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The major mistakes of my life

My new room has passed its peak of tidiness, and the inevitable decline has begun. Everything was in its place because I'd just moved in, and it stayed that way because Sarah-Katherine was here, but she's not here now.

Yesterday a cheeseburger wrapper rolled away from me and landed at the foot of the futon, but bending over is a lot of effort so that's where it'll stay. Soon it'll be joined by other molecules of mess, gradually making this room into a black hole of slobbishness, much like it was before I moved in, only with my mess instead of Judith's.

♦ ♦ ♦

I am not quite myself lately — an improvement to my personality, but not so much for the zine. Feels like I've been babbling about nothing but Sarah-Katherine for a week and a half, but I guess it's only been a week. Gotta be boring to read, and it's finally becoming boring even to write.

With a little luck, today's entry will be the last one about her for a while, and it's not even about her, really.

What I'm thinking is, I'd know better what was going on with Sarah-Katherine if I had more memories of other women to compare and contrast, but for a man my age in this libido-enloosened era, I haven't had much experience with women.

Haven't had many friends either. Not sure any of my past ladyfriends were also friends, but Sarah-Katherine is, and she's my first friend who's seen me fully naked and didn't laugh. Maybe she snickered after I'd fallen asleep.

A list of my true friends would be short indeed, maybe three or four names, all men. Bruno mostly, and Leon and Stu and Brian. That's about it, and I've never been much of a friend to my friends.

A list of my girlfriends, though, is a list of the major mistakes of my life. There were good times with each of them, memories worth remembering, but mistakes were made, mostly by me. This morning I started remembering too many details about those women, and wrote too many paragraphs, but as an act of kindness I've trimmed it down to one paragraph for each of them. (You're welcome.)

The recurring motif with the ladies in my life is that she — any of them — started getting on my nerves, usually quite early, for any number of reasons. All people get on my nerves, of course, most people instantly, while for others it might take half an hour. It's difficult to have a relationship with someone who annoys you after half an hour. If the sex is good, though, guess I'm willing to put up with a lot.

Whether everyone's annoyingness is their fault and all people are assholes, or whether it's my fault because I'm an asshole with no patience for anyone else's shortcomings, I'm never certain. Probably it's both, or you say 'I diet' and I say 'idiot'.

So here they are:

At my high school I was the number one dweeb, so the boys beat me up and the girls ignored me or laughed. I got a job in fast-food, though, working with kids who weren't from my school. Since it didn't say "dweeb" on my name-tag, nobody knew I was a dweeb, not even Molly. We talked, we laughed, and when we got to know each other and she realized I was a dweeb, it was too late — by then she liked me. Thank you for that, Molly.

A few years later there was Cathy, a co-worker at my first office job. She taught me the filing system, and I talked about science fiction. She had major psychological issues — major, even compared to mine, which scared me. Then she told me she loved me, which terrified me. I was 19 damned years old, didn't want to hear 'I love you' and knew I had to end it, so I simply stopped calling. What an asshole I was (and probably still am, but I wouldn't drop anyone so coldly again).

Then there was another Cathy, a lady I sometimes called Cathy-2 or New & Improved Cathy. She was saner, but we were both embryos. I barely knew myself, and she was almost as perpetually nervous as me. Strangely, an old movie brought us closer together, and we abandoned all hesitation, opened up about everything, and soon we either fell in love or came dang close. Only time that's happened to me. It couldn't last, of course. At that age (and still today) I'd probably rather wear a mask, than hang out with someone who knows me maskless.

Then came April, a violation of the laws of physics — she was far too conventionally gorgeous to date me, because even before I was fat I was obviously freaky. She gave me years of her life, though, and they were the best years of my life. To this day I don't know what was the breaking point, but I think she wanted to be normal in ways I never could be, so she dumped me. It broke my heart, sank me into years of depression, and I self-medicated with Big Macs. Within a few years I was at least 75 pounds heavier.

Then came Margaret, a/k/a Maggie. She was moderately mentally ill, but aren't we all? For a while I half-believed the gaping holes in our mental health might fit together like a jigsaw, but that only happens in movies and pop songs. I waited and hoped she'd quit being so incessantly angry all the time, and instead enjoy some fraction of her time on earth, but some people have decided they're going to be miserable no matter what, and Maggie's decided. Now she's gone from my life, too.

There were a few short-term smooches too, but those five ladies were the ones who mattered to me.

Cathy-1 was one of the worst thing I ever did — just walking away without a word. We ran into each other at an all-night mini-mart a few years later, and that was an awkward event. I was there to buy condoms, April was in the car, and Cathy-1 was working the register. I had always wanted to apologize and hoped she was doing OK, so it was nice to see that she was still alive, but she said "Hi, Doug," as she rang me up, and I said "Cathy," without even "hi." I should've said more, wanted to, but didn't. She was immediately selling a pack of cigarettes to the man next in line, and I walked away.

April was the one who hurt me worst, and the only one of the five who unambiguously broke up with me. It was nothing 'mutual', never would've been my idea, and ten years later, there's still a notebook with photos, mementos, a ribbon from her hair, and poems written for April. I haven't added to the notebook since a week after she dumped me, so I'm not totally crazy, but still, I kept the photos and mementos because… I don't know why…

And I kept the poems because I wrote them and thought they were actually good, so an hour ago I pulled that notebook off the shelf, and looked at those poems for the first time in years, not from wistful memories of April but because I thought I'd cheat and rewrite one of those poems for Sarah-Katherine. News flash — they're awful, syrupy things. I ought to throw that notebook away, and one of these years maybe I will…

In life's rear-view mirror, it seems accurate to say that with all these ladies, except Molly I guess, something seemed not quite right at the start, and I disregarded my misgivings, so the misgivings grew bigger.

With Sarah-Katherine, as with all the others, I have early-onset misgivings. Maybe it's all a big mistake. Even though I don't want a real relationship with her, an alarm sounds in my head because she doesn't want a real relationship with me. That's so stupid I have to laugh at myself, myself. Of course, all my real relationships have ended up sucking, so her not wanting one ought to be a tick-mark in this new lady's favor.

What today's mess of words all comes down to is, I don't know shit about shit about anything, except that one way or another it's going to hurt when it's over. That's what's happened every time, to me, and to five women I've known, but that's never stopped me yet, and won't stop me now.

From Pathetic Life #14
Thursday, July 20, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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