When Deb and I first moved in together, we were kind of on a budget. I called it the Debt-of-the-Month Club budget. Before she came to Seattle, Deb had lived with a man called Dickmunch. Her family had called him Charlie, after Manson, which tells you their opinion of him. Dickmunch got his moniker when, in my presence, she once referred to him as that. I embraced the term with cold pleasure, and it is not swearing. It is his name, a proper noun, and okay to say in front of your granny.
Dickmunch was not a nice man. He caused and welched on a lot of their household debt, as his money management skills were right up there with Manson’s social adjustment skills. Every month, therefore, I would learn of a new and delinquent debt burden of some kind, with no real way to make Dickmunch pay his proper share. It was a financially tight and not entirely happy way for Deb and I to begin our cohabitation, especially as I learned that (single credit, stellar) + (single credit, wrecked by Dickmunch) = (household/marital credit wrecked by Dickmunch).
If you are ever seeking a single kind word said about our credit reporting and legal system, don’t bother seeking me out.
Due to our circumstances, we were living in a crappy two-bedroom apartment up in Shoreline (a northern suburb of Seattle). It wasn’t a bad neighborhood, for the most part, though very dingy in that way that older Seattle neighborhoods get if they are not maintained against the impact of rain and moss. We were not far south of Deja Goo, as the women working for shadowy types at Déjà Vu referred to their entertainment venue. I’ve lived in worse places. Our building was small, with four apartments including ours (upstairs and on the southern side). A weird, reclusive old guy lived next to us, your prototypical elderly Seattle apartment dweller with absolutely nothing to say. The worst part about the joint was the fleas left over from the previous owners, which defied all bombing and drove our cat crazy (for real).
The second worst was living upstairs from Mrs. Ed.
Had she been a little more bearable, we would not have called her such an unflattering name. Mrs. Ed was a big, strong-looking woman in her late twenties, not heavyset but substantial, blessed with a somewhat equine countenance and a bratty colt fond of going all horsiewhompus around 11 PM. I had to be up at 4 AM to be at work by 6:30 AM, for I worked in the investment industry, and that’s when the markets open on Pacific time. One day I decided to show my displeasure by going for a conditioning run around my living room, making sure that every one of my rather noisy footfalls was a stomp hard enough to rattle anything on shelves in our place or below. Mrs. Ed had some sort of boyfriend whom we didn’t know, and they traditionally spent the weekend in verbal or physical combat. My money would be on Mrs. Ed.
I did a shameful thing in that summer of 1997, and I still feel badly about it. I was unfair, craven and unethical. My relatives from Kansas very rarely visit out west. My little cousin Melissa (a grown matron with a master’s degree and preternatural physical strength who can crack my back with a determined hug, but is still my little cousin nonetheless, my only first cousin and about eight years my junior) and her new husband Adam (a really nice Kansas boy from Ark City, who finds our family relatively sane and kind) had scheduled a visit for around August. They’d planned it months before. Unfortunately, on 17 July 1997, I took one step toward the dugout at inning’s end and felt my achilles tendon pop. Full rupture.
The rehab regimen was rough: surgery within days, a cast from toes to top of shin with foot canted downward and counterclockwise, six weeks of no weight bearing at all. Five weeks in a walking cast; three months and a week in heel lifts or high heels; six months of no activity more strenuous than a walk. One year from date of surgery, resumption of normal activity. Those first six weeks involved great inconvenience and pain, so bad I could barely sleep even with medication. That I even took the medication says a great deal to those who know me well.
I didn’t tell Melissa and Adam. I was afraid they’d cancel the trip out of concern for me, or for some other reason. I wasn’t thinking straight. I wasn’t going to be very good company, and I owed it to them to mention that as soon as I knew, ideally when we got home from the ER, or at the very least after surgery when I realized what my next six weeks would be like. They learned about it when they arrived in early August.
I suck for that. Cousins, I’m very, very sorry. My mental and physical state are not valid excuses, and I offer none, just my shamed apologies. I don’t care if it has been sixteen years (not far from the actual date, just so happens). I also apologize to my then-fiancée and now wife, on whom the brunt of entertainment fell, which was about six kinds of unfair to her. She was a better person than me, and took care of everything while also looking out for me. We have traced much of the truly serious growth in our relationship to that injury, and the way it forced me to need someone. I have never done ‘need’ well.
