|September 25, 1999
So there I was, standing on a wobbly chair in front of the tallest bookcase in The Castle ... sorting through a stack of dusty guitar magazines, looking for last month's issue of "Cool and Strange Music" ... when out fell a CD. It must have gotten wedged, somehow, between Guitar World ("The Complete Iron Maiden!") and Total Guitar ("Pro Tone Strat: First UK Review!") I tried to catch it as it fell, but I missed and it noisily clattered to the floor.
So I climbed down from the chair and picked it up.
It wasn't one of David's music CDs. (My first clue? There were no photos of BOB DYLAN or BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN on the jewel case.) It was, in fact, one of those new-fangled photo CD's. (My first clue? The words "KODAK PHOTO CD" on the jewel case.) There was a little preview sheet on the back, so you could see at a glance what pictures were included on the disk.
I squinted at the teeny-tiny thumbnails. Something I could use on the website, perhaps? Scenic shots of the Bay Area? David in a tutu?
Nope. It was a CD full of pictures of the Ex-Girlfriend. Sigh.
Let me be specific here. I'm not talking about David's high school Prom date, or a live-in love from his college days, or a cyber flirtation from the old Boom Room. If I were to run across a photo of any of these women -- and occasionally I do -- it barely registers on my emotional seismic meter. No: what I'm referring to specifically here is THE Ex-Girlfriend. You know the kind I mean: the previous love who Really Mattered. The ex-flame who can stir up that little crockpot of insecurities, always simmering on "low." She Who Came Before Me. (Ghastly pun mostly-intended.)
When I first moved in with David last year -- during those endless, empty days before I took the job at The Totem Pole Company -- I went on an extensive search-and-destroy mission here in The Castle. I assured myself that I was merely becoming *familiar* with my new surroundings -- "What if I suddenly need a stapler? Or a half-empty bottle of beta carotene? Or a pair of men's navy blue socks??" -- but of course what I was really doing was looking for evidence of The E.G. David had thoughtfully -- albeit ineptly -- attempted to remove most of the more intimate reminders. All of the e-mail correspondence had *poofed,* for instance. So had (most of) the snail mail. But it took me less than three minutes of not-so-concentrated searching, that very first morning, to discover a huge stack of photos in one of the kitchen cupboards. As I stood there holding the Kodak envelopes, knowing full well what was inside, I heard a little voice inside my head shrieking "Don't look at them!! Just put them back in the enveloped and close the cupboard door!!" But naturally that was the moment when my one working *chick chromosome* decided to kick in.
And I looked.
For weeks afterward, I was haunted by the image of David -- MY David -- with his tongue shoved down another woman's throat.
(Now I know how The Wife must have felt, looking at those Polaroids.)
I didn't throw those pictures away. I wanted to. Ohhhhhhhh how I wanted to. I wanted to rip them up, on the spot, and start a ritual bonfire, right there atop The Ugly Pink Stove. But I didn't. Snooping is one thing: destroying another person's property is another thing entirely ... especially when that "person" is someone you love very deeply, and with whom you are attempting to create a life of honesty and integrity, and who might in fact NOTICE if you've recently started a BONFIRE in his kitchen. So I wrote David an e-mail instead, asking him to please "remove" the photos from the apartment. It took a another couple of weeks -- and a couple more *gentle reminders* on my part [ahem] -- but one day I checked the cupboards and the photos were gone finally.
And that, I thought, was that. Until the CD landed at my feet the other day.
I honestly didn't know what to do. Part of me wanted to quietly return the CD to the top of the bookcase and forget I'd ever found it. (Um, yeah. That'll happen.) Part of me wanted to lay the CD someplace conspicuous ... like on his pillow, maybe ... and wait for his reaction. Part of me wanted to squirrel the CD away in my purse and take it to work the next day and obsessively scrutinize EACH AND EVERY PHOTO OF THE E.G. WITH A MAGNIFYING GLASS, looking for crow's feet or split ends or reassuring disfigurement of any sort.
In the end I did none of those things. I simply walked into the kitchen, where David was working on the computer -- no doubt debating on the message boards again with that loathsome creature who manifests herself as a middle-aged hooker: "how many sexual partners have YOU had?" -- and I handed the CD to him.
He seemed genuinely surprised. "Where'd THIS come from?" he said, turning it over in his hands and peering at the thumbnails, the same way I had a few minutes earlier. I told him that I'd found it on top of the bookcase. He had no idea how it had gotten there. "I must have tossed it up there one day when I was cleaning," he said.
Do I believe him? Of course. David is the singularly most honest person I have ever known. There wasn't the slightest trace of anything weird in his voice, or in his expression: no defensiveness, no squirming, no anger, no regret. That was all the *explanation* I needed ... or wanted.
"Do you want to look at the CD?" I said, gesturing towards the computer. "Or should I put it back on top of the bookcase?"
"Nahh," he said, handing it back to me. "Just throw it away."
Surprised, I said fine, and I made a big show of placing the photo CD on the very top of the trash, and there it stayed for the next day or two. Or three. Every time I opened the refrigerator, fired up the Krups, made a sandwich ... there it was, laying at the top of the garbage, looking up at me. Smiling happy little thumbnail faces, looking up at me from a Kodak jewel case. It began to gnaw at my conscience. Why was he throwing away another little piece of his past?
More importantly: why was I requiring him to do so?
The day I moved out of The Tree House, I quietly threw away the very last of The Doc photos. I'd been hanging on to a handful of them, particularly the photos from the Caribbean trip -- I have no idea why, unless I wanted to remind myself that I was moving on to something better -- but that morning, as David and I loaded the U-Haul for the trip to California, I stuck the photo album filled with the remaining Doc pictures into a Hefty bag ... and then I left it sitting on the porch in front of my apartment door. I never looked back. I guess I expected David to automatically do the same thing now: to divest himself completely of his most recent (and most threatening) romantic relationship pre-me. But why? Tossing the Doc pics was a personal decision, made by ME. Nobody pointed a Benchmade at my head and said, "Throw them away, Secra. That's ancient history" ... least of all David. In fact, he exhorted me to save anything I pleased. "That's part of your history, and it's part of what makes you who you are today," he told me more than once. So expecting him to follow suit and throw away all mementos of his previous Significant Other, just because it was something *I* chose to do, was not only dumb ... it was blatantly unfair.
So I did the only thing I could do.
I rescued the photo CD from the garbage ... carefully and respectfully wiping the teriyaki sauce and the coffee grounds off the jewel case ...
and then I took it to work the next day, where I obsessively
scrutinized EACH AND EVERY PHOTO OF THE E.G. WITH A MAGNIFYING GLASS,
looking for crow's feet or split ends or reassuring disfigurement of
any sort. (There weren't any. In fact, she looks like a perfectly
nice person. Dammit.)
(Hey. Give me a break. I said I'm ON MY WAY to becoming a "good person." I'm not completely there yet.)
self-important blurb #1 will go HERE: blurby blurby blurb
self-important blurb #2 -- probably having something to do with the WEATHER -- will go here: yep. we're having weather, alright.
special *howdy* to: whoever hasn't corrected my spelling today, prolly
here's where i'll ask
a *relevant* question:
amazingly profound thought of the day: "It could be worse: they could be talking about pineapple rings again."