With perfect timing, “Elastic Heart” by Sia came up on my Pandora just as I finished writing this title. She sings, “You did not break me.” I know, I know, so angst-y, like a teenager!
Out of everyone, I have the longest history with Dumb and Angry. When I was in the fifth grade, my family relocated from a suburb of Minneapolis to the smallest town imaginable – 300 people. It was the beginning of the awkward years for me. Almost immediately, though, I started getting love letters from this boy. Eventually I made plans with one of the girls from my class to stay at her house, which happened to be near his, and the boy and I were able to hang out a few times to play on the neighborhood merry-go-round and swings. All I really knew about him was that he hated his step-dad and that he was a year older than me because he had to repeat a grade. After a half a year I dumped him unceremoniously because I had a crush on another boy.
When we were in 10th grade, without knowing the other had done it, we auditioned to get into the public arts high school that had just started accepting students the year before in Minneapolis (and is currently in operation). One day in the middle of winter we were both called into the principal’s office of this school out in the middle of farm country to receive our certified letters telling us we accepted and were going to be living at the “Fame” school the next year. Heading back to our classrooms we were so excited, doing that mix of whispering and screaming and throwing out “I can’t believe it!” every few steps. I was thrilled to be going back to the big city, and he was happy to leave his horrible home life.
We had vastly different lives at the Fame school. He was a straight male in a school that had a ratio of 4 girls for every boy, and he fucked around a lot. A LOT. Dumb and Angry also did a lot of drugs, including weed, acid and huffing. I was at the other end of the spectrum and didn’t date or do anything except follow the rules. I held a lot of hair back while drunk girls barfed, but I was never one of them. I kept my distance from him except for attending one party together where we kissed once. I knew he had always had feelings for me, but I never really encouraged him.
The day after we graduated from high school I left to live on Mackinac Island in Michigan. I know that he had started dating a girl from the class behind ours; years later I found out that she used to say to a friend of ours every day, “What can I do to make Dumb and Angry like me???” Apparently she was finally successful, and they moved to Seattle and had a kid.
In 2007, when MySpace and Classmates.com were still being used, I received a message on one of those sites from Dumb and Angry indicating he wanted to reconnect. For about six months we talked on the phone, emailed, shared pictures, sent packages through the mail, made plans for him to visit and basically had a long-distance relationship. I was definitely flattered that he was still interested in me romantically and I was unsatisfied with my dating life, so it was easy to get into a situation with a familiar person with whom I shared history. However, as the months went on, it became glaringly obvious that he was angry ALL OF THE TIME. He was not making a lot of money and he was living with roommates, and the woman he had married and had a kid with cheated on him, so they had divorced. He constantly complained about how everyone was out to get him and he was a huge conspiracy theorist. I called it quits when he kicked in a door at the house where he was living. It was extremely depressing to talk to him and the violence scared me.
In 2013, I received a message on Facebook from his ex-wife, who just happened to be living in Arizona with the guy whom she cheated on Dumb and Angry with, along with the son with Dumb and Angry and another son with the live-in. She began a campaign to convince me to give it another try with Dumb and Angry; he didn’t understand why I broke it off with him, he was a completely changed person and very passive, he had been under duress when he kicked in that door. I caved. Dumb and Angry and I resumed a long distance relationship. It turned out that we just missed each other when we were in Minnesota at the same time – me for a vacation, and him because his mother passed away. His mother bequeathed him her car and a lump sum of cash from her life insurance.
We started having serious talks about him relocating to Arizona to be with me and be closer to his son, who by that time was 15. At first he was looking into buying a trailer for $10k, but I knew that was not a great option in AZ – he’d have to cool it down in that 117 degree heat, and he would probably end up repairing the trailer so much that he would end up doubling the money he put into it. Eventually we settled on buying a house. He had the cash for the down payment but horrible credit, so we agreed that the house and loan would be set up under my name.
The day he arrived in AZ was the day I closed on the house. He had asked for me to find help for him to get his motorcycle off of the moving truck, so a good friend who was also a motorcyclist arrived to assist. I told Dumb and Angry that I didn’t know if we could start unloading the truck because I hadn’t received word that the deed had recorded, and he threw a fit. This was my first indicator that he had indeed not changed. I was embarrassed that my friend had to witness the meltdown.
I was still renting a place and so couldn’t move in until a month later. Dumb and Angry didn’t lift a finger to help me even though I had helped him with cleaning the house, getting set up with a bank account, finding stores for staples and revamping his resume. He had actually driven his motorcycle to my old place to pick something up while the moving crew was loading me up, and even though he told me previously he would help, when I asked him to vacuum, he refused and took off. The moving men called him a dick.
