Monday, February 15, 2010

If You Thought Your Valentine's Day Sucked

Read on the terrible tale that won some bragging rights on Gawker and maybe a Valium...

" On February 12 of 2001, the mother of my then- boyfriend passed away at the young age of 42 due to drug use, malnourishment and a complete inability to take care of herself despite all the help offered and all the hospital stays/surgeries paid for by the state. In general she had led a nasty, repulsive life from which many, MANY people including myself tirelessly attempted to rescue her through the years. There's no way to sugarcoat this- even without the drug issues, all of her other behaviors made her the epitome of white trash. (Curiously, one such white trash episode- I kid you not- involved water with HAM a la J-WOWW years before J-WOWW was a household name.) I should mention here that not long after this woman's death her son, my first love with whom I had been with for SEVEN years and helped put through college, turned out to be a cheating, lying thief who was selling drugs out of our attic. (I know....shocking! But I was young, naive and had the type of Messiah complex that only comes with first love.)

Also, I should mention that a week before his mom passing, a female "friend" of his died at 26 from an undetected cancer and we had made the 4 1/2 hour drive to his hometown of Bumblefuck, Pennsylvania (a town renowned for its lone gay bar repeatedly being burned down and then reopened under new ownership. Over and over and over again. Burn, reopen, burn, reopen which should give you the idea of the area's general mentality). The viewing for that friend of his caused many people to throw up in the alley behind the funeral home because whoever did the deceased's make up hadn't covered her autopsy scars. And yes, in retrospect I figured out that this "friend" I helped him mourn was another girl with whom he had been cheating on me at some point. But I digress.

So his mom kicks the bucket. I have the awful job of driving to his work to tell him.and then pack all our stuff up and leave to make the 4 1/2 hour drive to Bumblefuck. Again. We don't leave until midnight. I wind up driving the whole way because even though this was expected and he truly wasn't close to her, he is sort of lost in thought and not able to concentrate plus I'm not a bitch- who is going to make someone drive that just lost their mom even if they weren't close to her at all? Not I. The snow comes down. I almost hit a deer. Trying to stay awake on the frozen, winding mountain roads is nearly impossible. We get to his maternal grandparents' house which is where we always stayed because his mom was such a mess. I should mention here that his father was a career petty criminal who was out of the picture since my boyfriend was a baby. Oh, and his step-grandfather? He was both a cop and a perv who through the years would constantly sexually harass me. (Each time I confronted him/scolded/yelled ...etc. etc. etc. but he seemed to have some sort of dirty old man asshole amnesia and kept on doing it.)

With hardly any sleep, I wake up on February 13th to learn that the funeral arrangements had been made without even consulting my boyfriend, her only son and oldest child. Much to my horror I learn that his mom will be getting the cheapest package possible which is literally being placed in a cardboard box. Which would be one thing if she was going to be cremated immediately, but no, a viewing for immediate family was scheduled for the next day which of course was Valentine's Day. As if that wasn't horrid enough, I learned that his mother didn't so much as own one decent dress or suit in which to be buried. This troubled me greatly and I quietly offered to go purchase something nice for her. I was told NO, they would "make do" with what she had.

It was at that point that Pervy Cop Grandpa told us that he had made sure he ran an obituary in the town paper so that maybe if her ex-husband, my boyfriend's father, the career petty criminal who apparently had several warrants out saw it, he might show up at the funeral home out of guilt or just curiosity. Only instead of allowing him to pay his respects, there would be a sting operation to arrest him on his outstanding theft warrants. Which of course was not the time or place but despite my urgings, was still the outcome for which Pervy Cop Grandpa hoped, even going so far as to wring his pervy cop hands in gleeful anticipation.

Which brings us to Valentine's Day- the day of the actual viewing. After an hour trying to convince my boyfriend's 16 year-old single mom sister that perhaps wearing denim overalls and a matching T-shirt emblazoned with Winnie the Pooh was not the best choice of attire for her mother's viewing, I gave up and we all piled in the car- myself, my boyfriend, Disney Overalls, her baby, Pervy Cop Grandpa and my boyfriend's grandmother who had spent the better part of her life trying to keep her daughter safe from the demons that plagued her and was genuinely mourning her loss but in a very, non-showy way but also seemed relieved that she was gone.

