“Don’t call it a comeback,” raps LL Cool J. This summer the “Dining with a Cursed Bloodline,” column ended like a Disney Classic Movie. Marriage. Happily Ever After. Roll credits. The End. Reality is never tidy as a film. Ouroboros. The end is a beginning.
I know I owe no one my pain. Writing trauma porn is not a debt but a reprieve. The unburdening relief from the desire to have others feel what I feel. Bear witness to the text edifices of blood and bone I must build or explode. It is a compulsion. It is a sickness. Twisting wire and vein into art sparks joy, one of the few in my nocturnal isolation.
My soon to be ex wife said that “Putting all our business in public,” by writing creative nonfiction was a problem. Threatened her privacy. She had too many secrets. Aliases. A byline only led to me, “mouthing off on social media,” and “being smart.” I gave up this Entropy column in that retro way a career girl of the last century would give up a a job upon marrying. Like Charlotte does in Sex and the City. Over a mimosa brunch with Kim Cattrall. With an immaculate blowout. While Carrie Bradshaw takes notes for her strangely unsexy sex column. To write a food column, I need material and time. Marriage left food intake stable. Stagnant. Sweet tea, salt and vinegar chips and sour cream for Jasper. Almonds, apples and carrots for me. I stopped being invited to Sunday Dinner. So exhausted all my material.
As per Mad Men, the traditional bride subsequently lives in marital bliss without anything to do but be the breadwinner’s bang maid. Watch all of the television. Eat ice cream sandwiches in a bird of paradise housecoat. I got in about a month of that before it all went wrong.
Jasper and I had an “It’s it’s” ice cream sandwich habit. San Francisco’s regional speciality. Available in these Nevada hinterlands in three pack boxes. Raley’s delivered. Packed in our freezer. Crunchy oatmeal cookies around melting vanilla, mint and cappuccino ice cream. Enrobed in a chocolate shell that flaked off suddenly. Leaving brown smears on tile and cleavage. We licked them off each other’s breasts, laughing.
I can’t eat “It’s it’s” at all anymore after what happened. Switched back to Klondike Vanilla Health Bars. Reminding me of the harsh winter sojourn transitioning to my current home. Snowed in. For six months. In my now dead grandmother’s basement. Grandma’s house is cleaned out and and up for sale now. Her tender wrinkled hand. Ashes buried over grandpa’s Catholic casket.
I try to be a good wife. Busy with photo Christmas cards and laundry. Emailing wedding announcements to CalArts and Reed alumni magazines. A fluke British lesbian magazine doing a feature on same sex marriage wants to use our photo and story. In this benighted Eisenhower bubble of love I feel like I’m doing the right thing for once. Our regional culture clash is not a problem. She chews tobacco. Blasts Hank Williams while she drives my car. I am too ill to drive. I swoon to Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon.” Feeling the fantasy, unfortunately.
“We both know the history of violence around you.
But I’m not scared, there’s nothing to lose now that I’ve found you
And we could cruise to the news
Pico Boulevard in your used
Little bullet car if we choose
Mr. born to lose.
In three short months our marriage implodes. It was a long con. Jasper posed as a stable, heroic protector with a good job who would kill or die for me. She (her chosen pronoun) courted me like a Southern Gentlemen. Fucked me like a leather biker butch. Such a seduction requires deceit. Best foot forwards. Edited persona. Hiding racism until too late. We both fell fast and hard.
“The last fling of a dying man,” says Joan Collins on The Royals, “Can be dangerously sincere.” On screen a blue velvet box closes over a diamond ring. Jasper puts a ring of cubic zirconia on my finger and I’m hers. For the first month she works night shift at the electric car factory. I stay up all night. In lingerie. To welcome her home. At 6 am. We are so happy. She’s gone twelve hours a day so I can still create in the silence of the night. We each have her own income. She hooks me up with Hulu. I adjust to shared space. Make compromise after compromise as her empty bottle clutter squalor creeps over my previously tidy house like a carpet of moss.
My sister visits. Brings us fresh lemons and sage from her backyard. The three of us talk too deeply. Something happens. Something intense changes. Jasper is never the same again. She never goes back to work. Stays up for six days hallucinating people invading the backyard. Scratches her arms to bloody ribbons. Screams at the neighbors at night over the rustic plank fence. Her video chat psychiatrist drops her while in crisis. Leaving her with no medication and papers to be signed to keep that great job we both count on. Jasper is overdrawn with no further salary while not working. I Venmo her hundreds of dollars trying to fix it. I cannot fix anyone.
Jasper lays down on the green velvet living room couch. Watches Grey’s Anatomy for what seems like an eternity. I lose myself in Duolingo online Latin lessons in the bedroom. Hyper focus for a few days. A month passes. I come out of my room one morning and see Jasper’s swollen red arm with big purple track marks and purple sores.
