t introduce me to his kid (and, for that matter, he always prioritized his time with his daughter above spending time with me, which is EXACTLY AS IT SHOULD BE, and which I really respected.  It meant that his priorities were right, and his daughter was more important than his fun date/sex with a new woman, and that he was vetting me before he let me around her.  It meant that he placed his responsibilities to loved ones above his personal desires, which is wonderful and a very good sign!).

The sex was vanilla, but good.  I really liked his body, and we had chemistry.  He wasn’t a sadomasochist.  His sexuality was robust but…I dunno….”normal”?

He was very cautious with me as the relationship progressed.  Cautious, but not paranoid or neurotic.  Letting me into his life, step by step, slowly sharing more intimate things about his family, his childhood, his successes and frustrations at work, his dreams for the future.  His feelings.  He was methodical.  Boundaries, like I said.  Even though he really, really liked me, he didn’t ask for instant intimacy.

He was kind and funny, but there was a (very slight) edge to him that turned me on: I understood, intuitively, that I could not walk all over this man.  He did not let anyone take advantage of him.  He was modest, but confident and secure.

At the time, I wasn’t working in a dungeon, though I’d worked in one for 6 months previous.  I was in my PhD program and tutoring.  I did not tell Jeff about my history of sex work, but that was the only secret that I had…

….except for the Surgeon.

I was seeing the Surgeon the entire time.  I was never monogamous with the Surgeon, and he tolerated me seeing other men as long as I didn’t get too close to them, and my relationships with them did not impede, in any way, upon his relationship and intentions with me.

I told myself that I wasn’t being dishonest with Jeff because we were still getting-to-know-you dating, and we’d never asked each other if we were seeing other people, and we never discussed monogamy or had the DTR (the “Defining the Relationship” discussion, where you agree to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and make it formal).  We weren’t at that stage of the relationship yet.

But, of course…things started to come up.  I’d be at Jeff’s, and the Surgeon would text me and, when I didn’t respond, he’d blow up my phone, and I’d have to turn it off.

I was wearing a gold bracelet (a slave bracelet, I guess) that I could not take off, because it was soldered closed.  The Surgeon did that.

I’d go away for the weekend a few times and essentially be out of touch while I was gone, some texts, but not available to talk.

Jeff was not an idiot.  I felt that he was making mental notes about these things.  He was not suspicious of me, he never confronted me about any of it, but I knew he was storing all this away.

(Sometimes I would also show up with bruises on my ass or my back, from the Surgeon’s beatings, and I’d have to make up excuses about where they came from.  Those are the only lies I think Jeff accepted completely, in his heart…because who thinks the girl they are dating is a masochist willfully getting strapped?)

After four or five months, I was spending a lot of time with Jeff: weekends at his place in Jersey City when he didn’t have his daughter there, and at least one or two nights per week at my East Village apartment.   We emailed.  We Skyped.  He met my mother when she flew to the City for my birthday.

The relationship was ready to…evolve.   It was reaching the tipping point.  Where you start to say, “I love you,” and commit, at least somewhat, to the other person and the relationship.

And that’s when the Surgeon landed on it.  With both feet.

(will continue after my alcohol rehab support group meeting)

Sadder Girl

    Oh God, the Surgeon called me last night for the zillionth time and like a moron, I took the call.  Why, why, why?  Two. Hours. He did about 80%-90% of the talking, or shouting, or bargaining, or whatever it was.  Actually, I know what it was, because I wasn’t drinking, so my memory is unmercifully clear.  Wait, why did I like drinking so much…?  Oh, yeah…

    At least I had the maturity and clarity of mind to stand up for myself and interrupt his tirade whenever he told me that I was “wrong.”  Sorry buddy, you do not get to dictate to me whether my dissatisfaction in the relationship is “wrong.”  He also kept defending himself from things I never accused him of or that had even occurred to me (rather telling).  “I know I’m right!  I know I’m right!” he kept saying.  Right about what?  That you were the perfect boyfriend?  What are you talking about? I never said you were “wrong” about anything. Why are you talking crazily? (note: I was just thinking this.  I didn’t say anything).  Then he said that he bought me flowers on Monday (what?).  Then he said that I had hurt his feelings (you should have heard the metaphors he was using, gentle reader; they were more graphic than “hurt his feelings.”) and that it was my obligation to “make it better.”  Then he said that he could not trust me anymore. Then he said that I had to go on a trip with him next month to (Tropical Vacation Paradise).

