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Dear Misanthrope: (My Life With Pat December 1991-May 1995)
An "essay" by Michael F. Nyiri
(begun in August 13, 2005)

1. Merry Christmas and Hello.
2. 2 adults, 2 Kids, 2 bedroom apartment: 2 Close for Comfort
3. Away From the Gangs, Part 1: The First House
4. Away From the Gangs, Part 2: Bellflower and the Second House

1. Merry Christmas and Hello
She never had it easy, but she didn't seem to mind. Her life up to our meeting had been a sorry series of misbegotten episodes, inspired by tragedy, and sustained by restlessness. She was the embodiment of the "homeless free spirit", who knew that she would survive, even if the world were falling about around her. She interpreted things a bit differently than most folks, and that was just allright with her. She knew when she was right about something, even if she was dead wrong and was proved so. She never wavered in her singular opinions. Sometimes this was endearing and sometimes it was frustratingly naive. Sometimes I just wanted to shake some sense in her, and sometimes I wanted to hug her with a pity so strong I always thought it would eventually be the glue that ultimately bonded our union. That our union eventually fell apart is proof that the glue never held, and is a good thing, and even though I will always love this woman, this unique individual who spoke her own language, whether or not anyone was attempting to listen, or even worse, understand her, I am glad our union at the end couldn't hold fast, and when I was freed from the bonds of that union, I felt as if I had been freed from a three year prison sentence, which had been complete with the slavering flames of hell and the nagging furies of fickle fate.

It all began with the company Christmas party.

Each December, on the last half day before the three day Christmas holiday, the family that owns the company for which Pat and I worked hosts the company Christmas party, a tradition that goes back thirty or so years. It is usually held at a restaurant or banquet room at a fancy restaurant, and we all eat a great meal, and participate in the winning of door prizes, and having a gift exchange. For me, this ritual became my "Christmas" and usually the door prize I received was my only Christmas gift each year. I believe to this day, that the reason I alway win a door prize is because the family insures I do so, knowing that this is my only "Christmas" celebration.

In the year 1991my"door prize" was to be much more than a new cordless telephone or boom box. I sat down next to Pat at the Chrismas banquet table, and we soon found out we shared a somewhat alcoholic kinship. She had worked at the company for about a year, and I was relatively new myself, having been hired in 1988. I was managing the new panel shop and had four technicians reporting to me. Pat worked as a technician on the other side of the company, building the switches we sold and used in some of our panels. We became fast friends during the evening. I had always thought this tall gal with the long legs and strange unfathomable fashion sense was cute, and I was single, healthy, and celibate, and wanted to get laid. As the heady feeling of drunkenness wafted over me, I and Pat became more enmeshed in a conversation that seemed to drown out the rest of the proceedings.

I have always been able to coax pretty girls into the act of "driving me home" in those frequent times when I didn't have a set of wheels. I was riding a motorcycle, which was in the shop getting it's head gasket replaced, when I attended the company party. Pat offered to drive me home. I asked her if she were sober enough to drive the 15 miles to the "frat house", the place I shared with Joel and Bob. She lied in the affirmative, which was enough for me. I was pretty drunk myself, if the truth be told.

We spent the night together. I can remember in those giddy minutes before we removed each other's clothing, her whispered, "I'm not looking for a one night stand." "Neither am I," I proclaimed. Later on that evening, after the heated throes of passion had cooled and we lay curled in a tandem fetal position, I told her I thought we "fit" together perfectly. I couldn't have been more wrong, but I felt ecstatic at the time.

Oh, to be almost young and in love. Pat was about five years my junior. I was 38, not exactly a spring chicken. The companionship increased. I took her to my favorite restaurants, which failed to impress her in the least. We watched movies in my suite of rooms at Bob's place which had plumbing so bad we sometimes had to "dredge" the tub after taking a shower, and pour buckets of tub water down the toilet in order to "flush" it. I met her son, Charlie, 12 and daughter, Laura, 14, both sired by different fathers, and entirely different in their nature. I liked them better than they liked me, another suspicious "Uncle Daddy" dating their mom. We had some alcohol fueled "discussions" in which we nearly tore each other apart. Now I never laid a hand on her, nor she I, but we could quarrel until the rafters shook. We always "made up " real neatly, and within time, I was spending a lot of time "over at Pat's" with my kit bag and three nights change of clothes.

Within four months of our relationship, I was writing her love poetry, we were sneaking sex where-ever we could, and I was spending more time at her apartment than in my own bed. I was blind to the trap being set, and dived in with gusto. "Pussy is the most beautiful thing in the world" I would purr to Bob and my friends when they asked me what I thought I was getting myself into. I dove into that Pussy, and that pussy was fine. Pretty soon, of course, Pat started to take up the slack a little on the reel. "Why don't you move in" was more like a sentence than a simple question, but I naively thought that it might be a good idea.

People sometimes join forces because of unforseen circumtances, which make them think they had better do this now or else. I don't know why more people can't wait until they are comfortable with each other as partners and friends, no matter how much they think they might "love" one another before they make any mistakes moving in with each other. With Pat, I loved the steady diet of companionship and sex. I knew Pat and I wouldn't be discussing Kantian philosophy, or the finer points of Italian Renaissance Architecture any time soon. But I found her accounting of her life interesting, and she seemed to like watching movies when we were together. I love movies, so figured I had found a soulmate. My friends all kept telling me I was making a big mistake, however. A mistake of "Biblical Proportions" I think one of they guys said. Joel took dibs on my suite of rooms. "You won't get em back when you come back either" he warned.

By late April of 1992 we had planned to move in together. My plan was for us to look for a new apartment, since she lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment in southeast Long Beach, which is among the worst parts of town. We couldn't find anything that we both liked. Pat kept goading me to move in with her. I thought the place was too small, and was adapting very well to living in my own place and commuting to hers. She and I once had one of our famous quarrels about the fact she thought I should be paying some of her rent because I was there so often. My bike was a total wreck, and she was driving me around a lot. Bob's plumbing was getting so bad that sometimes there was standing water in the tub and shower, and he didn't try to fix anything much, and Joel was pretty lackadaisical as well. Pat had a good point. I had spent a lot of money on Bob's place over the years as it was.

So I made the decision. I loved her. I moved in with her in Long Beach. I filled my 66 Caddy with my stuff, we rented a trailer, and hauled my furniture and life into the small two bedroom apartment in the worst section of Long Beach about two and a half weeks before the riots broke out there.

I always equate the Los Angeles "Rodney King" riots with our relationship. No sooner had I moved all my belongings, which started to dictate the "look" of Pat's living space three hours after I started "moving in", than the riots broke out, both in South L.A. and in southeastern Long Beach. Businesses were burned three blocks from the apartment building. It was my birthday May 1, and Pat and I drove out of town with Charlie and Laura for San Clemente, which was one of Pat's favorite places. The riots eventually ended, but the fireball of animosity toward the human race that I had moved in with didn't end her relationship with me just yet. She had just snared me, and wanted to keep me on the hook for a while.

