I Can’t Feel My Face!

I had two live-in boyfriends during my time in Cincinnati. The second one was Drummer #1, introduced by the guy who was in charge of our servers at the law firm. Apparently Drummer #1 had a weakness for women from Minnesota, with our light-colored hair and blue eyes (except mine are green). In theory he seemed like a good match for me too because of his musical leanings – besides drums he also played guitar – and he was a tech guy, which was my new field at that time.

I still remember our first date vividly. Drummer #1 was very tall (6’3″) with a big, toothy grin, deep-set blue eyes, short brown hair and a flannel shirt. He was very, very nervous about meeting me. We went on a double date with my friends, and we started off sitting across from each other at a crappy table with bad vinyl chairs while a band set up. An hour later the band was in full force and Drummer #1 managed to down four shots of Jaegermeister and two Jack & Cokes. He got up to go to the bathroom and when he returned, he sat down next to me instead of across from me, started rubbing my back and then poked his cheeks and said, “I can’t feel my face! I can’t feel my face!” Before the night was done he had four more Jack & Cokes.

I agreed to go out with him again, even though the drinking wasn’t ideal for a first date. I knew it was his nerves. Plus he kept telling me how cute I was.

It was another one of those things that turned into us spending loads of time together immediately. After the third date when he found out where I lived, he would throw pebbles and sometimes even dimes and pennies at my apartment window to surprise me and let him in. He was living with his parents at the time. After about eight months, Drummer #1 and I moved in together.

I didn’t have the easiest time with meeting his parents. I never went over to his house, he just met me out or came and picked me up. One time during the summer we were at a blues festival and Drummer #1 knew his parents were there as well, and they wanted to meet me, so we set off through the crowd looking for them. We walked back and forth and back and forth in mobs of people but weren’t able to find them, and I had no idea who to look for anyway. However, his parents saw us and didn’t call out to us every time we passed – because, as it turned out, his mother thought I was too fat and ugly for him. (Disclaimer: I was around size 8-10, pretty darned okay by today’s standards.) When they invited me to join them for Christmas that year, I absolutely did not want to go, but I did anyway. His parents ended up loving me.

Anyway, up to that point, Drummer #1 had been an irresponsible bill payer and so I had to have all of the utilities put into my name when we moved in together to avoid having to pay large deposits. For the first year that we were together he was one of the sole tech guys for a small manufacturing company. At this point my hair was falling out with a vengeance. He always wore a blue fleece pullover to work and every day he managed to pick up thousands of my blonde hairs on it like he was wearing velcro. At one point the guys he worked with asked if there was something wrong with me based solely on the volume of my hair that would show up on his clothes.

After the first year Drummer #1 switched to a job at the University of Cincinnati. For some of his time there he happened to work with a doctor who was researching cures for alopecia universalis. He would come home and tell me about seeing others like me who were examined under a magnifying glass so they could be determined to be the most extreme hairless cases for the studies. I still would never qualify because no matter what falls out I manage to retain a few sprouts of hair on my big toes. And for some of the time, Drummer #1 said that he was being sent down to the “hole” – some underground network where he would have to suit up in a big yellow suit for 2-3 days while he ran programs. He also claimed to work with some cops and even some FBI agents.

Drummer #1 made the mistake once of claiming that I was not doing enough to keep my hair. You know that old tired tune of “Why don’t you just _____?” like everyone else is the expert on your body? I made him go with me once for a session where the dermatologist injected each patch with a combination of Lidocaine to numb my head after the shots were done and prednisone to inhibit the white blood cells from taking over my hair follicles. Every session would be about 75 injections; that time, Drummer #1 said, with big eyes, that he could see the doctor flicking the needle up slightly after each injection so it looked as if he was tearing my skin a bit every time. After that, Drummer #1 never told me I wasn’t doing enough.

I finally started wearing wigs when I knew trying to keep my hair or grow new stuff was completely hopeless. At one point I purchased a styrofoam head with a super long neck so the longer wigs wouldn’t rest on the counter tops when I took them off. I would perch the head form and hair on the back of the toilet at night. Every morning for a week, Drummer #1 was so out of it that he would scream when he got out of the shower because he thought someone had sneaked into the bathroom while he was bathing. I would lay in bed nearly pissing myself laughing.

After a few months of living together, things started to slip with the bill paying for Drummer #1. We began receiving calls that our electricity and water were going to be shut off for non-payment and every time I’d have to hurry and pay them, with him promising to investigate why his payments hadn’t been processed. He claimed to be clueless as to why there always seemed to be lost payments.

