Memoir Monday: Symbolic Retribution

The coming weeks with Metal Nose Boy held moments of true connection, of utter joy. After our first unplanned, breathtaking sexual encounter on the floor of my apartment, I called Ray, triumphant—knowing that Ray’s disapproval of MNB would quickly be canceled out by his enthusiasm for penises in general. This indeed was the case.

But the peaks were interspersed with terrible, dark valleys—periods of aloneness so acute and despair so profound that I wished I’d never met MNB. I began to hate myself for having chosen “the passionate thing.”  Why couldn’t I have left well enough alone and not pursued the very course of action that was causing me so much anxiety and pain? Why hadn’t I stayed in my safe, predictable relationship with Mr. Italy?

I wanted to believe I didn’t need the stability of a predictable relationship, but I did need it—at least some stability. MNB rarely called when he said he’d call and always had ridiculous excuses for failing to do so, including

A. He was exhausted from delivering packages and had fallen asleep.

B. He got detained by a strange old man with excessive nose hair.

C. He got drunk and left his cell phone in someone’s car for three days.

Sitting around waiting for his call drove me mad. I blamed everything on him—the national deficit, cancer, AIDS. I hoped a rabid possum would attack him so I could spurn him in his rabies-induced misery and he’d be sorry that he was too thoughtless to call me.

You won't be laughing once you've got the hydrophoby, you cad. (
You won’t be laughing once you’ve got the hydrophoby, you cad. (

The yellow highlighter he’d borrowed during our senior year of college became a symbol of betrayal upon which I fixated, assigning his feckless handling of it a portentous significance and imagining scenarios of symbolic retribution in which he was bludgeoned to death by a league of highlighter-wielding assassins.

This is the best photo I could find to illustrate "highlighter-wielding assassins." What you see here is an assassin studying how to kill someone with a highlighter, while actually using a highlighter to mark salient points in the text. I'm sure that if the assassin pictured here borrowed this highlighter from one of his female assassin classmates, he returned it to her. But I'm over having been wronged. Clearly. (Photo: flicker@stephendann)
What you see here is an assassin studying how to kill someone with a highlighter, while actually using a highlighter to mark salient points in the text. I’m sure that if the assassin pictured here borrowed this highlighter from one of his assassin classmates, he returned it. But I’m over having been wronged. Clearly. (flicker@stephendann)

I cried. My chest heaved. I drank. With each drink, my thoughts degenerated into barely intelligible epithets like “dumbass highlighter-stealing FUCK.ASS.” (What is up with that punctuation? Can you even have a period in the middle of a word?)

It is possible, I concluded, to love and desire someone so much that his mere hello can make you almost explode with joy, yet at the same time despise him so thoroughly that you wish him picked apart by vultures.

MNB didn’t want to need anyone, and he didn’t want to be needed. He told me as much, several times, and I should have taken him at his word. In the end, there was nothing left to say. I couldn’t be casual; he couldn’t commit. It was all happening as I feared: emotionally, MNB was bound for Californy with a pick axe and a dream.

He ended our liaison by telling me he’d call me “later.” That was almost ten years ago. But to be fair, I did come home one day a few months later, when I was already dating someone else, to find a blank UPS sticky note on my door.

Presumably, he had some sort of  “package” for me.



October 24, 2004



‘I’m tired of his excuses’

AP-Abby Byrd issued a statement yesterday publicly denouncing the “thoughtless bullshit” and “stupid commitment issues” of on-again, off-again lover Metal Noseboy.

At a press conference, Byrd wept and pounded her fist on the podium as she declared, “Apparently he thinks the fly-by-night whatever-the-hell lifestyle that is comfortable for him is comfortable for everyone. Well, I cannot deal with this uncertainty and anxiety anymore.” The conference came in the wake of another emotional episode, prompted by Noseboy not calling Thursday night, despite saying Wednesday that he would.

“I don’t know what is going on in his head that he thinks what he is doing is OK,” lamented Byrd. “I’m so mad I want to call him right now and confront him.”

Later in the conference, Byrd surmised that Noseboy had probably fallen asleep and awakened too late to call. She then quickly became angry again and spat: “Assholishness! I’m tired of his excuses!”

When asked how she planned to address the problem, Byrd stated that she would drink a bottle of Chianti and later have sex with Noseboy, if he called.

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