I wouldn't say I was "rich" but I made more than Pat did, and I now paid half her rent and utilities. I had a lot of money when I was living with Bob, so Pat and I spent our first few months as a couple going out a lot. I like to go places, and we travelled all over the south bay. She was always interesting company. She introduced me to her mother and step father, who owned racehorses. Pat loved to bet the horsies. I went with her to Los Alamitos, learned from her how to read a racing form, and forever ruined my gambling virginity when I won two consecutive trifectas. "This is pretty easy" I proclaimed, "You could make a living from this." From that moment on, we "visited the horses" where ever they happened to be, from Santa Anita to Hollywood Park. Friday night, and Saturday and Sunday "dates" were spent with the horses. We didnt' gamble much. I had already taken control of the finances, since I paid for most everything, so Pat could have "spending money". She also had growing children, so they took a hefty portion of our finances. We limited ourselves to $20.00 to bet, in $2.00 increments. Sometimes we would win, and sometimes lose. A couple of times we won pretty big. We always went to dinner afterwards. I got to where I didnt' really like gambling all the time, but other pursuits of Pat's were not so comfortable with me either.

I always try to understand my mates, both friends, and lovers. Pat was not easily understood. I don't even think she understood herself. She was born in Rhode Island and is the youngest of three, and the only girl. Her father fell from an oil tower about 20 feet when she was young, and was paralyzed from the waist down. The strain was too much on his wife, Pat's mother, and she left him, fleeing to California. He was paralyzed and now had to raise three children himself. He soon married Pat's step mom, and the atmosphere was so suddenly different to Pat, that she dropped out of her sophomore year at high school, and left her home at the age of 15. She hoboed around the country, and eventuall became a high priced prostitute, kept by rich Saudi Arabian oil magnates. She always felt this was the best time of her life.

Eventually , she ended up in California, after many romances and missed opportunities. She didn't read too well, and always "filled in the blanks" and so misunderstood almost everything she read, preferring to "interpret" what she thought she was reading. Jilted and abused, road weary and tarmac tough, Pat remained a survivor. She drifted from relationship to relationship. Laura's father was never mentioned. Chaco was the father of her son, and he was never far from the scene, berating Pat for her mothering skills, which were almost nonexistant, the pure picture of a "macho" Mexican male. By the time I met her, the scars were part of her makeup, and she exuded a pungent aroma of helplessness to me, and I always attempt to be the White Knight, a savior to all womankind.

2. 2 adults, 2 Kids, 2 bedroom apartment: 2 Close for Comfort
Pat had her own schedule, and her own way of doing things. As soon as I moved in with her in Long Beach in 1992, that schedule was upset, and she had to adapt to new ways of doing things. When I had moved in with my friend Bob about five years earlier, I had announced to the assembled "backyard buddies" in Bob's bedroom one afternoon that "there were going to be changes" because I was living there now. I have always been an A plus personality, and I'm used to getting my way. When I don't, I can be quite disastrous to live with, or so it has been said. By closing in on Pat and her two children, Laura and Charlie, in a two bedroom apartment, common sense would dictate that nobody would enjoy any degree of solitude simply because of the cramped space. I had lots of furniture and collections of books and movies, all of which needed to be fit into this small space. Within a couple of hours after starting to move in my stuff, the apartment started to look more like 'me' than 'the family'. I could see that this upset the two children especially, and although I couldn't see this in regards to Pat herself, she was getting more than she bargained for, and was noticing her lifestyle was changing as well.

Laura would be the first to complain loudly, because she had one of the two bedrooms, and this was now to be the "master bedroom". I had a 32" big screen television, and I would put this in the bedroom, further insensing the children, because they still had to watch TV on a 19" screen. Laura would have to move in with her brother. Since she was 14, this was a bit like moving backward for her, and she resented what her mother was dictating. Charlie had a bedroom, but was used to "bunking" in the living room, on a sofa, with his mother, who slept on the other side of the living room on a daybed. While I was visiting overnight prior to moving in, Charlie would be sleeping mere feet away while Pat and I would engage in sex in the daybed. I thought this was somewhat strange, but didn't question the arrangement. I only hoped that Charlie was asleep most of the time. Laura screamed as we moved her furniture out of her bedroom, which was the most "decorated" room in the house. Both Pat's children were sired by different fathers, neither of whom Pat had married. Charlie's father was a macho Mexican American man who lived nearby in Paramount. Pat never talked about Laura's father, but since both Pat and Charlie were slobs, and Laura was neat and tidy, I liked Laura's methods of taking care of herself the best, and surmised that her father was probably a neat freak like me, but I just couldn't warm up to this spitfire of a youngster, whose reaction to the news I was going to move in with the family was to run away immeditaely.

So the first weekend before I actually moved into the apartment with Pat, we spent the time searching the neighborhood for Laura, and this was not the first time she would "run away from home" while I lived with the family. Pat, Charlie, and I piled into Pat's small four door Geo Prism and scoured the immediate area. Laura's best friend lived a few blocks away, and this is where we found her, and Pat pulled her kicking and screaming back into the car. My friends back at Bob's "frat house" had warned me that I was making a mistake by electing to move in with Pat and her kids. I had already started the wheels rolling, and now I was almost afraid that they were about to roll over me pretty quickly.

I warmed to Charlie pretty quickly, or thought I did, anyway. He didn't scowl and pout every time I came into the room, and he liked all the video movies I brought into his life. Laura acted more like the head of the household sometimes than Pat, and since Pat had always been quite a drunk on Friday nights, sometimes Laura actually did have to "put Pat to bed" when she came home from the bars, so Laura had gained a lot of responsibility for her mother growing up. Pat and Laura frequently had "I am the mother" talks with each other, even after I moved in. I had made the decision to immerse myself in this quite dysfunctional family, which had never known a father figure. Two days after I had arranged my bookcases, and unpacked my belongings, I witnessed Charlie "playing" with a neighborhood kid on a board laid across two chairs. I cautioned him about playing in this dangerous place, and Pat immediately "sided" with Charlie, told him to go about his dangerous play, and cautioned me very plainly and sternly never to discipline her children. With each succeeding day, something else would happen, that would prove that I had gotten myself into a situation which was not healthy, either for me or anybody else. Pat wanted to have things as they had always been, yet she wanted the extra rent money that my coming into the family would bring. She was trying to have her cake and eat it too, and this was never going to work. Since I loved her, or thought I did, anyway, I gave in to every little quirk.

In each relationship between people, there has to be some give and take. I found myself giving but rarely taking. I 'gave up' a lot of my own interests, and I acclamated myself to her quirks. She liked to listen to the television set when she was cooking, even though it was in the other room. She told me she felt "lonely" when it wasn't on. I never watched television, prefrerring to use my set as a monitor on which to view my movie collection. When Pat would visit me at my suite of rooms in the "frat house" she would watch movies with me. Now that I lived with her, she wasn't interested in watching movies with me anymore. Her "meals" were bland and unsatisfying. I have always "eaten out" in restaurants, and I like a variety of different culinary delights. Pat had about four or five "standard" meals, including boiled potatoes, spaghetti, and meatloaf, and after a short while, her culinary skills (or lack of) grew tiring. We had nothing in common, really, and our evenings were spent playing gin rummy or cribbage. We usually holed up in the new "master bedroom" while her kids played videogames or watched television in the living room. This also served to distance herself from her children, who had her all to themselves before I moved into their life.

Once when Pat visited Bob when I was still living in his house, she decided that she would "clean his kitchen drawers." Pat's method of "cleaning drawers" was to dump their contents on the ground, and then put everything back away, and in this process, she felt she was "organizing" but was really just wasting time, since nothing was ever thrown away or organized in any way. Bob was seen to do a slow burn when she dumped all his kitchen utensils on the floor. Granted, Bob wasn't the best housekeeper in the world, and Pat always thought she was "rescuing me" from living in his house, which was slowly falling apart. She was wrong to empty his drawers however, but this was normal behavior for her I would soon find out. Some evenings in "our" apartment, after playing rummy or some other card game, instead of giving in to my wishes and perhaps watching one of my laserdisc films, Pat would go into the kitchen or hall, take a drawer out of a hutch or cabinet, bring it into the bedroom, and dump it's contents on the bed spread. Then she would methodically put everything back into the drawer. These obsessive compulsive behaviors bothered me, but I learned to live with them, and didn't recognize them as somewhat crazy behaviors at the time.