Then one day in June we were supposed to be flying back to Minnesota for my 10th high school reunion. The flight was out of Columbus, a good hour and a half away, and at night, so I told Drummer #1 what time he had to be home from work in order for us to catch the plane on time. When the time rolled around, he was nowhere to be found. This was prior to the time of cell phones, so I had to call his office. When I got no answer, I called campus security and asked them to cruise around to see if his car was there. After striking out again, I opened up his top dresser drawer where I knew he put all of his receipts and mail. I was stunned to find six months worth of bills in there, all unopened, including all of the utility bills he had told me he had paid. I was incredibly angry and still panicked about not being able to make our flight in time.

The kicker, though, was when I went to get the mail before trying his work phone again, I received my credit card bill with another nasty surprise. When I had been sick the month before with strep throat and stuck in bed on my birthday, he had taken my credit card and charged up hundreds of dollars. I was LIVID.

Drummer #1 showed up an hour late at home and not ready for the trip at all. He hurriedly threw things into a bag. The entire drive up to Columbus I only had my demon voice to use on him. I told him that if he touched the mail in any way including just taking it out of the mailbox, I would get a post office box and he would have to wait for me to give him his mail. No more hiding and lying.  I hated him.

Five months later Drummer #1 made arrangements to buy a car through a program with the University; the payments would come out of his check directly so he wouldn’t have to worry about making timely payments. However, “something” happened where payments were still missed and his car ended up being impounded. Drummer #1 promised to pay me back but it required about $1200 to get his car back.

I had vowed to return to the southwestern U.S. about two years into our relationship. I didn’t feel any real connection with the city and the winters were depressing. I told Drummer #1 that I was moving with or without him. He seemed enthusiastic about a major change and we even took a trip out to Arizona to check it out. When we were driving back from the Grand Canyon towards Phoenix, we were stunned by a quadruple rainbow that glowed across the sky. I know now that it’s an extremely rare phenomenon, and believe me when I say that even truckers pulled over on the highway so they could snap pictures of these four perfect arcs filling the sky. I took it as a sign that I was making the right move.

When we returned from the trip, I went into working and saving mode. I put in about 70-80 hours between two workplaces to make sure I’d have money for the big move. Drummer #1, however, was still not being responsible for his bills and wasn’t making any effort to pay me back.

In January of 2003 I received a strange phone call from a girl who addressed me by name and informed me that she had been fucking Drummer #1 for at least a year. I kept calm and asked him about it when he returned from work. He said that the girl was calling all of his friends and trying to make their girlfriends freak out. I had no way to verify this because I didn’t know any of the girlfriends.

In July 2003, Drummer #1 missed more car payments. I was at the end of my rope. I told him he was on his own with figuring it out because I had to save money to move. Then in September, I received a call from the landlord who told me that he knew I was leaving, but Drummer #1 asked if he could stay on. Drummer #1 never had any intention of moving.

I bagged up all of his belongings in garbage bags and threw it all to the bottom entryway stairs. I went over to his parents’ house and told them he would need a new place to live. They revealed to me that he had borrowed $1600 from them, telling them it was to pay me back. None of the money made it to me, though. His parents told me that he had been a pathological liar his whole life and they hoped that living with me would have cured him of that. I wish that they would not have remained so loyal to their son and instead warned me.

My friend’s dad, an attorney, wrote a letter of intention to file suit if he didn’t pay me back all of the money by October 29th. On October 29th he appeared at my workplace with a cashier’s check for the entire amount he owed me, nearly $5,000.

I used that money to pay for the moving van and my new apartment in Phoenix.

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Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

When I was 21, I worked two jobs with the goal of saving up enough cash to travel for a while. I also wanted to pick a new place to live, but I wasn’t sure where. My best friend and I packed up my car, converted most of our cash to traveler’s checks, borrowed my dad’s 6-person tent and took off. We stayed for a month on Mackinac Island to earn some more cash. After that, we cut across Canada and started at Niagara Falls and camped our way down the entire east coast. It was my first encounter with the ocean.

I almost set up residence in Hilton Head Island, but I kept seeing all of the hurricane evacuation signs and they freaked me out. As we looped back up and cut through Tennessee, I considered Nashville, but then I figured all of the country music would make me want to jump off a tall building. Later we cut back through Missouri and headed to the southwest, and I finally ran out of money in Albuquerque, so there I stayed. Within a short amount of time I landed two jobs and a place to live. My friend opted to go to the Everglades in Florida to live and work.