      Then he said he loved me and got off the phone.

      This is a highly intelligent, highly accomplished man I am describing, gentle reader.  I’ve read some of his work.  Hell, I’ve edited it.  The little hamster upstairs is running in its wheel quite well.  He lacks intellectual curiosity and I know for a fact that I’m better-read than he is, but I think he could probably beat me on IQ score.  Probably.  I would also, incidentally, recommend his professional talents to anyone.  If President Obama needed surgery, I would say: get thee to the Surgeon.  If my Mom needed surgery, I’d send her to him.

     Unbelievable.   Can I pick em, or can I pick em?

      For what it’s worth, he didn’t act like this most of the time we were together.  Swear to God.  It’s just the breakup making him crazy.

     No mentally sound man who reads this will ever want anything to do with me.

      I will probably remove this post, but I won’t do it because I want to deny what happened or how it portrays me.  I’ll do it because I told myself that I would keep the breakup private. I don’t want to be trashy and complaining.  So why am I writing this now…?

     Who else can I tell…?  I am a lonesome girl.  It’s my fault that I am.  Most folks find me likable.  At my last job, I expressed my concern to a colleague that I was worried someone else strongly disliked me.  My colleague looked at me, surprised, and said: “I have never heard anyone say anything bad about you, Margo.”  

     Speaking of fault, there is something the Surgeon told me about myself that is absolutely accurate, zutreffend :  I do not, clearly and unequivocally, express what I need and expect from people in my personal relationships.

      My students get syllabi and bullet-point instructions and pages of editorializing on their essays; the masochists I control are dictated to and observed so closely that I sometimes become anxious (and thrilled) with the intensity of my focus.  I thrive under clear instruction from professors, employers, and Tops.  And it goes without saying that I know what I need in bed.  Structure, baby, I like structure.  Thank you, Mom (I am not being sarcastic).

    But boyfriends…?  Even close friends…?

     I seldom ask for a goddamned thing.  I assess them on what they offer or deny me of their own volition, of course, but I just don’t ask them for things.  Emotional support.  A sounding board for my complaints.  Favors.  Time.  Accessibility.  Attention.  Etc etc.

     The last healthy, loving guy I dated who was really into me once called me (TWICE CALLED ME!) on the phone on his way to Trader Joe’s to ask me if there was anything I’d like him to purchase for me, since I’d be staying over at his place (“Do you want a particular cereal or fruit or anything?”) .  I was astonished, as if he’d asked me if I wanted him to bring me back a rock from planet Mars.  We’d only been dating for three weeks, too.  He was Jeff, the Machinist.  You can look him up on the label menu of this blog if you want to read further examples of my moonbat craziness.

     I left Jeff.  The good guy before Jeff was Steven, the vet.  I did not feel as connected with Steven as I was with Jeff, and Steven was freshly divorced and still in a lot of pain, but he was absolutely a decent fellow and there were many things I admired about his character.  I was there with him through a cancer scare and the death of a relative.  He dumped me because, basically, he wasn’t there with me for anything.  He couldn’t give me a reason, really, for why he ended our relationship.  He said that I was funny and beautiful and smart (One time he told me–laying with his head on my lap, and we were talking about his divorce–and he looked at me and said, “You are such a kind person, Margo.”  I will never forget that compliment).  But the energy only ran one way–I gave, and I did not take.  I guess he didn’t feel like I was fully there.  I confused him.  Maybe my lack of need made him feel personally unneeded.

      Everyone wants to feel needed, but for men, I think, this is crucial.  Men crave to feel needed by women.  I understand this, and so I have tricks for it: I ask the man to open the stubborn jar, or lift the heavy thing, or something like that.  At the gym, I ask a stranger, “Excuse me, would you please remove this 40 lb. weight plate from this press for me?”  Even if I could do it (with difficulty) myself, I ask them to do it. They are so strong that they can do it all so easily–pop that jar lid right off!  It’s like watching a special effect!  I am fascinated by their strength, compared to my own.  Even small dudes, guys my size (well, almost, I’m tall but pretty lean) are stronger than I am.  Which is fine (except for the fact that it means I am weak little prey for whomsoever comes along,  And it’s not ‘fine,’ it’s a fact of life).  I think it’s Hawt.