Before long, for me, living with Pat was like living in a prison. My motorcycle had to be sold, since Pat's brother had died riding one years earlier she didn't want me to ride. My Cadillac, which was a classic 1966 Sedan de Ville, was parked in the driveway of the apartment, and gathered dust because it never was used. Pat drove us everywhere. She didn't like the big car, even though her little Prism wasn't quite large enough for two adults, two kids, and a load of groceries. She never gave me a reason why she hated the Cadillac, but I gave in to her and didn't use it. As the weeks, and then months passed, I began to give up all my own interests and bowed to her every wish. My life became a mundane exercise in not making my girlfriend or her kids angry.

When Pat or her kids did get angry, sparks flew so erratically that it is a wonder the apartment didn't burn down. I can get quite animated when angry as well, so a lot of our fights were dismally energetic, with lots of yelling and waving of arms. Laura liked to slam doors, and Pat would respond to their mother-daughter quarrels by slamming doors as well. Charlie and Laura would exit any bad situation by just leaving home for a while. And after a while, this became routine behavior. And it wasn't healthy for any of us. I now believe Pat used sex as bait to get me to move in, and once I was ensconced in her life, the sex mysteriously stopped. We each had "our own side" of the queen sized bed I bought for her. I like to cuddle, but cuddling was out of the picture most nights. Almost all nights. Sometimes in the middle of a card game, Pat would start to get fidgety, and begin moving about the room. She wouldn't communicate to me what she was feeling, but I could see that she wasn't in a good mood. I would later figure out that her "nightlife" was compromised by my being there. So sometimes she actually would go to the closet, and begin to get dressed for a "night out" although I was not being told, even though I was in the same room. When she would tell me she was "going out", I would ask to come along. Sometimes she would "bring" me, but she wasnt' happy, because she couldn 't pick up men with me there. Our lives were insane together. Each one of us had to stop doing things we liked to do alone, and we couldn't really find a common ground together until later when we started going to the horse track, but even then, I was bowing to her interests, and engaging in activity in which she participated.

One evening when she got "upset" for no apparent reason, and began to pace around the bedroom, I ingratiated myself to her so I could accompany her to a country and western bar. Now we both drank alcohol while we were playing cards or whatever, so we were both stoked by the alcoholic fuel when these ill conceived decisions were made. I used to go honkey tonkin with my friend Tom years previously, but in my relationship with Pat, I wanted to "settle down" and have a domestic life. Pat still wanted to go honkey tonkin, and didn't care whether or not I was around. She got dressed, I did too, and she drove me to one bar after another. We passed the time either quarrelling or not talking to each other. At one bar, she left to go to the restroom, and left her purse on the seat across from me where she was sitting. I didn't realize that she had left it on the seat, and someone stole it. When Pat returned from the restroom, and couldn't find her purse, she became ballistic, and blamed me for not watching it. That evening is one I shall never forget. The next day, we returned to the bar and searched through the trash containers out back. I believe we did find the purse, but all the money, which wasn't much, had been stolen. Pat never forgave me for not watching her purse, which of course she had forgotten about. She never had told me to keep an eye on it that night, and I had never known a gal to go to the restroom without her purse, either before or since. Pat was an iconoclast, for sure.

The weekend of the L.A. riots occurred a few short weeks after I had moved in. Since we worked for the same company, our boss had let everyone off early the day the riots began. Tensions were tight in Los Angeles county. In Long Beach, tempers were flaring as bad as in South L.A. I had an appointment at the DMV that Friday afternoon, and I called them to ask if they were still open, since the news on the television didn't look good. An employee at the DMV said they were being let go early that afternoon. Later that evening the DMV, on Pacific and Willow streets, was torched, and burned down. Pat and I drove to the 7-11 to buy our evening beer before going home, and the atmosphere inside the 7-11 was one of siege mentality. Everyone was stocking up for some kind of explosion, which of course was almost ready to ignite. Pat didn't want me to tune into the TV news when we got home. Fires were raging all around our apartment building, but Pat didnt' want the "kids" to see what was happening in South L.A. and Long Beach. I was a bit peeved, being a bit of a news junkie, but as usual, gave into her wishes. Her kids went to a neighbors' and watched the television news on another TV. They came home talking about "the riots." Pat told me that she wasn't going to get upset about this until somebody actually climbed into the bedroom window to attack us. I didnt' sleep that well that night, and the next day, awaking seeing plumes of smoke and fire from our bedroom window, we engaged in our plans to leave for San Clemente to spend the weekend, since it was my birthday. I remember leaving the apartment wondering if it would even be there when we got back. Although the fires eradicated a lot of businesses close by our apartment, none of the residential areas were touched, so when we returned our place was safe.

But it wasn't safe from the volatile nature of our relationship and our relationship with the kids. I spent nearly a year with Pat in her apartment, before Charlie, who had just turned 13, started to fall in with some local kids who were related to gang members, and Pat wanted to flee the scene to move in to a better place. I saw this as an escape into a better place for both of us. The apartment was too cramped, and in a bad part of town. We would "move on up", and hopefully our relationship would become the better for it. We scoured the classifieds for houses in the North Long Beach area, closer to where we worked, in a much better part of town. Shortly before we could even make a decision, however, Laura came home with a "homeless woman" and her child one afternoon, and Pat struck up a friendship with this woman. Our pay prohibited us from living like a king and queen, but it was better than Pat was used to previously, so adding another two mouths to feed didn't bother her in the least. I wasn't consulted in her decision, and before long, the house search included an extra bedroom for our new "boarder" who was on the dole from County services, a way of life Pat understood completely, and it was never discussed whether or not Pat's new homeless friend was going to pay any rent.

My memories of our year together in the two bedroom apartment include watching the throngs of homeless people populate the city park down the street from our apartment, listening to the loud Mexican radio stations playing on Saturday morning from the apartment next door, through paper thin walls. Pat loved to "play the lottery", and twice each week, on Wednesdays, and Saturdays, she would buy lottery tickets, and would keep me up in the evening discussing everything she would do with the money as soon as she won. Of course she never did win, but this didn't stop her grave disappointment, because she would dream of winning as surely if she had won, which led to vast misgivings when she checked the numbers the next morning. I also remember her rage. She was easily angered, and her anger took over her personality completely. Once a poor elderly black woman cut Pat off in an intersection, while I was riding shotgun as usual, and Pat followed the woman to her home, and threatened her. I was apalled, but couldn't help my girlfriend to see reason. That evening, fueled by more than a few beers, Pat planned to go out and destroy this woman's property, or let the air our of her tires, or any other number of retaliatory actions. I was able to convince her not to leave the bedroom, thank God. But it was a difficult evening, and like a lot of our evenings, I was sure that something dreadful would eventually happen. Pat didn't like people that well, and when they pissed her off, she could get quite blistered. I saw this myself when she would get angry at me, which could happen at any time, and I could be completely unawares of the spark which would ignite her.