A year later, she made her way back to New Mexico, and I was happy to have a good friend so close after floundering for a year with trying to make friends. We decided to take on dating together. Back in 1996, the best way to meet the opposite sex besides getting tanked at a bar was either posting or answering personal ads published in newspapers. Let me take just a little time out and post an ad that I found, clipped and saved for these almost 20 years:

SPM, 31, seeking female amputee, age 18-99, for romance. Your beauty and grace astounds me. Box ID 23394.

Talk about a fetish!

My friend and I placed an ad saying something to the effect that we were looking for double dates. The ad was free, but to initiate a call to someone is where the fee kicked in. We got a couple of bites but they were from men who didn’t have single buddies. One was a guy I will call Bear; he had a really deep voice and was very articulate, so after talking to him we agreed on a date.

Bear was tall, 6’2, with glasses and a bookish manner – or if you prefer, he was geeky or nerdy in general. Our first date was right after Christmas that year. Immediately, we hit it off. We hardly spent any days apart and were on the phone constantly. I remember telling him one time that I couldn’t get close enough – I wished that I could crawl under his skin and live there.

A month after we started dating, we were at a restaurant eating dinner in the middle of some serious winter weather. We looked around the place and noted all of the kids having meltdowns and said, “I’m so glad we don’t have kids.” Bear then said, “Why don’t we go to Las Vegas?” We both had never been and Bear liked to play blackjack. He revealed that he had saved up a wad of cash (something like $600, which was a pretty good chunk in early 1997) and decided he wanted to use it to take a short trip with me. We ran to our respective places and quickly packed backpacks and called for tickets. We didn’t even take time to book a hotel.

When we arrived, we realized our mistake – it was the electronics convention, and EVERY hotel room was booked. However, our chain smoking cabby with the biggest, flashiest earrings told us that the Happi Inn was a sure thing – she always took people there for situations like these. Sure enough, they had a room. And what a room it was! Mirror on the ceiling, garish orange bedding with a bed sagging horribly in the middle, one TV station and cockroaches in the bathroom. We were also being price gouged because of the convention, $80 for the night. We did the best we could because we were flying out the next day.

It was a fun day. We played slots, and Bear got three blackjacks in a row, which was noticed by the pit boss, and we were rewarded with two tickets to the Ceaser’s Palace buffet. We took many pictures around the strip and visited M&M World. We even saw our first Cirque du Soleil show, “Mystere.” It was a fun little trip…or so we thought, until we tried to fly back. Because of snow storms all over the U.S., we couldn’t get a flight home until the next day at 1 p.m. I left a message on the work answering machine to tell everyone I was momentarily stranded and that I would be back to work Tuesday. The managers didn’t think to check the messages when I didn’t show up to work Monday morning, and they were in the process of calling the police to do a wellness check on me when I called in to make sure they got my message.

It didn’t take long for Bear and I to move in together. He was my first love (though he had had other loves before me). I loved him deeply. He was a patron of the arts. He wrote me love letters. He talked about the future.

However, there were problems at his workplace, and he decided to try to land a job closer to the Midwest or east coast. He almost took a job in Allentown, PA, but decided to take an offer in Cincinnati, OH instead. It was still early in our relationship and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, so I moved with him. I figured I would get a job after we relocated. We rented an apartment on a short lease without seeing it first on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.

Shortly after we moved to yet another city where I didn’t know anyone else, Bear told me to make my own friends because he wasn’t going to be my entertainment. So I did. First I went out a few times and partied with a lady I met while working a temp job as a proofreader. Later I partied a lot with the people who worked with me at the large law firm. It seemed that his declaration was the turning point in our relationship, and nothing was ever the same after that.

Bear also became somewhat addicted to the internet. His nerd side was strong – his mind was blown with the potential the internet held at that point – and that meant that he was on it constantly. Part of the problem was that resources were available that never had been before, like being able to buy video games that weren’t always sold in the immediate vicinity. Oh, and the porn…

So the problem was that money that was supposed to go for rent was being used up by video games and porn. I was unhappy because there were a few times when Bear would blow his portion of the rent on games and I would have to pay for everything. He also spent money and time on porn instead of joining me. There were so many times I would beg him to come to bed, and he would refuse. I felt ugly and undesirable. Since I was living with a nerd, I was becoming more computer and internet savvy myself. I started to go to chat rooms, and then I began talking to men in private chat sessions.