It should be noted here that my boyfriend was wearing a suit which caused each of his relatives-even the Grandma in mourning- to exclaim, "Why are you so dressed up?" while Pervy Cop Grandpa took a keen interest in "how different my body looked in dress pants and a nice blouse." Fucking ewwwww.

We get to the funeral home and I am BRACING myself for the spectacle I know awaits me- i.e. the sight of the deceased in the aforementioned cardboard box presumably clad in her standard outfit of acid washed jeans and any one of the Camel cigarette T-shirts she got for free with all the Camel points she accumulated. But alas, as it turns out that would have been a welcome sight. Yes, she was in the cardboard coffin but in lieu of jeans and a t-shirt (and with the COMPLETE ABSENCE OF MAKE-UP OR EMBALMING FLUID ...."Why spend the money?" I was told) she was clad in a nightgown purchased from the Salvation Army that can only be described as a cast-off from the wardrobe department on the set of the original "Night of the Living Dead." (They're coming to get yoooou, Bah-bar-ah.) Flannel, high frilly neckline, floral pattern- it was as if we stumbled upon the original character inspiration for the cryptkeeper from HBO's "Tales from the Crypt." The sickly, gaunt, white-as-a-sheet, stiff-as-a-board drug-ridden corpse who was to be perpetually ready for a long night's slumber lying in a giant cardboard box was a ghoul incarnate. (To this day, I have nightmares about this shit.)

Of course despite my shock at the scene before me, I doted on my boyfriend, trying to portray the perfect balance of warmth and support without being clingy or patronizing- this was not an easy feat but somehow I managed to pull it off.

And so they bid their farewells while I concentrated on not throwing up. No one cried or showed any emotion which given the sort of person the deceased was, was no surprise though it was still... unsettling. They all just stared at the body- not even with reverence- more like no one could take their eyes off the macabre, physical results of the "cheapest package" purchased at the funeral home. I imagine the way I felt was the same way hostages must feel when they are being held at gunpoint against their will- trying desperately not to believe that what is happening before them is really happening but knowing it is and being helpless to stop it. Meanwhile, much to Pervy Cop Grandpa's pervy cop dismay, his sting operation did not go down and thus his dreams of landing in Bumblefuck's Policemen Hall of Fame were shot in the non-blink of a zombie's eye.

Following this nightmarish display of non-mourning at which no one, not even some ashen-faced, lurchy funeral director officiated in any way or offered so much as a Unitarian prayer or the tossing of a dead carnation on the cardboard box while yelling "Hey! Good luck in the Afterlife, lady!" we were ushered back to the grandparents' house for a repass of day-old lunch meats, raisin bread, beets and Cheetos.

But alas, it was *still* Valentine's Day! And in the spirit of that, the grieving Grandma gifted me a stuffed animal, which when pressed issued robotic, comical sayings about love and romance. Given that death, horror and and the complete distortion of respect and etiquette still loomed in the air like a fart in an airplane bathroom, when the little plush frog or penguin clutching a heart-or whatever the fuck animal he was- said ANYTHING, it sounded eerie, ominous. menacing and serial killer-like. He was a souvenir of my despair and quite frankly scared the crap out of me. So off he went to live in a dumpster behind a deli. Which I suppose was par for the course and at that point, the least of my worries.

As if my mental state and any semblance of being ok wasn't obliterated enough it was decided that we would all immediately go "clean" out the apartment of the deceased, i.e. pillage all her shit in the hopes of finding some treasure she forgot she owned and thus hadn't been able to pawn for smack before going to meet her maker. Off we went!

Now this was in the day before text messaging, blackberries and iPhones were de rigueur. Lucky for me, before making the drive, I had alerted 2 friends of mine- my "top gays" at the time about what had happened. (I believe we were supposed to visit that weekend and not knowing when we would return, I wanted to let them know about the change in plans.)

I don't know if it was the tone of my voice on the voicemail I left them (and just think- this was before I became aware that I was unwittingly co-starring in the real life equivalent of a David Lynch film) or just the kindness of their hearts but without even telling us, they made the 4 1/2 hour trip out there which took longer because of snow.