We spent a couple of weeks "house hunting". Pat, Charlie, Laura, myself, and our "housemate" and her toddler. I can't even remember this woman's name, and this is probably a good thing. She wouldn't last long in our little family, but she was a part of the search to "escape" the gang members which Pat was sure were going to take over her son's life.

3. Away From the Gangs, Part 1: The First House

In 1993 Pat and I looked for a new place of residence, away from the gangs with which she was afraid her son would be involved. The "house search" was very thorough and interesting. Pat, her children Laura and Charlie, and the homeless girl Laura had brought home and whom Pat had befriended piled into the Prism, even though it was a tight fit, and we visited three or four realtors, and dozens of homes. I wanted to offer Pat a house for a home. She had been cramped in the apartment for too many years. When visiting her real mother, who lived in Norwalk, in a fine large house with designer furniture and a large RV in the driveway, I shuddered at Pat's own seeming poverty. With my savings, and my werewithal, I was going to get her into a life like that of her mother, with nice things, plenty of room to move about, and hopefully this would make our life better. "Better" is not a word I can ever use to describe my "Life With Pat" however.

If I were to characterize my "Life with Pat" in one word, that word would be "scary". Our life was a series of scary episodes beginning with the weekend of the L.A. Riots right through to the bitter end of the relationship almost four years later. When the decade of the 90s is mentioned to me, I immediately think of my time "wasted" in my failed relationship with my malajusted waif. The scariest episode was when Charlie suddenly dropped down to the ground while playing in the yard one summer afternoon, and we couldn't get him diagnosed at Harbor General and had to take him (still passed out in the back seat) to County/USC. He had heat prostration. The next scariest episode was the riots, and the third would have to be when Charlie equally confronted Pat in the living room one evening and both were so dynamically mad I thought one would surely kill the other. Less scary episodes which I can dig deep and summon up involved Laura's disappearing one Christmas when we were all supposed to go visit Pat's dad in Florida, then when we left without her, Laura broke into the house by breaking the back window. And Pat told me to accept Laura's explanation of why there were really eight dwarves in the Snow White Fairy Tale. Pat never remembered where she put her keys, and within weeks of moving in with her, I elected myself her "memory". By the end of the relationship, I had become an automaton, because she would rely upon the fact that I kept track of things, to be able to forget anything she needed to remember, and I would always instantly have to locate where something was in the house.

I spent a scary three years with Pat. In three different places. One each year. The first was her two bedroom apartment in South Long Beach. Or as I used to put it: "On the ass end of the Long Beach Freeway." Our apartment was on the bottom floor of one of those ubiquitous 6 unit "single width" two story apartment buildings. It had a security fence, and we all had keys to the lock. There was a lot of gang activity nearby, and the homeless parked their shopping carts like autos in a parking garage over by the trash bins at the park. Pat's moods could be real scary. In three years, I was able to remember where almost everything was kept, and I cleaned most of the house myself too, including taking out the trash, and mowing the lawn, but the lawn care was small to nill in both the houses we lived in, and the apt. didn't have a lawn of course. The second house was a big four bedroom, two bath monster, so big that it totally encompassed the lot on which it stood. It was an ugly yellow color, and was sort of bland and square, but had lots of room, so I could escape the kids. The third house was in Bellflower, and was a really beautiful place, and Pat and I could have really begun a better life, but it was not to be, and I spent half my time there in the garage, in my own "apartment" waiting for the lease to end so I could leave Pat physically. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Suffice it to say that in a life filled with difficult years, the three I spent with Pat were probably my most difficult. I felt like I was living in a Twilight Zone episode two thirds of the time. When Pat befriended the "homeless girl whose name I cannot remember" I knew that her efforts to "have her own way" would never stop, and her "way" would doubtless become more skewered as the years would pass. We found the four bedroom two bath house located only a few blocks from where we both worked. It was in walking distance, Pat said. There was lots of room, and the nameless homeless girl was going to pay a certain percentage of the rent, so things would be nice, finance-wise.

Things started to get scary as soon as we moved in. Pat was supposed to pick me up from work one afternoon when she had to "do something" and left work at lunch. She didn't show up back at work. Since she was easliy angered, I waited patiently (not really one of my virtues) in the parking lot at work for her return. After about two hours, I proceeded to walk home, which was about six blocks away. She was involved in a discussion with the homeless girl, her new best friend, and had forgotten all about me. First the keys, now her boyfriend. We next had one of our wall shattering fights, and at one time she physically pushed me over some unopened boxes from the move. Had I learned yet that our relationship was a highly charged negative hellhole? No, not really. I always try to make the best of any situation.

Our lives on 15th street were intersected but in our year there we became an on again off again couple. Our sexual life was almost nonexistent. The homeless girl looked for a job. She was given one of the four bedrooms. Laura had her own room. Charlie had his, and Pat and I shared the Master bedroom. My 32" bigscreen TV went into the living room. I never watched it in the apartment anyway. My love of movies ceased to exist after two years of living with Pat. There was far more drama in real life than I could find at the movies anyway. One day, the homeless girl failed to return home. She undoubtedly had found another best friend. Pat became incensed with her a few days later, and we took all her clothing and belongings to the Goodwill store. Pat announced that she wanted to move into the spare bedroom. From that moment on, we really weren't a 'couple' anymore, if in fact we had ever been one in the first place.

We still spent a lot of Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the horse track. We still rented rooms in motels in San Clemente during the summer. Charlie and Laura were involved in new friends at their schools. Laura switched from Poly High, in western Long Beach, which is so filled with rowdy kids, that there are metal detectors and parked police cars at the entrance, to Wilson High, which is a "nicer" high school in the eastern part of town. She got good grades, but as she grew older she became even more rebellious toward her mother. Since I couldn't "discipline" Pat's children, who had never known discipline, living with her family was like living with a bunch of adolescents, Pat included.

Charlie would sneak my beers from the refrigerator and fill the empty bottles with water. I guess he figured I wouldn't "notice". Laura hardly came home at all. She had hung out with Mexican American kids and was fluent in Spanish. (Fluent enough to converse with other kids, anyway.) Her boyfriend was a Salvadorian refugee, and she spent most of her time with him. Both Pat's kids liked the 32" bigscreen television, and were usually parked in front of it battling for the remote control in the evenings. I spent a lot of free time reading. Charlie liked cartoons, and would watch the same video tape of "Beauty and the Beast" endlessly. I love the movie, but got so sick of seeing it in the background of my life, that it took me years before I could watch it again. Laura liked the "talk shows", especially one hosted by Ricki Lake. My favorite times during the year in the house on 15th Street were late at night. Since Pat and I didn't sleep in the same bed, I would get up in the middle of the night. I would call up a "pay per view" or slip one of my laserdisc movies in the player, turn the sound down real low and act as if I were in my "own space" and not actually embroiled in the daily soap opera that was our lives.

We both made pretty good money at work, and our pooled resources did allow us some fine vacations. It's quite ironic that we "met" each other at a company Christmas Party, because we missed three in row subsequently to travel to Florida to visit with Pat's father and mother in law in a retirement mobile home park. Holidays in Florida are much like the Holidays in California, with nice weather and no snow. I and Charlie "bonded" when we went to Disney World together. Pat didn't want to go. Laura missed one trip because she ran away prior to our departure. Pat's father was an excellent gentleman, and got around very well for a parplegic in a wheelchair. My memories of these trips to Florida are among my favorite during my hectic relationship with Pat. Her complete family would come and room in the moblile home, which was a double wide, for the week prior to Christmas. Since my family disbanded when my parents died, having another "instant family" was very nice for me. Pat could be very sweet and convincing as a loving partner. On our first night in Florida the first year together, we actually made love, and we made so much noise that the other family members joked about us the rest of the time we were there.