Three weeks after I moved into the house my shunt went into failure. He refused to visit me at the hospital – including on my birthday – even though he wasn’t working. When I got home from the hospital after I had two back-to-back surgeries, I asked him if he could get me a glass of water while I changed into pajamas, and he told me to stop being lazy and get it myself. Ten days after those two surgeries I asked him to drive me to the grocery store because we had run out of everything, and he was swearing, swerving and flipping other drivers off, all because I had asked him to help. I was in a lot of pain in both my back and abdomen where the surgeries had taken place and being thrown around in the car did not help. He deliberately tried to run into people with the grocery cart in the store. A couple of weeks later he moved into the spare bedroom, saying he was doing it so I could rest – but he had never, ever been concerned about my well-being before, and the way he could not meet my eyes told me he was lying. We fought about his refusal to help me in any way, he pushed me, I called the cops. I didn’t press charges but instead gave him another chance. I had to have two more surgeries and be in the hospital a total of three additional weeks by the end of August, and still he wouldn’t lift a finger. If I wanted food, I had to go to the grocery store – and I had to make sure I made his dinner or he would lose his mind. He refused to cut the grass, saying stupid things like, “But I like the grass knee high.” I reminded him that the city would fine us if it wasn’t done. He didn’t clean anything in the house either, because that was “women’s work.” Over and over he would tell me that if women would just stay home, there would be more jobs for men and they would be able to support their families. At that time, I made more than twice his salary, but I always told him that it was OUR money, not MY money. I was constantly walking on eggshells waiting for him to blow. To add to my stress, I was also working two jobs from home and finishing my bachelor’s degree online.
Finally, after yet another fight about him refusing to mow the lawn (which took 1.5 hours every two weeks, as opposed to the 15 hours I put in weekly doing all of the cooking and cleaning and other miscellaneous chores and repairs), I had had enough. I sat down and worked up an entire spreadsheet of the expenses each of us contributed to the house while we were together for the five months and tallied what I owed him, as his investment was larger because of the down payment. I proposed that we become official roommates and sign an agreement, and he could continue to stay in the house rent-free; for every month he stayed, a dollar amount would be deducted from what I owed him. I specifically entered a clause twice that stated that if he threatened me or physically harmed me, he would forfeit the entire dollar amount.
For a short time, we were able to be civil. I took on all of the duties around the house – which, honestly, was not different from what I had been doing before. His son still came to visit whenever he could be bothered to drive down to get him. Dumb and Angry was still very much dumb and angry, though. He still ranted and raved about women taking all of the jobs, and p.s. – he also hates all minorities and homosexuals. However, he did hang out more with his ex-wife and her boyfriend, and Dumb and Angry claimed to be best buds with the boyfriend. I think that was because the boyfriend was beating his ex-wife, and he fully endorsed that behavior. Dumb and Angry would always yell at his son that he would never become anything after graduating high school; I imagine it’s what he always heard from his step-dad when he was growing up. Dumb and Angry lacked common sense as well. A story that sticks out in my mind was a day that I was doing trimming and cleanup all around the yard and I had just purchased a chain saw. He kept pestering me to let him use it, so I finally said, “Okay, cut off all of those suckers around the base of the olive tree.” Instead of cutting around the base of the tree, he put the chain saw at the tips so they just kind of waved around, and he said, “I don’t think this is going to work.” So I took the chain saw from him and cut them all off at the base. All he said was, “Oh.” I said, “Okay, if you really want to cut something, why don’t you cut off the dead arm of that cactus?” He went over to a cactus that was about as tall as him, and instead of cutting off the arm, he cut the cactus off at the ground so he killed the whole thing. I asked him what he was doing, and he said, “I didn’t know the cactus was growing out of the ground.”
I guess that Dumb and Angry was complaining to the ex-wife that he was unsuccessful with dating because women were just looking for money (not the real reason, which was that he hated women and we could smell it), because she encouraged him to get in touch with a woman he had dated in high school around 9th grade. He followed his usual MO with her, emailing her and carrying on a long distance relationship and telling her how great he was and how everyone was picking on him and conspiring against him. At the same time he became more and more hostile to me. Eventually he started threatening to shoot me and I took to hiding in my room so I could reduce my interactions with him completely.
When I had had enough of that business, I wrote up a formal letter asking him to move out within 30 days, as it was clear we should no longer be in the same house. I indicated I would continue making payments to him to pay back the amount owed. At first he was making an effort to find a new place to live, but then at the fourth week, he served me with papers telling me he was suing me for the house and that he was going to force me to put his name on the deed. I quickly found an attorney who replied that Dumb and Angry was obviously in violation of our agreement with his death threats AND that it was against the law to try to force someone to put a name on a deed.
After another month and more letters back and forth between the attorneys, Dumb and Angry moved out. I found out that the old girlfriend from ninth grade flew down from Minnesota and married him two days later after seeing him for the first time in about 20 years. They did not intend to live together (which was probably a good thing because she has two pre-teen daughters whom Dumb and Angry would have made miserable) – and the only reason I found this out was because I received a tax notice saying that the house they purchased together in another part of the city had been fraudulently classified as owner occupied since the wife wasn’t going to live there. The marriage itself made me chuckle – he had to go that far back to find someone who would take him??? I can assure you that his dating problem was not money-grubbing women, but rather the large chip he proudly carries around on his shoulder.