“Come here, come here, I want to see my wife,” she says to me. Holds me to her breast. I feel a fever in her skin. The accesses are infected. Leaking pus and blood. I don’t know what to do except call an ambulance. She will go septic and die if not in the hospital. Infection into the muscle. Given the expense, we discuss other options. Jasper drives herself to a hospital in the next town over.
I did not know Jasper was using opioids again. She likes to inject pills I’ve never heard of. The long periods in the bathroom? Where I keep all my legally prescribed psychiatric medication? The trip to the needle exchange where she put Narcan and a sharps container in my medicine cabinet? It was so obvious! I just didn’t want to see it. Rosy Instagram filters through my bridal veil obscured the truth. I wanted so badly to believe her line about drawing blood for her monthly witchcraft. Believe she needed a lot of time in the bathroom all the time because of a bowel problem.
I spent four days at the Carson Tahoe Medical Center to observe and tend my wife. Slept two nights beside her on a visitor’s couch. Bathed her forehead with a wet cloth. Never let it be said that I was not dedicated. I did not love her. I did not try. The seminal Zoe Leonard poem I have tacked to my bathroom wall echoed in my mind: “I want a dyke for president….I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to aids, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying…” Jasper and I married knowing we both didn’t have much more time together.
Before surgery, the nurses flooded Jasper’s system with morphine. Re-addicting her. She swears she’s go on the streets for relief if they can’t give her a painkiller prescription for later. It’s against Nevada law to release someone from the hospital with any opioid pain medications whatsoever. Surgery. Perjury. I ask the nurse what I should do if she bring drugs into my sober home and she says, “Call 911?”
Holding Jasper’s hand post op with her wedding rings still on my finger, the first nurse asks if I am her mother. My look is rather cold weather babushka. Hair blue-grey. Praying at the addict’s bedside. Duolingo taught me to say, “Uxor meae, medicum sanat,” which I whispered against her hands like a mantra. “Doctor’s, heal my wife.” The nurses knew not to whom or what I prayed to. I was desperate enough for the sort of drastic action in the film Beautiful Creatures, where a witch does a forbidden spell to bringing her Southern soldier lover back to life. That curse damns her and her matrilineal bloodline to the dark side until the curse is broken by film’s end. Happy ending. Roll credits. Curtain drops.
This is real. I grip Jasper’s hand as the nurses repeatedly pull long strands of blood soaked gauze packing the gaping wounds to change the dressings. Tears in her eyes as she screams in pain. I stare at the two gory holes in the arms that used to hold me. Deeper and larger than any damage I’ve ever seen. I don’t do opioids or needles. Never have. One wound was the size of a half dollar and both almost an inch down into the muscle. No matter how many times I rewatched American Horror Story, no amount of special effects corn syrup slit throats prepared me for this gore. PTSD activate. Strong fight or flight instinct.
The social worker asks, “Which one is the patient here, I like to know who I’m talking to.” Jasper is bleeding in a hospital gown. I’m regular in black with a King’s Solomon’s Seal necklace. MAC lipstick in Velvet Kiss. Fooling no one, apparently. Now my mental illness symptoms feel under observation. I feel at risk for psychiatric confinement or outpatient monitoring, despite not ever being a patient at that facility. I know what rights I don’t have.
For Jasper to be released back into home care as is their discharge plan? She has to detox off opioids in my house. While a home health care aide/social worker has free run of the place to snoop and ruin my life also. Pearls clutched until the taut string breaks, I absolutely cannot have that. Between my second chance at love and the loss of my privacy, dignity and freedom? Possible institutionalization? I excise Jasper from my heart. Slice what was bound apart. Make the choice to save myself while I still can. To leave her forever. To be lost in hospitals and psych wards until she can make her own way out, to a new life, without me.
Our last kiss in the patients only restroom. Jasper is wearing a diaper. Covered with EKG stickers. One arm bandaged to the shoulder. I kiss her deeply with the passion I still have for her. Must deep freeze for my own survival. Whatever promises I make in that embrace I cannot keep.
Jasper says, “Don’t leave, I want to get out of here too.”
I say, “You can’t, but I still can.” Coldly take a $50 Lyft home from Carson to Reno. Unlock, enter and lock down inside my house to shelter in place. The temperature drops below freezing. I take in deliveries and mail. Do not leave my property. Make arrangements for annulment with a lawyer. Pack her things. Collect and photograph her syringes.
“Disability Porn Freakshow’s over!” I type across the screens in closure, to the unknown on the other side. The unknowable faces and entities who may read this. Anyone and everyone and no one. I confess. They validate. I flail. They damn. Like the ballerina with the red shoes I dance and dance on bloody pointé to keep the red velvet curtain from descending.
Trust no one.