I had to sell my Cadillac when we lived in the house on 15th Street. It was sad to see it go, but Pat was relieved. As the school year ended, and summer rolled around, Charlie got involved with some questionable friends again. One evening after dinner Pat announced that we would need to move again. We had been in the house about a year. She didn't want Charlie near any gang members, so we spent the summer looking for another house. At least this time she hadn't befriended any homeless people.

4. Away From the Gangs, Part 2: Bellflower and the Second House
In the bitter light of memory, my sparkling sky blue classic 1966 Cadillac clearly stood out as a symbol for eventual escape from my relationship with Pat. Pat probably couldn't grasp the concept of symbolism, so she wouldn't be able to describe the vehicle as such, but surely she recognized the fact that at any time during our time together, I could very well turn the key in the ignition and drive out of her life forever. I was constantly reminding her durning the bad times that I had a place to go and the means to get myself "back to Bob's" any time I wished. I'm sure this is why she goaded me and goaded me to get rid of my beauty until I finally sold the car.

I bought the Caddy with $1500.00 cash during one of the times I was flush with money while living in the Frat House with my friends Bob and Mike. I had a Suzuki Savage motorcycle as my main ride, and the Cadillac was my nod to being able to own and operate a "classic", which is the status an old car gains upon reaching the age of 25 years. The 1966 Sedan de Ville was a year away from classic status when I purchased it, and I put a couple of thousand dollars into the restoration of the engine and drive train. The body, headliner, and upholstery were perfect when I bought the car. I think it still had it's original coat of paint. I spent many a Saturday afternoon waxing and polishing my classic Caddy. The car turned heads on the roadway and people always complimented it when I pulled into a filling station or parking lot. After the motorcycle blew a head gasket, the Caddy had become my main mode of transportation until I moved in with Pat, when it was supplanted by her Prizm, which became the "family car." I had agreed to sell the bike, blown head gasket and all, for $500.00 to one of my friend Joel's acquaintences because Pat didn't want me riding a bike. Her brother had died in a motorcycle wreck years previously. She expressed a dislike of the Caddy as well, but I used it to move my stuff to her apartment, and when we lived in Southwestern Long Beach, the Caddy sat parked in the driveway of the apartment building, and I used it as an excuse to get away from my new girlfriend during our drunken fights.

On a few occasions, I would "retire" to the oversized back seat, with it's blue matching pillows, exiting a volatile verbal blowup with my girlfriend by locking myself in my car. Once I got so fed up with Pat's irritability and irrational demands that I skipped work one day and packed my clothes in the car, called my friend Bob, and recharged the dead battery on the old blue warhorse so that I could finally move back to Bob's, even though I knew I wouldn't get my old rooms back, which were occupied by Joel. "Moving back to Bob's" was my trump card in the relationship in it's early days, and the Cadillac symbolized the escape very well. It would gather dust in the parking space for most of the year we lived in the apartment, because Pat didn't like the car in the first place, but on those few times I dusted it off and fired it up, Pat knew that in a minute, her trap for me would break, and I'd be gone.

We always made up, and the car moved with us to our first house, which was close to where we both worked. Pat wouldn't have the car parked at the curb to "her house" so it was parked in a carport in back of the house where Pat never had to see it. I used it once or twice to get away to Bob's for a weekend after Pat and I would have one of our monumental arguments. She constantly complained about the car, and one fine day I made the decision, a metaphorical arm tied behind my back, to sell it outright. Pat was happier as soon as the papers were signed. I sold it for only $200.00 less than I had paid for it. I was sad to see it go, but happy that this small gesture on my part made Pat's life easier, and this made me happy. Pat's son Charlie knew the symbolism of the gesture, even if Pat didn't appreciate it. She had cut off my balls as soon as the new owner drove the car away from the house on 15th Street.

Life in the house on 15th Street grew strained with each passing week. If not one thing, then another would bring up Pat's ire about her situation, which was, in fact, better than any situation in which she had ever been. With each act I was able to accomplish, purchasing new appliances, allowing her to decorate in Southwestern style with lots of expensive American Indian artifacts, giving her children the freedom to have a much more luxurious lifestyle than they had ever known, Pat still wasn't satisfied. She always asked me if I were happy. My happiness only grew with making her happy, but happiness had never been a well situated emotion in her life, and she couldn't get the hang of being happy, no matter what I did or didn't do.

I'd given up my own personal hobbies and entertainments when I had first gotten involved with my misanthrope. By the time we'd been living in the house on 15th street for a year, in mid 1994. my hobbies and entertainments were the same as Pat's. Possibly, utilizing the clear and revealing 20/20 vision of hindsight, I should have at least given myself some "me time", because in retrospect, at least some of the reasons why Pat began to become attracted to the notion that her previous life of barhopping and multiple men was much more interesting than her current life as a "homebody" nearly "married" to me were because she was bored with the few entertainments and hobbies she shared with me. Perhaps she and I both needed "me time" and we never discussed this like level headed adults. Either it was "us" or it was "me" and "her", and our coupleship sailed on the stormswept seas of ill begotten romance for three rocky years until the final shipwreck taught us that our time was better spent apart.

I had finally settled in as best I could in the house on 15th Street when Charlie got involved with playmates Pat thought were surely gang members and we began looking for a new place of residence. Our look was briefer this time out, and we both fell in love with a strange shaped house in Bellflower, two towns north of Long Beach. The house was long but not wide, nestled between a church and it's unattached parking lot. Bellflower had seen "better days", and it's main street was almost deserted, seeing store after store close down owing to the penchant for most folks to shop at malls and shopping centers. The town was as "sleepy" as one can get in Southern California. After crossing a postage stamp sized front lawn, one would enter the main hallway to the house, which stretched along the oversized kitchen to the right and the master bedroom suite to the left, extending down to the living room, which was in the back instead of in the front as in most homes. The kid's bedrooms were to the right of the living room. The house was a three bedroom instead of a four bedroom, and I mentioned to my girlfriend that she couldn't have her own bedroom if we moved in. She realized this, and we made plans to share a bedroom again, for the first time in a year. Our sex life had fizzled to almost nothing by then, and the prospect of sharing a bed again boosted my hopes that perhaps our relationship would finally grow, mature, and cement itself into something real and solid. Maybe Pat would finally be "happy:"

Moving into the house in Bellflower afforded us another "new beginning." Our year spent on 15th Street was quite memorable, what with Charlie's nascent gang affiliations and Laura's constant running away from home. Charlie and Pat got more and more quarrelsome as he grew in stature, and he was about to begin high school. I made a pact with Pat to "clean up" my financial situation and look after my health while still on 15th Street. I turned 40 and began to pay off my student loan, (with the future prospect in mind that someday we would buy a house together) and I arranged with my doctors to undergo a total hip replacement in order to alleviate a nagging pain in my left hip which had bothered me for a decade, caused by a congenital defect in my hip socket.