     Where was I going with this?  I was distracted by the mental images of men effortlessly opening jars and moving furniture.  

      Oh, yes. I am in breakup anguish and I took the day off from work because I cannot conceive of searching for redundancies in anyone’s shitty SPSS dataset or being the avatar of their random whackadoodle (no blame! no blame!) needs at the Superstudio.  I am going to see my analyst, whose fee I cannot realistically afford right now, because I need to be told where my thinking is dangerous and wrong.

     And I need to know my needs, and why I am so reluctant to share them (but I already know why–logic dictates–I refrain because I assume, without even asking, that my needs will be unfulfilled and rejected.  This assumption is what requires examination).

     I need to keep away from the Surgeon.

     P.S. I know that men need more than to feel needed for opening jars and lifting heavy things.  I was being facetious, mostly. I know you are complex homo sapiens with emotional needs.  Please don’t be mad at me; I intended no insult.

    P.P.S.  Sorry for this self-absorbed drama-rama.  Fuck me, if I had something better to say, I would.

   P.P.P.S  I’ve recently re-read many of my previous posts; if I was hired as an editor I would revise the shit out of most of them.  Most of them need to be tightened up.  I would also remove practically all of the profanity.  For whatever it’s worth, I seldom curse in professional environments–public speaking, or when talking with an employer.  I am a polite person.  The blog posts you read here are raw first drafts.  

The Child of the Morning: Rosy-Fingered Dawn

     I wish I could post a photo of the view of the sunrise for you readers.  I’ve been watching it for twenty minutes, coming up over the tall buildings that line the East River.  It was purple-pink, then rose, and then orange bled into it.  Now it’s getting yellow and I can’t look at it anymore.   Burn my eyes.  

     Since I stopped drinking, my memory’s gotten so much better (imagine that, huh?).  I always had a fantastic memory.  In school, I didn’t really have to study, for the most part (had to study Math.  Without a doubt.  Chemistry sucked, too.  I mean, chemistry is awesome, only my ability to easily comprehend it sucked.).  If I read it carefully, I remembered it.  I’m not bragging, I’m just saying.

     Why do I apologize for my talents?

    Times like this, I wish that I had a Nigel.  A nigel of my very own! (click the link–“I Blame the Patriarchy.”  Not an easy read–I didn’t get it the first few hours I was there.  But if you hang in there…it’s worth it.)

      A nigel!  We would canoodle in my bed.  Maybe he would make me a waffle.  I would eat a waffle for him.  A whole waffle!  

     I have to go back to see my family and I don’t want to, even though I love them.  That place is haunted.  I want to drink.  If I had scotch here, I’d drink it, even though it is 7:30 AM.  Isn’t that disgusting?  Totally disgusting.  I am not even doing it, and it’s disgusting.  ARGH!  Well, Margo, don’t torture yourself over something you haven’t done.

     I am sad.  I want a boy!  Why don’t I get one?  They are easy to get.

    I still have Jeff’s phone number.  I wonder if I could get him back?    If he’s not with another woman, I bet I could charm him again.  

    That was a real man.  A real mature, responsible man.  Emotionally evolved.  

    But how could I do it to him–knowing myself as I do? 