My first trip to Europe was in May of 1999. I was visiting a university friend who lives in England for ten days. I had been saving and saving, knowing that even though I had a free place to stay, there would still be lots of expenses. A week before leaving, Bear revealed to me that he didn’t have the rent money again because he had purchased video games. I was absolutely furious. Like a true daughter of an alcoholic, my brain went into dissociation mode and I completely forgot what Bear’s face looked like. In fact, when he picked me up from the airport at the end of my trip with a fist full of flowers, I walked straight past him like he was a stranger – he had to call out my name and grab my arm.

A few weeks later I met up with one of the men from the chats while Bear was working. I was so eager that I failed to properly turn off the computer, so the message box was still there for Bear to see when he got home from work and the house was empty. Of course he read it, all of it. When I got home, he was sitting on the edge of our bed, looking absolutely crushed.

We broke up but continued to live in the same apartment and sleep in the same bed because we were still obligated to the lease we signed. Luckily it ran its course within two months and we could move on. We actually stayed friendly through the breakup – he helped me move into my new apartment, and he joined me at a friend’s house for Thanksgiving (my friend’s mom introduced us as, “This is Kiwi and this is Bear and they were dating and now they’re not, so I don’t know”).

Bear later went on to marry one of our mutual friends and have two sons – the two sons we used to discuss when we were a couple and talking about our future. He even named them the names he had picked out then.

Today I had a chance to trade messages with him and catch up. Bear is now divorced and in a relationship with another woman, and his sons have adjusted well to the major shift in the household. We exchanged information about our families and friends. I also sincerely apologized for cheating on him, acknowledging that I did not have the best tools at age 25-26 to deal with my anger and disappointment, and I hurt him deeply. He very graciously told me that it was forgiven and forgotten. I cried big, fat tears.

Get Me to the Greek!

Back in 1999, I was working at a very large law firm in downtown Cincinnati that specialized in representing mortgage companies where borrowers had filed bankruptcy or fallen into foreclosure. I was in the accounting department for the first year, and was responsible for providing payoff and reinstatement figures to borrowers, their attorneys or their prospective new lenders. We handled around 11,000 cases a month, so as you can imagine, it was a fairly large firm and we were very busy. It was a horrible place to work because of both the premise of working for the “enemy” (mortgage companies) when borrowers had fallen on hard times, plus the office manager was a tyrant – there were about 325 of us paralegals who worked under her eagle eye, and she had no qualms about firing people she didn’t like. Do you know how we knew someone was fired? At 4:45 pm, she would announce over the loudspeaker that she wanted to see a particular person in her office, and then immediately after that she would announce that she wanted the supervisor in charge of computer access to call her too. It was hell.

But on the flip side, my co-workers and I had quite a bit of fun. I made some long-term friends who I am still in contact with now. Oh, and if you didn’t know it already, attorneys know how to PARTY. We took over a lot of happy hours. There were all kinds of shenanigans.

One person that I became close with, whom I will nickname Marry Me, was a very pretty young woman with DDD breasts (she didn’t want to lose weight because they would deflate) who did a lot of partying. She was also hopeless when it came to men. Marry Me would spend a night or a day with a guy, and either he wouldn’t leave her place or she wouldn’t leave his, and within a week and a half she was convinced she was in love and they were going to get married. At about the two week mark the guys would dump her and she would be a wreck, and she missed many days because she would call in sick after a breakup.

It’s difficult to imagine now, but back in 1999, we still only had email and Yahoo or MSN messaging. To get a picture from a camera onto a computer was a major feat. Internet stalking wasn’t a “thing” yet – and neither was Google, so she or I would have had no way to figure out just how many of these guys were felons or drug addicts, etc.

We would field about 70 calls in the course of a workday, and Marry Me received a call from a broker whom I will nickname Nice Try. She was between men at that point and decided she liked his voice, so she immediately started flirting with him. She would find excuses to call him (normally we would only talk to borrowers or third parties once, twice tops), and very quickly they started emailing and calling during off hours. Marry Me quickly progressed to phone sex with this guy. Nice Try told her that he had a daughter that did not live with him, and he described himself as being a little overweight with hair that was thinning on top. He was older than us by a good 15 years, but she still felt very connected with him. Unfortunately, he was living in Cleveland, which is a four-hour drive from Cincinnati.