By the time we signed a yearlong lease and received the keys to our new house in Bellflower, which like the apartment and house in Long Beach, was rented, my hip was almost cured, the Cadillac was long gone, and both Charlie and Laura had said goodbye to their schoolfriends, a mite upsettedly, it can be noted. Both would be attending Bellflower High, and they both liked the campus. With each succeeding year since I had joined the family, both children's lives got better, and they were moving up the ladder of respectability and prosperity. Pat would still see Chaco, Charlie's father, and he was pleased that Charlie was getting a better life now that he was a young man. Chaco and I even got along. Laura was the type to find something about which to complain, she was her mother's daughter after all. However when we moved into the house in Bellflower, I believed finally our lives as a family unit were going to be fulfilled and satisfying, for once.

Pat loved her new kitchen, larger than either of us had ever seen anywhere, with a big window over the sink looking out on her garden, and the appliances included our first dishwasher. I was a bit upset moving in when Pat wanted to use one of my father's bookcase units as a "planter", the same fate which was awaiting my walker I used while recuperating from the hip replacement. I gave in, because Pat seemed happy. Seeing Pat happy made me happy. We started our lives in Bellflower as "one big happy family".

This situation was not to last long, however.

Charlie and I went to the movies a few times. Sometimes I would watch rented films with Pat in our long living room, but as in the previous two years, my interests were short sighted in light of Pat's interests, which still concerned going to the horse races, visitng her real mother and step father, and collecting American Indian art. We had a couple of large mandelas, dream catchers, kachina dolls, and Southwestern furniture. Pat had befriended an artist at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet who sold Southwestern themed sculpture. We decorated the new house in shades of pastel pinks and greens. Pat seemed to be less itchy and tended to her small flower garden, and new home. We spent a lot of time at the kitchen table, playing cards and cribbage. My friend Joel visited with another friend of his when we were settled. We listened to her country and western CDs on my new 5 disc changer.

Attached to the house in front was a large two car garage. Recently, Pat's Prizm was givng her car trouble, so we traded it in for a bright red 1992 Chevy Blazer 4x4 SUV. It was smallish for an SUV, but big enough for the growing kids, and Pat was ecstatic over being able, with my help, to afford a new car. She parked it in the driveway, and allowed me to decorate the garage as my own "space" in the large house. We put a daybed in the middle of the garage, bought a large rug for the floorspace, and I was able to hook up my stereo system, and store all my media in the garage, which in the apartment and house before had taken up a lot of space. I didn't realize as I finally decorated an area that was "mine" instead of "ours" that within six months I would be moving into the garage completely, waiting until the lease to the rented house was up so that I could cleanly make my break from this misbegotten relationship. I felt renewed and revitalized. Pat and I now had moved on up to the best place in which we had yet lived. We had money to decorate, and to pay the new car payments. Charlie and Laura made new friends at Bellflower High. This far north of Long Beach, the gang activity seemed to be almost nonexistant, which let Pat sigh in relief, and made me hope that these nonexistant gangs didn't materialize for Pat in a year or else we would have to move again.

Saturday afternoons I would open the garage door, recline on the daybed with a book, and listen to my old vinyl record collection. Since we were in a residential neighborhood, but between a church and it's parking lot, we had no neighbors close to us, and we felt as if we were king and queen of our own little domain.

The king felt somewhat satisfied after almost three years of hell.

Unbenownst to the king, the queen was getting restless again, and soon our lives were to fall apart, the rift never to be reparied.

5. The Garage

If one postulates about his life with any degree of introspection, he will find that there are many times when he can remember living in a dichotomy, where his happinesses and his sadnesses mix together in the salad bowl of existence with alarming frequency. Frequently, this can be caused because of someone we love. I can remember such a dichotomy in my relationship with Pat so clearly that I still have the bitter aftertaste of sour salad dressing in my mouth. I was smitten with her, that's for sure. I wanted to be her knight in shining armor, and I always felt she was the damstel in distress. The only thing wrong with the equation is that even though she needed helping, she never wanted any help. Even though I wanted to save her, she only wanted to drown in her own insecurities, and eventually saw my riding to her rescue as meddlesome behavior from which she wanted to be extricated. I always thought my life with her was hell, complete with a raging inferno of emotions and inconsistencies, but for her, this life was a similar hell, and she was attempting her escape without my knowledge, even as I kept trying to douse the rising flames.

Living with her, besides being scary, was always full of surprises, which upon introspection, really weren't surprises at all. We had moved to the house on 15th Street to keep Charlie away from the gangs. Now, two years later, the gang story was pretty much a moot point as we were living in a beautiful three bedroom rented home in Bellflower, miles away. Each seemingly disastrous or invisible turn of events was diverted, only to be replaced by another, and I found it difficult trying to keep up, so I ran on autopilot most of the time, praying that "normalcy" would prevail.

The mornings of the year 1995 dawned a bit brighter for me after two and a half years of this hell living with my girlfriend Pat and her two kids. I'd gotten pretty used to hell. We'd leased the house in Bellflower for a year, and had moved in right before the summer of '94. When Pat had "given" me my own space in the two car garage, which fronted the property, I hadn't realized this would actually be my sole living space for nearly the last half of our existence there at the time. I had caromed back and forth between fright and contentment for so long by that point that I had no idea Pat was essentially living two lives, and I wasn't even a part of the second one. I'd always been discouraged by not having any space in our relationship. By 1995, she wanted me out of her space as well, and the gift of my own room in the garage was as much a place for Pat to be able to dump me so I wouldn't see some of the more bizarre turns she was planning, unbeknownst to my naivete.

The Prizm began to have problems, and even though we were paying more in rent for the Bellflower house than for the one we had exited on 15th Street in Long Beach, Pat began to think we should buy a new car. She had her eye on a Chevy Astro, a small van which would have been perfect for the family. The kids were now both in high school, and Charlie was towering above me in height. As with all our endeavors together, there was to be little planning in our search for a car. We jumped in "feet first", driving around from car lot to car lot sampling the wares offered. After two weeks of looking, I showed Pat a large 4X4 Blazer on one lot, and surmised that this was the perfect vehicle for her. It was one of those "monster trucks" fashioned from the larger late 70s Blazers. We both had a rare pleasurable moment together, and while we would never really purchase a monster truck, the seed was planted in Pat's head, so when we spied a smaller late 80s Blazer, fire engine red, highlighted on one of the front rows of vehicles, both of us made the decision that this was the perfect "car" for the family.

The Blazer was sporty; not too large, but a lot larger than the Prizm. We traded in the Geo for a few hundred dollars at Worthington Ford, where owner Cal Worthington was semi retired, but his office still had lots of photos of the owner and his many "dogs Spot", zoo animals including elephants which he had used in his television commercials. After haggling with the salesman for a few hours, we drove away in the Blazer. I really believed Pat was happy for once. Of course I had volunteered to pay half the monthly payments, even though my name was not on the purchasing agreement.

I'd had a hip replacement operation when we had lived in the Long Beach house, and my hip was completely healed while we were in Bellflower. Both Charlie and Laura still bickered over the TV remote, so when I and Pat came home from work, I didn't even stay in the living room that much. Back on 15th Street, Pat had bought me a Lazy Boy recliner for my birthday, and this chair was still prominently displayed opposite my 32" televisoin in the living room. I'd spent more time reading than watching movies while in Long Beach, but in Bellflower, I forsook my recliner, and usually retired to my own "space" in the garage, where we'd carpeted the floor, and furnished with Pat's old daybed and my electronics gear. While Pat was in the kitchen, I'd go out to the garage, fire up my stereo, and dance by myself, happy that my hip didn't hurt at all.