So, while Adam and Melissa were visiting, having the amazing forbearance not to ask me valid questions like: “You douchecanoe, what in the hell were you thinking, not warning us about this before we traveled halfway across the country to see you?” and “Do you suppose, in light of what you’ve pulled here, there might be a damn reason why people do not regularly rush out here to associate with you?”, Mrs. Ed had one of her signature moments in a fairly comical weekend.
It was a Saturday night, and Deb had taken us all up to Vancouver and back; A&M hadn’t ever been to Canada, as I recall. This was back when you didn’t need a passport or EDL, just answer the Customs Canada officers’ questions and clarify that you are not bringing weapons or anything else prohibited, and go on your way. It gets dark late in a Seattle August, and around 10 or 11 PM, Mrs. Ed and her swain began a great ruckus that got worse as midnight approached. We went to bed anyway, but later on we could hear banging, crashing, full-throated naughty words in contralto and (I’m guessing) baritone, and it started to sound like a bar fight. Deb called 911, wondering if anyone was getting seriously hurt down there.
Someone wasn’t, at least not yet. The Shoreline Police showed up to find the place trashed (which I doubt was too abnormal chez Mrs. Ed), strewn with evidence of angry horseplay. She must have convinced the cops it was okay, because they left. Once the police were gone, she cantered upstairs to scream at us for calling the law, and threatened us with a hoof trampling if CPS took her kid away. I could see why she might worry about that, and we may fairly guess that it wouldn’t have been the first time. In any event, Deb gave her both barrels back, telling her in blunt Alaskan language to get off our porch. Mrs. Ed eventually stomped back down to her stable. I should have been out there, but one isn’t too intimidating when one cannot place any weight on one foot. A&M seemed torn between shock, amusement and nervousness, wondering what kind of a trash heap their cousins inhabited. They live in rural Kansas, where this sort of behavior is uncommon in earshot of their peaceful Flint Hills home surrounded by pasture. However, at least that meant they were not afraid of horses, though they treat them with sane respect.
Before long, the Mrs. Ed stables became noisy and violent again, so Deb called the police again. When they came this time, they were sure something was amiss. The best evidence for that was the knife slash Mrs. Ed had inflicted on her dear lover’s arm, bleeding enough to require medical attention. The police hate domestic disputes with good reason, and they probably hated this one worse than most. Mrs. Ed, relatively unharmed, accused the guy of domestic violence. Despite the bloody wound to his arm, and perhaps other evidence (one suspects that Mrs. Ed committed most of the violence) he refused to accuse her of the same thing. Thus, he went to jail. She did not.
We’d had a big night, so we all went back to bed. The fun was only over for the time being.
Later that night, it rained fairly hard. While Seattle has nice summers, it still rains often enough even in August. I swear this to be true: many buildings in Seattle are built with flat roofs. I can’t speculate why anyone would do this, but it’s a stupid practice anywhere that receives lots of precipitation. Our building was one of these; it needed a plaque at the base saying BUILT BY IDIOTS. In a rainy climate, any flat roof will someday leak. While I was in our bathroom first thing Sunday morning, the ceiling drywall began to leak. As I recall, I tried holing it over the bathtub, hoping for the leakage to land in there. Instead, a big piece of sheetrock reached its failure point with my meddling. It caved in, dumping a few gallons of water on the floor with more to come.
What a great visit for my cousins, eh? There was one final comic chapter, and this one I enjoyed. Melissa hit the restroom not much later, and its window was open. So was Mrs. Ed’s, directly below…as Melissa could tell by the sounds of Mrs. Ed noisily puking up last night’s intoxication plus whatever Cheerios, oats or hay she’d had so far that morning. The mental image of Mrs. Ed kneeling in misery before the commode was cheeriest thing I’d imagined in weeks. When Melissa exited the restroom, we could all still hear our volatile neighbor through the open window in the throes of what had to be multiple regrets. Snickering ensued.
Come back, cousins. I promise: we have our own house, and it doesn’t rain much in Boise, and in any case ours doesn’t have a flat roof. None of our neighbors have knife-wielding domestic disputes that we know of. And if I contract even a sore toe, sprain my duodenum or even bonk my head on a cabinet in any way that would mess up anything, I promise to let you know. As soon as I know.
I can’t promise, though, that I won’t whicker and whinny now and then. Just for old times’ sake.