    scotch scotch scotch scotch scotch  

Blind Date with a Truther

       I went on a blind date this afternoon—God knows why; my life is still pretty unsuited for any true intimacy.  The fellow was a very tall, well-dressed European.  We met at a coffee shop, but because this is NYC and lots of restaurant tables are too small to accommodate ballerinas, I suggested that we take a stroll to find a more comfortable venue. 
        He seemed charmed by my attempt to converse in his native language and graciously did not correct my bad grammar.  He shared some shrewd observations about individuals we interacted with.  He walked at a fast clip, which I appreciated (I am a fast and purposeful walker myself).  He demonstrated familiarity with economics.  I was enjoying our Village tour.
     And then we passed a public art exhibit full of home-made ceramic plates.  We paused to look at them.
     “I wonder what these are all about?” I asked, because the theme was not obvious. 
      “Probably about 9/11,” my date said.
      “Ah, probably.”
        He turned to me, his gaze suddenly intense (especially intense, I mean—he seemed like an intense personality in general, which I find attractive in men, usually to my detriment). 
         “Have you studied the 9/11 attacks?” he asked me.
          I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by the question, and not sure how to respond to it right away.  It’s like asking someone if they’d studied Africa or invertebrate zoology. 
         “Umm, I read The Looming Tower, and parts of the official 9/11 Commission Report when it came out,” I answered. 
       “Well, you won’t get much good information from them!” he huffed.
       “What do you mean?” (But, gentle reader, I immediately suspected what he meant, and a flower of despair began to bloom in my chest.) 
        “If you want to learn the truth about what really happened, the best thing to do is to watch documentaries online.  There are lots of them.  Then you will know what happened.   The truth.  The truth is not in those books you said.” 
        I almost asked him if he could recommend a few specific titles for me to look up, but then I decided against it.  Somehow I knew he was not referring to Frontline PBS specials, and I knew that if I heard the words Loose Change falling from his lips, there was no way that I could continue our company.  Indeed, it would probably induce me to run, shrieking, in the opposite direction. 
        I politely told him that I would look into it. 
         He offered me a ride back to my apartment, but I deferred, saying that my mother told me not to get into cars with strangers that offered me candy.  While this is good advice and it is true that women are vulnerable, when I refused him, I was totally bullshitting.  I’ve developed a good spider sense with dudes and I’m no naïve dummy, but let’s be honest—there’s a dangerous streak in my otherwise practical character that is not at all risk-adverse, and if I truly desired a strange man, I’d happily board his helicopter to God-knows-where.  I really would.  I’ve done it—scooped men up like they were salmon in ankle-deep waters.   That’s one of the few true, undeniable advantages of being a female, and in my opinion, you’d best take advantage of it while you can, because it’s ephemeral, and it’s never going to be as good as it is now again. 
          No, the real reason I turned down the ride home was because his (suggested) acceptance of 9/11 conspiracy theories had instantly and utterly negated his attractiveness to me.  Call me shallow or narrow-minded for it; I don’t give a shit.  But as far as I was concerned, he might as well have defended burquas or said that he golfed with Dick Cheney every Sunday.  Game over, buddy.  

       The Machinist, the Machinist.  Why did I have to fuck it up with the Machinist?  

Like an Arrow, I Was Only Passing Through

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  I’m too tired to write now (what an old lady I’m becoming!), but my 4 readers enjoy pictures, so here are a few.   
  I was at Lackawanna Station in Hoboken today and took a few photos.  I love trains and train stations.  The appeal is very deep; it must be something psychological.  I also like bridges, clock towers, and light towers.

                      Hoboken has a beautiful station:


        Being there reminded me of Jeff, the Mechanist, quite a bit.  I think about him too often than I should.  I wonder why (seriously).  Was listening to Smog on the ipod (spare me, please; if I was popular in my youth you’d never be reading this blog. All  half-dozen of you.  Which is actually pretty funny now that I think about it), and I think he had me pinned:
We can continually sink into each other
Just deep enough to rip out a bit more flesh
When we move away
A scarf of skin trailing out behind

Like an arrow
I was only passing through
A blood red bird
A blood red bird

On a more upbeat note, I got a brand new pair of absurd, totally impractical, sexually provocative high heels.  And hell no, I did not buy them—I’m got “issues,” as they say, but I’m not silly like that.

      I’m halfway through something much more substantial, but tonight I’m just wiped out.  God, am I shallow for posting pictures of my SHOES on the internet?  I’m a bit squeamish about it.  On the other hand, I did quote from The New York Review of Books, a publication surely not popular amongst bimbos.  Not that I want to sounds snobby–most of the contributing authors there probably have 80 IQ points on me.

      Better post next time.

Say Hello to My Little Friend….