Sometimes Pat and I would listen to music together. I was collecting CDs, usually country music, which Pat and I both enjoyed. We both slept together, and sometimes we even made love, however I got used to the idea that sex was pretty much a memory, and became used to Pat's weird sense of closeness, or lack thereof. I wrote poems for her which she never read. I naively thought we were doing better than ever, and I became blind to her constricting sense that things were closing in and stifling her, even as she acted like we were at the best point we had ever been in our relationship.

One afternoon, while sitting at the kitchen table having a beer or two watiing for dinner, Pat proclaimed that she was getting a second job. As with all her snap decisions, she didn't want a discussion of any change in her plans. She told me what was going to happen, as if it already had. "W-what..." I stammered, completely sidelined by this latest curve in our shared history together. We both made good money, and although the new Blazer was costing us a few hundred a month, I was sharing in the expense, and we both still had spending money. Using "Pat logic" she explained that she needed something "extra" in her life. The kids were pretty much on their own. Pat had never really had that much of a hand in their growing up, and they'd pretty much raised themselves. She'd never let me have any say at all in their upbringing while I was part of the picture. She had already secured a part time job with a local "Policeman's Association" asking for donations both on the phone and in person. I had been successful in my efforts to quash earlier ill fated job opportunities she wanted to add to her resume in our early life together, like "stuffing envelopes" which always proved to be a scam. However, I wanted to keep us seemingly happy, this latest endeavor didn't really seem to be a scam, and I really had no say in the matter anyway. Work was pretty busy, and while living with Pat, I was on her 40 hour schedule, instead of the 50-60 hour schedule I'd kept before we got together, since she was the driver in the household. Her part time job would take place after work, so I told her I was going to work more hours running the Panel Shop, and she could swing by and pick me up at 7pm after she got off. She seemed to agree to this arrangement.

The arrangement seemed to work for a while. She wasn't really paid that much at the Policeman's Association. I really had no idea why she wanted to work additional time in the first place. My staying after at work was simply so I didn't have to face her kids alone without her there. They were usually battling over their TV privileges after school when we would get home from work anyway, so by staying away from their quarrels, I could have a reasonable amount of peace. The washer and dryer were in the garage, so even though I had my own "space" out there at home, it was Laura's job to wash the family's clothes, and she was always coming and going, so my "space" was shared and not really all mine.

After a few weeks with my girlfriend leaving our shared job to go ring doorbells for the Policeman's Association, and me staying at work for an additional two or three hours with nobody else around, Pat had another heated exchange with me, making another of my decisions. I couldn't stay at work anymore after hours. She wanted to stay at her second job longer than usual, and having to drive back to our work to pick me up and then take me home to Bellflower was taking a toll. I didn't really need to stick around at work anyway. I was getting lots more work done, but it wasn't essential.

Love is blind. And although the flames of hell lapping at my feet throughout our three year existence together should have been enough to tell me I was in hot enough water, the blindness caused by my love for my wayward waif allowed me to tune out a lot of the more questionable aspects of the relationship. The year 1995 seemed to dawn bright and beautiful, but in fact, the brightness came from those flames, which were merely simmering, and would be shooting up over both of our heads in a few scant weeks. I was blinded by my love so much that during Pat's pleas to have a second life with a second job after hours, I had agreed, like a dog who has been kicked so much he starts to look forward to the abuse.

The hours my sweetie was away from the house after I agreed not to stay after at work began to grow. Sometimes Pat wouldn't return home till after 10 or 11 at night. I should have figured out something was terribly wrong when she would seemingly not come home at all in the evenings. I'd finally fall asleep, sometimes in the daybed in my room in the garage. She told me not to "wait up" for her. How naive could I have been? Charlie told me one evening that I was "pussy whipped". I agreed with him. It was true. I'd sold my soul for a relationship, and I had been living in this hell for most of the first part of the decade. Where was Charlie's mother as he and I would go out to dinner some evenings together? Neither of us knew for sure. Neither of us wanted to guess the truth.

My unread poems questioned why Pat didn't seem happy after all I'd given her. I questioned why I couldn't seem to find a "relationship" in our existence together.

On those rare nights we would actually sleep in our bed at the same time, I could feel her growing farther and farther away. We might be lying very close to each other physically, but sometimes I would feel as if the space between us was a deep chasm which I would never be able to cross. My bright Knight's helmet began to tarnish. My lips would move to speak but no words would come. Pat got upset at any little thing I would do for her, and I kept retreating to the garage more and more. On Friday nights Pat wouldn't even come home from her second "job". I was "pussywhipped" so completely that I never for a moment even suspected she was sleeping with her supervisor at the Policeman's Association. After a few weekends of "not waiting" for her to come home at all, I finally confronted her. Those bright days suddenly got darker, and the flames engulfed us completely. I had been burned as much as was humanly possible. Now I was burning up.

6. The Escape.

Living with my misanthrope was like living moving through the various circles of Hell. The level of "good times" could probably be compared most with being stuck in purgatory. Thorughout our relationship Pat would constantly ask me if I were "happy", and I always lied in the affirmative, yet possibly neither of us was ever happy during the three years we spent living together. Prisoners' dreams are always filled with escapes, as are the fever dreams of those condemned to a fiery afterlife. So to my memories of my life with Pat are filled with escapes. Laura escaped the prospect of living with an "uncle Daddy" when Pat announced I would be living with the family by leaving home. Pat needed to escape two of our three rented places because she was afraid of Charlie's friendships with the little brothers of gang members. When I got home from work each evening, I'd try to escape the presence of the quarreling kids fighting over the TV's remote control by burying myself in a book. Before I sold it on her insistence, my '66 Caddy was my escape from our drunken brawls when I would sleep on it's back seat, and it remained a symbol of my eventual escape back to Bob's "frat house" should I ever decide to leave the relationship. I'm positive that's why she wanted me to sell the car. When we were only in the first house in Long Beach, Pat escaped my bedroom by moving into her own. Our yearly trips to Florida were escapes, and of all the time we spent together, those trips really held the only "good times" my abused and damaged mind can remember.

Pat dreamed of escaping the seemingly mundane existence of "normal life", which, from her perspective, was a living hell. She realized her dream when she met the guy who worked as her supervisor at the Policeman's Association. She would escape her relationship with me by spending first a few hours after work, then whole evenings, and subsequently nights away from our home. Finally, when I opened my love blinded eyes and realized what was going on, I took the wondrous opportunity afforded me utilizing her escape from my bed to set the stage for my own escape from the relationship altogether.

The weekly "dates" we spent at the horse track disappeared quite soon after we moved into the house in Bellflower, and after Pat got the job at the Policeman's Association ringing doorbells for charitable contributions, we seemed to drift farther apart than ever before. After we'd lived in Bellflower for about half a year, I hardly saw her at all except for work. We took a trip to the L.A. County Fair one Sunday accompanied by her mother, who clearly noticed the distance between us, even though we were standing right next to each other. Soon after this outing, the outing of Pat's cuckoldry occured.

When one lives a life of constant confrontation, and has spent the better part of almost half a decade attempting to stave off the instant anger and dramatic flareups that can ignite from any source, he becomes complacent and docile, like that overkicked dog, and really doesn't want to incite any unwanted bickering. The last confrontation between Pat and Mike, doomed lovers and mix matched housemates, wasn't as volatile as one would expect given our history together. In fact, the breakup was remarkably peaceful and agreeable. It was a somewhat inglorious, anticlimactic and somewhat silent end to a hideous and stormy time.