Marry Me started talking about moving in with him and becoming a family with him and his daughter. This was over the course of three weeks. I finally convinced her that before she kept making plans, she ought to meet Nice Try first. I also thought that she shouldn’t go alone (especially since she didn’t have the best track record with men). So we made plans to go up to his condo, and encouraged him to invite a few friends so we could get a feel for his life in general.

All the way up there, we sang Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca” at the top of our lungs while Marry Me tried to calm her nerves. She was convinced she was meeting her soul mate. I think she may have even told him she loved him. When we finally pulled up to the condo late that Friday night and knocked on the door, we were greeted by Nice Try – who was about 400 lbs. and bald. I’m not even sure if he was honest about his age; I think the only thing he was truthful about was his address. Marry Me was devastated. She was also immediately grateful that I didn’t allow her to make the trek alone and made me promise not to leave her side. Nice Try did successfully round up a few friends to join us, so we immediately did some shots at the condo before going out and toasted to “new friends.”

We went to a bar to dance and drink. Marry Me was gulping down shots like they were Kool-Aid. Nice Try kept trying to grab her hands while we were dancing and pull her close, but then she would grab my hand and hug on me. One of Nice Try’s friends was The Greek, whom I previously mentioned in Three is a Crowd. He immediately understood the situation and offered his support to us. At the end of the night, Marry Me had lost count of her drinks. When it was closing time, we stood outside to regroup, and Nice Try was trying to force Marry Me to make out with him – he was very grabby with his fat fingers and sloppy meaty lips, and Marry Me managed to get out of his grip and run for the side of the building. I followed and she sobbed that she had made a huge mistake. I told Nice Try that she was feeling sick and that he shouldn’t try to make out with her anymore. The Greek stepped in and said that we were driving with him in his car and he would take us back to the condo.

The Greek had obviously not planned on this – the car he brought that night was his Porche, which only had a small little shelf as the “back seat” which was the ultimate middle finger to any couple contemplating having children. Marry Me was in the front and I was wedged in the back sitting sideways. The Greek told us that he wouldn’t leave our sides and that he would sleep on the floor of our room so that nothing happened, and that because we had already planned to be there the whole weekend, he would love it if we stayed the second night at his place in one of his spare bedrooms and he would take us out in style. Of course we jumped on it. Marry Me and I were relieved that the weekend wasn’t a bust after all.

Nice Try was very, very disappointed that Marry Me wasn’t going to sleep with him that night. Instead Marry Me and I shared his daughter’s full size bed and The Greek slept on the floor, as promised. There was another woman in our group who was friends with Nice Try and The Greek and she slept in his bed with him – she was 90 lbs. tops and didn’t take up much room, but by the next morning, we were all sorry for her. Nice Try had horrible sleep apnea and snored loud enough to rattle the windows. He sounded like he was choking and gagging all night and none of us got restful sleep.

I jumped into the shower the next morning while everyone else went downstairs for breakfast, with the exception of Marry Me – she was nursing her hangover. Unfortunately Nice Try saw this as his opportunity to make his move. About five minutes into shower time I heard this loud crash, but I just thought someone had dropped a pan or something while whipping together the food. When I came out of the bathroom, Marry Me was awake and watching me closely. I absentmindedly sat on the bed to put on my socks, but something didn’t seem right…and then I realized that I was not sitting on a flat surface, but one that was slanting. Nice Try had sneaked into our bedroom and climbed into bed with Marry Me and tried to kiss her and feel up her triple-D’s. The bed broke. He BROKE HIS DAUGHTER’S BED. After laughing so hard we were crying, Marry Me and I hurriedly packed and told The Greek we were ready to leave.

The Greek was true to his word. Marry Me and I were given the largest guest bedroom which featured a king size bed. He took us out that Saturday night to a Portuguese restaurant with excellent food, and then we went down to The Flats to party the night away. We were relaxed and relieved. No one tried to grope us, including The Greek and his friends.

When we were ready to leave Sunday to drive back to Cincinnati, The Greek asked if he could keep in touch with me. Our many calls evolved into a long-distance relationship for about nine months, and I drove up to see him or he visited me in Cincinnati on a regular basis. I always chuckled to myself about scoring a boyfriend from that trip.

Unfortunately, our relationship was not destined for the long term either. Being a more worldly and older man (late 30’s at that point), he was always looking for something better, including how to satisfy his appetite sexually – he felt like he had done it all already. I certainly learned a lot from that relationship.