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First and foremost, I would like to apologize to the mysterious individuals who cruise this blog on a regular basis, presumably to look for updates.  According to Ye Olde Blogspot, this blog has had dozens of readers (drive-bys?  Google hit-and-runs?  Who knows?  Surely not I!), and at least a few are repeat viewers (special acknowledgement to the visitors from Deutschland, Russia, and Iran…especially Iran!  Why you cruisin’ me, Iran? Are you looking for tips to enhance the corporal punishment in your jurisprudence system, or what? )!
In any event, thanks for visiting, and I am flattered that you are interested enough to return, good reader!
On Independence Day the official fireworks extravaganza took place on the West Side this year, over the Hudson River.  (The ads called it the “Macy’s Fourth of July!” which I found very vulgar and crass…were I to donate big bucks to a Bengal Tiger habitat, I wouldn’t demand to name it the ‘Miss Margo Bengal Tiger Habitat.’ Corporations are so obnoxious.)
 Meanwhile, someone(s) launched fireworks from the East River Park, where the fireworks celebration was held in previous years.  I know because I could see them from my bedroom window.  People in my neighborhood crowded to their windows, ventured out upon their fire escapes.  The fireworks were beautiful, and they made spectacular noise.  I like the way some of them are like optical illusions, which seem to explode toward your line of vision (does anyone know what I mean…?  It’s hard to explain!  I should have taken photos). 
The kid I was keeping the turtles for dropped out of rehab within 48 hours and came to collect his pets a few days later (THAT was interesting, let me tell you).  They were put back in their tiny cage and sent packing. There was nothing I could do.  Sadly, I doubt very much if either one is still living. 
I enjoyed watching them so much, though, that I walked over to the nearest crummy Petland Discounts and bought myself a new little friend.  
Truly, he is a magnificent specimen!  Fish are really hard to photograph (or maybe I’m just a bad photographer), and these photos don’t do him justice.  He’s a brilliant cobalt blue color, with dark blue tips on his caudal fins and wine-red pelvic fins.  I set him up in a 2.5 gallon tank on top of my desk.  I’m going to trick it out with moss balls and java fern after payday. 
I enjoy the betta fish very much.  He seems quite fascinated by the things in his tank, such as the gravel and the thermometer and the big round piece of sparkly granite that I propped in front of the ugly box filter.  He examines each with careful concentration.  Amazingly, he never seems to get bored. 
Jeff, the Machinist, would observe him and say:  “Well yes, he has very limited programming.”
Or at least, Jeff would say that if he was here. Which he’s not. 
My expensive neo-Freudian psychologist told me that I end relationships with people who get too close to me out of homicidal impulse.  You want to murder them, she said. 
What?  I said, very skeptical.  That struck me as preposterous.  I don’t want to kill anyone.  I don’t understand. 
You kill them symbolically by killing the relationship. 
But I’m not hostile towards these people, not angry.  Why would I…?
You don’t want to kill them out of anger or hatred.  For you, it’s necessity.  It’s survival.  They are very threatening to you.  You kill them before they kill you. 

Dipping a toe into the terrifying shark-infested waters of intimacy

At his invitation, I spent most of the weekend with Jeff, the Machinist, at his home in New Jersey. 
            The prospect made me a little anxious.  It’s been well over a year since I spent that much time, uninterrupted, with a man.  I’ve been on lots of trips, been to lots of places, but in those situations, I saw my companion chiefly during the evening, and kept my own company during the day.   But dinner, a movie, sex, sleeping together in the same bed, waking up together, breakfast, spending the whole day together, another evening together, going to bed together, and waking up together and eating breakfast together again?  I must admit that I found the prospect mildly daunting.  All those meals together.  All those conversations—would I be able to sustain them?  The unrelenting physical proximity. 
            As I packed a change of clothes and my toiletries into my knapsack, I definitely had the jitters.  The fact that I knew it was abnormal to feel anxiety over such a minor, casual activity increased my discomfort.  I mean, when you get right down to it, what are the natures of my fears?  I fear that I will be inadequate for the task at hand.  And what is the task?  Intimacy.  Emotional intimacy.  The kind that runs both ways.  Letting someone get to know me. 
            You are unfit, the voice barks, like a small yappy dog, in the back of my head.  You are unfit for this. Accept it and spare yourself and this man the inevitable result of this “relationship.”
            The other voice in my head—whether it is the voice of sanity and positive mental health or the voice of denial and rationalization, I do not know—counters: You are freaking out for no reason!  Quit it right now!  You are sabotaging yourself and reading into this way too much!  All that you are doing is spending a few days with this nice, regular guy!  It’s not neurosurgery!  Just try to have a nice time and be yourself!
            Be myself.  Wow, what a concept!
            In the end, I rallied myself and set off for the PATH station, overnight bag in hand.
            And in the end, the weekend went well.  I tried to be good company and a good houseguest.  To be kind, gracious, courteous and receptive to courtesy.  And I tried to keep my heart open to him, and to be as authentic as I could.