They used an old-school pay phone to call Information and get the number of the police station. Since they knew about Pervy Cop Grandpa they called the police station and no doubt weaving some supernatural gay magic, they were able to get the home phone number for Pervy Cop Grandpa's house where we were staying and then contact Pervy Cop Grandpa who gave them the address of the dead mom's apartment.

Sans GPS as this was long before such technology was available, they tracked us down for the sole purpose of....taking us out for Valentine's Day dinner to help alleviate us from our weariness and overall distress. That's right- the gays descended through snow (on the day they should have been giving each other back-rubs in front of their roaring fire while arguing who loved who more as their 6 Boston Terriers fought for the best cuddle spot on the couch and witnessed them exchanging cashmere sweaters from Barney's) into the same town where the lone gay bar was routinely torched and re-opened, tracked us down and fed us a proper hot meal. God/Buddha/Allah/Liza Minnelli love them. If that isn't friendship, I don't know what is.

Of course, the only restaurants in Bumblefuck are all of the chain variety but I can assure you, never was I was so thrilled to eat boneless buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks on Valentine's Day in my life, which was the form in which they offered us their condolences and I happily accepted.

The contrast of the shiny, red foil decorations everywhere in the restaurant was striking and almost startling compared to the grim setting in which we had spent the day. We raised our over-sized, over-priced sugary cocktails and my beloved gays in shining armor toasted to Love. That was it. A toast to Love, the single word with no elaboration, context or explanation. My heart sang with the sort of joy a girl can only get from being rescued from a nightmare-inducing fate by two dashing gays in a snowstorm offering comfort and salty, fried carbs.

And for all we had been through in the last 48 hours, considering all the nurturing and love I had given my boyfriend despite the grotesque, petrifying circumstances in which I had found myself, he didn't so much as utter a thank-you much less whisper an "I love you" - not even when one of the hero gays went to pay the bill while the other went to clear the snow off the car. He had never really been in in shock or truly mourning since he was not close to his mom and by this time his mood could even be described as jovial - he merrily had taken over the pillaging of his mom's home and then had become the life of the party during our Applebees double date. Granted, I still didn't expect anything remotely Valentine's-like from him in terms of a gift or really any attention paid to it, but a quick kiss or thank-you would have been nice as I was tirelessly hauling out Hefty Bag #26 filled with cigarette butts, liquor and prescription bottles, mysteriously stained bits of unidentified material and every copy of The National Enquirer since 1982.

A few weeks later, my boyfriend made the trip back to Bumblefuck to retrieve his mother's ashes (I was none too happy that her urn would soon reside in my living room.) Creepily enough, the ashes had been divided into two urns- one for him and one for Disney Overalls.

A couple months after that but before the cheating, thievery and drug factory was discovered (again- I was verrry young, naive and in love) I came home one night to find my boyfriend had opened the urn. And for reasons I still don't know in a scene that still makes me shudder when I think about it, he was quietly running his fingers through his mother's ashes. We never spoke of it, but from that twisted moment on, having opened Pandora's box of evil dust, the feng shui of our home became totally fucked up and our relationship crumbled at a record-setting pace. I soon discovered his indiscretions and criminal behavior and kicked him out.

At the end of the painful, raw moving out process, I came home one day and as I opened the door I could sense that the apartment was...changed. The sunlight from the windows was filtering through the curtains differently and there was a feeling of general calm, relief and happiness that had been missing for months. I immediately knew why. The urn that held half a ghoul minus the particles that I'm sure had gotten lodged underneath my ex's fingernails was gone. Happy days were here again!

Needless to say, I vacuumed like a woman possessed and then made a pitcher of margaritas and invited my top gays to come celebrate. They happily obliged and we all cried laughing while recalling The St. Valentine's Massacre of Good Taste and Decorum while toasting my future. That was a most excellent evening though Valentine's Day has never quite been the same for me. And Christ on a cracker, how could it possibly ever be?"

1 comment:

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I read this earlier today. Horrifying isn't it? This girl should write a book though. I would buy it!