I found a "love poem" Pat wrote to her supervisor, with whom she was having the affair. I wasn't looking for "proof" of anything. I was merely trying to find something in our own shared bedroom and saw the note in Pat's handwriting. When I read it, I was more surprised that she was expressing emotion toward somebody at all than whether or not it was directed at me. She always called me "my Michael" and I loved and embraced that term of endearment toward me. But except for the frequent sex in the early part of our relationship before she convinced me to move in with her, she rarely showed any closeness toward me. When she did, it was so infrequent that it was indeed special.

Charlie had already hinted to me that he knew his mother was having an affair. I think in the final stages I was waiting for her to just lay it all on the line. We didn't lie to each other. That was one of the good things in our relationship, and I think my brutal honesty may in fact be one of the many reasons why Pat felt uncomfortable with me in the end. I really can't remember how I confronted her, but we agreed to have a much needed conversation about our future together which took place in the parking lot of one of her favorite parks with me sitting shotgun in her Blazer. Many lunchtimes, we had "escaped" from work together by going to the park, where we would always stay in the car. Pat would nap, and I'd sit in the seat beside her and relax as well. Sometimes I would walk around the park. We ended our relationship not at home, but in this park, sitting together, as if it were just a normal occurance.

I asked her if she were having an affair, and she admitted it right away. I hadn't suspected it had been going on as long as it had. I was upset, but my mind's eye was already seeing my life "post Pat" so I didn't show any undue emotion. Pat was making a rather difficult decision and she knew it. I believe our conversation did include a theme of possible reconciliation, but the little angel on my shoulder and perhaps the little devil were both goading me to just end this NOW.

"You know that I need to end this, Pat." I declared. "You're cheating on me. What possibly made you want to do this. You're always asking me if I'm happy? Does this mean you're not?"

"I've been happy, my Michael" She was showing an emotion other than anger for the first time I could remember. It was as if she knew that she made a mistake, and was about to lose the only solid foundation on which she had ever stood, even though half of her mind felt as if the solid foundation was the floor of a prison. I kept thinking that we were enacting the plots of a lot of those country and western songs we loved to listen to. "But I need a change."

"This is a change alright. You realize that I can't be with you now. And once I leave, that's it. We won't get back together, no matter what happens."

"I know."

"Well, then we're breaking up." I immediately turned to more mundane things, like the lease on the house, which wasn't up till May, six months hence. "We have a lease till May. I'll be rooming in the garage. I won't sleep in the same bed, especially knowing you've shared it with someone else. I'll look for a place, and I'll be out by my birthday. You can do what you want."

I outlined what my routine was going to be for her for the next six months, since we'd still be sharing the house somewhat. One thing she had been doing, even during the affair, was driving me into and away from work, since we worked at the same place. I'd be going into work on the bus, and I'd be eating alone. She'd have to fend for herself and the kids. On Fridays, I'd pack a kit bag for three days, in an eerie turnabout to the time when I used to do that to bunk with her before I moved in with her, and go to Bob's. I was lucky that the CEO of our workplace lived near Bob, and he would drive me from work to Bob's on Friday evenings, and pick me up on Mondays.

In silence Pat drove me away from the park for the last time. As I got out of the Blazer in the parking lot at work, I told her I'd be taking the bus home, and she could go straight to the Policeman's Association without worrying about me. She was still looking a bit sad, and I really felt bad for her, but as I turned away to approach the entrance to our workplace, I began to smile, and my walk suddenly began to turn into a little trot. I felt ecstatic by the time I boarded the bus to go home to my garage, where I'd had all my stuff since Pat and I had moved into the house in Bellflower.

For the next six months I acted as if I were renting a room in somebody else's house. I rarely went into the main house at all. I did hang out with Charlie a lot. We still enjoyed each other's company. I treated him to some meals in Bellflower restaurants. I walked around Bellflower's main drag. I was going to leave town in a while, but I got to know it well. I took out a membership in the local video store and rented movies to watch while curled up on the daybed with a 13" television in front of me on a table. I let the kids keep watching the 32" TV in the living room. They'd be losing it in a few months anyway.

I still worked at the same place as Pat. We only talked when he had to discuss bills or how our search for new housing was going. One Friday night in December while I was at Bob's, my friend Joel came home from a night out and wanted to go to the bathroom but the light was on as if Bob were in there. He banged on the door, and told Bob to hurry up. After a while, Joel sensed that something was wrong, and he opened the door to find Bob's lifeless body on the bathroom floor, where he'd died of a heart attack. He was only 47. I called Pat the next morning. After all, she knew Bob too, and I had lived with her for the past three years. We commiserated together.

Joel couldn't live in the house he shared with Bob after Bob's relatives began coming out of the woodwork and he was told he had to move so they could fix up the house and sell it. The opportunity just couldn't be passed up. Joel and I looked for and found a nice three bedroom house to rent. I was all packed and out of the house in Bellflower by May 1st, right on schedule.

Pat didn't leave the house in Bellflower for another month. She even called me a few times for advice. She didn't leave the place in good condition, and to save at least some of the deposit money, I went back a month after I moved out and cleaned the place up. I split the deposit with Pat. She owed me a couple thousand dollars on our shared credit card, but I assumed the debt myself, and made a clean break. I held no ill will toward my former lover.

Within three months, she broke up with her new boyfriend. One time, she'd called me to tell me that something needed fixing at her shared apartment with the guy, but he wouldn't fix it. I dutifully went over and did what needed to be done. After she broke up, she was on her own, and moved into a very small apartment back in Bellflower. She'd sold or given away most of the furniture and Southwestern collectibles. She even gave away most of the stuffed bears I used to surprise her with as gifts. Basically, she'd given away the best part of her life.

I bought my first car in almost half a decade, a small red Geo Metro convertible, just big enough for me. I took Pat for a ride in it. We still worked at the same place, but in different buildings, so I really didn't even have to see her if I didn't want to. I even ran some errands for her. After a few weeks, I visited her at her place, and we had sex. It wasn't lovemaking as much as a shared regard for our past together, which of course was still fresh in memory. We talked a lot, finally admitting some of the mistakes we both had made with each other. She asked me if there were a chance we'd get together again. I told her there wasn't. Although I still cared for her, she'd ruined any chance she might have had by cheating on me in the first place.

Without warning, as was her wont, one day at work she announced she was quitting. She met a trucker in a country bar, and he was going to take her to live with him in Virginia. Two weeks later, she was looking for a small apartment in a strange state.

Pat eventually moved back to Southern California, and lives pretty far from me, but close to her mother. Some times, without warning, about once every two years, she'll show up at work and come into my office wanting to go to lunch. She still calls me "my Michael." She admits to me that she made the greatest mistake of her life when she decided to have an affair to relieve her perceived boredom. She always asks if we will ever get back together, knowing I remain single. The last time I saw her was right after I and Liz broke up, and I still said that although I enjoy knowing what's going on with her, I will never live with her nor be close to her again as anything but friends.

I'm still friendly with Pat. I still love her immensely, but I will never again suffer the pain I went through during our relationship. Some couples are doomed from the start, and we qualified as one of the most doomed couples in history. The flames have long ago stopped lapping at my midsection. I sometimes wonder if the fact that I've never seriously attempted to live with a lover again is because my experience with Pat ruined me forever.

Love is a bitch.


Chapters on WhenWordsCollide.

1.Merry Christmas and Hello

2. 2 adults, 2 Kids, 2 bedroom apartment: 2 Close for Comfort
3.Away From the Gangs: The First House
4. Away From the Gangs, Part 2: Bellflower and the Second House



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