And there goes Margaret.

Two summers ago, I returned for a visit to Seattle, where I mostly grew up. Planning the trip, I thought about who I'd want to see while I was there — family, of course, and a few old friends, but who else? Margaret's name came to mind immediately.

She used to be my girl, like the old song says, but it was decades ago. I'd liked her, laughed with her, been beaten up by her, and gave up on her in the 1990s. If you've read old Pathetic Life posts here, maybe you remember her.

Maggie used to live in and around Seattle, so I Googled, and found that she still lived nearby. Maybe we could get together while I was in Seattle. Cocktails. Laughs. Maybe she'd like to bruise me again. So with what seemed to be her current address, I sent her a letter.

♦ ♦ ♦

A few friends and I shared a house in Seattle, in our 20s and early 30s. None of us were on the verge of getting married or actually being adults, so it was an easy, cheap way to construct a family of our own. When someone moved out, if none of us knew anyone who needed a place, we'd run an ad in the weekly paper, "roommate wanted."

So flatmates came and flatmates went. When someone wanted to move in, we'd invite 'em to meet everyone, and if no-one objected, then — welcome to the house. No-one ever objected, and we had some strange people living with us along the way, but there were no real disasters. We were lucky, I guess.

Several years into this arrangement, one of the flatmates moved out, so we ran another ad, and something unexpected happened. A woman showed up, with her sister, to inquire about the room.

The ads had always said, "male flatmate wanted," so me and the others did a slow sitcom-style look at each other, and one of them said, "Why not?" We were looking for flatmates, not fuckmates, so we decided genitals were of no significance.

Margaret was the young woman who might be moving in, Yvonne was her protective older sister, and my good buddy & flatmate Brian had dinner on the stove, so the six of us shared jambalaya. The sisters asked a hundred questions about each of us and our lives, and then Yvonne and Margaret excused themselves, whispered in a corner, and I guess they decided none of us was likely to rape Maggie, so she moved in the next morning.

I wonder if we talked about Maggie's past during that dinner? Seems likely it must've come up, but I don't remember a damned thing about it.

Maggie didn't come with much stuff, didn't ask for help moving in, and she was no trouble as a flatmate. We added her name to the wheel of chores posted on the fridge, and she did her duties well. She didn't object when the men belched, and we didn't walk around naked and neither did she, and she certainly didn't sleep with any of us.

She didn't have annoying visitors, except her sister. When two or three or four of us went to the movies, if we saw Maggie we'd invite her, and she'd sometimes come along. She spent most of her time in her room, door closed, which in our house meant "Don't bug me," so nobody bugged her. 

Sometimes she'd sit in the living room and watch TV with the rest of us in the evening. We all made small talk during the commercials, and sometimes traded insults like guys do, and Margaret caught on to that routine. Within weeks, she could insult any of us, with quality zingers. That living room was where she first called me a pathetic slob. "Why, thanks for noticing," I said.

If you made a crack about Maggie, though, she would glare and be wordless for half an hour. Or she'd explode. With that vicious look in her eye, we all learned not to insult Maggie, not even in our ordinary kidding style. She was not one of the boys, in that regard.

Other than that, though, we all thought of her as a friend. A nutty friend, sure, but everyone in the house was at least a little nutty. Brian was a science geek, and thought women were silly. I don't even remember who flatmates #3 and #4 were, at that point, but I'm sure they were nuts. And there was me, so our house was all nuts, all the time.

It took too long to notice that she never talked about her childhood, her family (except her sister), or even where she was from. After she'd been in the house for a year it just seemed natural that Maggie was a mystery. I don't talk much about my family either, so I didn't ask often about hers.

Same as most people if you get to know them, she was complicated. 

She was ill at ease in social situations, so she avoided social situations. Just like me.

She sometimes mentioned her therapist, just in passing, like, "Yeah, my therapist says I have every phobia in the book," so we knew she was under a professional's care.

And there were occasional ... episodes. Two or three nights a year, she might scream at 3:00 in the morning, and we'd knock on her door in a panic. "Sorry, it won't happen again," she'd say, and it didn't happen again, for a while.

She sometimes disappeared in her room and cried for hours, but I cherish privacy so the next morning I'd say something like, "You doing OK?" and she'd say, "Sure," and that was it.

She could be cranky … or beyond cranky, and the tiniest things could make her very, very angry. But she could also be dang funny, and sometimes she was dang funny while being cranky.

She never worked, and we wondered about that, but she always paid her rent. She had enough cash to order a pizza once or twice a month, but she drove an old Chevy and certainly never had money to waste. We figured her parents had left her a low-budget allowance for life, or she was on some government disability program because of her mental issues. It wasn't my concern either way, so why would I ask?

♦ ♦ ♦

Years before we were together, I guess Maggie already liked me, or maybe she was trying to protect me? My girlfriend April had dumped me, and then unexpectedly wrote me a letter — which I never read, because Margaret saw it in the mail, saw it was from April, and destroyed it. That would be unforgivable, and it still pisses me off — even now, I wonder what April wrote — but it was ten years later when Maggie told me about it, and by then Maggie and I were boinking, so red flags be damned, full speed ahead.

We became a couple unexpectedly, years after Margaret moved in, and long after the letter. It was unexpected for me, at least, but Maggie may have known what she was doing.

It was a hot summer day, with no air conditioning, and we were both at home, bored, and nobody else was there. Maggie set up a sprinkler in the back yard, and said she was going to run through it to cool off, and would I like to join her? I was hot and sweaty, so sure, I got into my swimsuit and Maggie got into hers, and we played under the sprinkler for ten minutes. Then we came inside and played under the linens for several hours.