Meeting the Machinist

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        I met Jeff, the machinist, about a month ago.  It was completely spontaneous—we happened to be in the same place at the same time, and he caught my eye.  After studying him for a few minutes, I approached him and introduced myself.  He was receptive, and seemed to be a little surprised at my initiative, which I found endearing.  Men almost always look startled when I ask them out, which amuses me—they look as if I’d suggested something bizarre and random, like “Hi there, can I spill my hot coffee on your lap?” or “Do you have any idea where I could buy an autographed photo of Vladimir Putin?”  It takes a few seconds to compute.
            We shared a meal together and I liked him right away.  I talked quite a bit, which is unusual for me on the first date—I usually encourage the other person to do most of the talking, so that I can learn about them.  Jeff was very easy to talk to.  I felt comfortable with him. Warmth came naturally.  He was polite, unaffected, knowledgeable.  He made sense to me.  I felt like I understood his disposition, his temperament.  I enjoyed watching him—his gestures, the way he ate his food, the way he carried himself.  And I liked the way he treated me.  Present and engaging, without radiating expectation.  After we left the restaurant, I told him that I found him attractive and I would like to see him again (again, that look of pleased surprise!).  I was confident that he would like to meet me again; I knew intuitively that I had charmed him. 
            “I’m very frank,” I explained, standing in the bright winter sunshine.
             “I see that,” he said.  Long pause.  Then: “I’m glad to know that you had a good time.  I did, too.”
             I assured him that if I did not like him, I would already have excused myself and beaten a hasty retreat.  It’s true, too—I’ve done enough dating over the last five years to know that there is nothing to be gained by enduring bad, or even mediocre company.        
            A few days later, I took the train to visit him in New Jersey.  

            I’ve seen him about twice a week for four weeks now.  It’s been nice.  Jeff is definitely relationship material.  I appreciate the way he’s put together—he’s serious-minded, logical, patient, and calm.  He’s fastidious and detail-oriented.  He has moral values that he does not talk about but which are expressed through his choices and behavior—he hardly eats meat, he builds furniture, and when his toaster broke, he took it apart and fixed it himself instead of throwing it out and buying a new one.  He has not said one bad thing about his ex.  His apartment is clean and organized (although, like a typical male, he has fancy electronics and zero decoration—why o why do men never hang pictures on the wall or have houseplants?  WHY?).  He has a gigantic cabinet full of tools and machines, and he knows how they work and uses them.  I had a million questions about them, and he could answer them all.
            And he’s kind and affectionate.  He likes to cuddle and hold hands.  Basically, he is an emotionally evolved human being.  In fact, I think that he is probably way more evolved than I am.  I could learn and thing or two from him. 
            Which brings me to my current dilemma: I cannot have my life the way it is now just add Jeff to it.  At this time, there is not a Jeff-sized hole in my life.  In order to make a Jeff-sized hole, I’ve have make room by getting rid of some other stuff.  The last time I tried to just add a healthy, normal adult male homo sapian to my life was a year and a half ago.  His name was Steven.  It didn’t work out.  I confused the shit out of him and he dumped me—he never gave me an clear reason why, probably because he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but that’s all right.  I knew the reason why Steven had to get out, even if he didn’t. 
            We didn’t have a falling out, or any sort of conflict or character clash.  He didn’t leave because he felt taken for granted, or because I was unkind or hostile to him.  He was impressed with my beauty and education.  He thought I was funny.  The problem was…I just wasn’t there, not entirely.  I wouldn’t let him get too close.  I never shared my problems, even the trivial ones, the daily frustrations of life.  I supported him through the death of a relative and a cancer scare, but he never saw me angry, or scared, or sad.  I never asked him for a favor.  And he never knew what was really going on with me—the entire picture of my life.  I only gave him pieces.  Pieces of Margo.
            I will not repeat that dynamic in a relationship.  It’s just not right.
            It’s still early with Jeff—I have a little more time before I have to make any big decisions.
            Part of me is furious, just furious with myself for meeting this man.  How dare I subject this decent individual to myself, knowing myself as I do?