Until that day, we had never even flirted. After that day, she was my girl, sort of, but Maggie thought her sister would disapprove, so she wanted me to be a secret. I didn't want to be a secret, so we had our first argument. First of many.

The next time her perpetual sister visited, there was disapproval in Yvonne's eyes, and that anger was in Yvonne's eyes every time I saw her, ever again. I'm still not sure why she hated me. I never treated Maggie badly. We were, I think, happy for a while, but Yvonne disapproved of me worse than the fathers of some women I've dated. If it's not too late, let me just add, Fuck off, Yvonne.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Maggie and me were a couple for a couple of years, but I still know almost nothing about her life before me. That's what she wanted. When the past came up, it was still, same as always, "I don't want to talk about that," and when someone says that to me, the subject is closed.

"If you ever want to talk about it, Mags, I can be a good listener," I said, but that's all I said, and I only said it twice. I know where she went to high school, and that she had a dog when she was a kid, and that she has a sister. And that's just about everything I know about pre-me Maggie.

Like most people, she was smarter than me. She read trashy romance novels. She thought zines were stupid. She knew how to fix minor problems with her car, and she changed my oil a couple of times, in exchange for a dinner out. Overall, for the years we were in each other's lives, Maggie made mine better, and I hope she would say the same. 

She was difficult, though. Damned difficult. She had an amazing ability to hear insults and arguments where none were intended. We argued ridiculously often, but I don't remember ever being angry with her about anything except that she was angry with me, over a misinterpretation of something I'd said. 

There was once, though, when Maggie could've been furious with me and I would've deserved it — the night I blurted out April's name while my schlong was inside Maggie's mouth. Guys, avoid doing that.

Maggie stopped what she'd been doing, and she was instantly volcanic, but I hadn't been thinking of April, certainly not at that moment. I'd been crazy about April, dated her for five years, talked about marrying her, and her name had become an adjective. It meant wow. Maybe you don't believe it, but Maggie did. She laughed, and picked up where she'd left off. 

That's the only time that's ever happened, and I'll still swear I wasn't thinking of April, because I remember exactly what I had been thinking at that moment. I'd been thinking, wow. A few other ladies had done what Maggie was doing, but Maggie was doing it more perfectly than I'd thought possible. I was thinking, she's attended a class, or taught one. I was thinking, she's focused so exquisitely on exactly the most sensitive ¼-inch of me, it's almost too much. It was otherworldly. I thought I might lose consciousness or have a seizure. That's what I was thinking when I said April's name.

♦ ♦ ♦

When I decided to flee Seattle, I asked Margaret to come with me. She said no, and I left without her. We kept in touch for a while, and then we didn't. 

And always, when Maggie is on my mind, there's an asterisk named Joanna — Maggie's daughter. She was three years old the last time I saw her, and would be about 30 today. It's conceivable (no pun intended) that Joanna is my daughter, but both times I asked, Maggie said the father was another man. Maybe I should've asked a third time.

Then there were years and years, life, and for me, a helluva happy marriage. Then the wife died, and I was devastated. Still am, and always will be.

A year later the family told me I needed to visit them in Seattle, and as I was planning the trip, I thought of Maggie. It was a stupid thing to do, of course, but I'm not well-known for doing the smart thing, so like I said, I wrote a letter.

Margaret? Maggie?

Remember Doug Holland, the fat guy you used to live with in Seattle, all those years ago? That's me. I've been out of your world and a long ways away since the 1990s, but you're a happy memory, and one of very few people I'd care enough to wonder about.

I'm visiting Seattle from 6/27 to 7/5/2019, and you are cordially invited for a toast to old times. I'm buying. I'd like to hear how you're doing, how life has treated you and yours. And damn, I hope it's all gone well.

Please note, I am not looking to get into your granny-pants. No doubt they're lovely pants, but I'm too old and tired for such shenanigans.

I used that newfangled internet to suss out what I hope is your address, and my apologies if that's creepy. My address, email, and phone number are below. Call me maybe.

If this letter is an intrusion or I'm an unhappy memory, I won't bother you again.

That's the letter I mailed to Margaret, a few years ago. There was no reply. Maybe the address I found online was outdated, and she never received it. Maybe her sister is still around, and "pulled a Maggie" — saw the letter, saw it was from me, and tossed it. More likely, most likely, the letter gave Margaret a smile or a teardrop, and that was enough.

The last line of my letter was a promise, so there won't be a second attempt. It's goodbye forever.

Republished: 8/3/2023  


  1. Good stuff.

  2. It sounds like she was a damaged person, and you were a good friend.

  3. The title of this story, and the tone of it, made me think it was going to have a much darker ending. I'm glad that it didn't. Hope you two get to catch up soon.

    1. Sadly, I think Maggie & me are as caught up as we'll ever be, but your comment reminds me of a story that does have a dark ending, and needs to be told. Added to the list...

  4. I have read all the Maggie stories you've published here, and shes always been frustrating to me, she had a chance for you and she kept blowing it. With this piece it feels like I understand her better ... i guess by NOT understanding her. She was hurt from the start before she met you.

    1. If you've been frustrated then you've gotten my meaning exactly right. Maggie is one of my favorite people, but she's always been frustrating, and it ain't easy writing about her.

  5. There is no one as wounded as Maggie in my life, but "Yvonne" who hates you is familiar so I must salute your FUCK OFF YVONNE! lol


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