San Diego Symphony's second night of the Masterworks season showcased the power of place and personality
Garrett Harris noon, Oct. 13
If you are like most women, at some point in your life you have probably dated an as*hole. You know the type: a surly but occasionally charming unemployed professional student (which I have discovered is a euphemism for alcoholism), lives in Ocean Beach, addicted to porn, and possessed of what can only be described as an aversion to hygiene. He calls himself "an artist" and thinks himself something of an intellect. Sounding familiar? Your entire family hates him, as do most of your friends. A perfect storm of undesirable male traits conveniently wrapped up in one foul little package. He was like ketchup on a hot dog – vaguely disgusting, but you have to try it once.
My as*hole was named "Steve". Now I don’t want you to think I am a snob. The above described attributes are all fine if you are just friends (which we were), but are somewhat troublesome in a romantic situation. Actually, there was nothing romantic about our coupling. In the interest of full disclosure, I got drunk and slept with him. It probably wasn’t my finest hour, but whatever. I was on the rebound and vulnerable to male attention. Waking up in the morning I realized I may have made a huge mistake, and was ready to bolt, but he was happy as a clam, making plans for the rest of the day as if we were married. Lying back down, I thought, “eh, what the hell? Maybe I’ll stick around for awhile and see where this goes." I’d known him as a friend for years. How bad could he be? Well, let me tell you.
My first warning should have come in the condition of his apartment. To call it a pig-sty would be an insult to the pigs. I had been there before in our just friends stage, but never really noticed until then just how awful it was. Stepping over the piles of dirty laundry, empty beer bottles, the bong, I made my way to the bathroom. Sitting amidst the overflowing ashtray, discarded wet towels and hard-corn porno mags, I thought “well, he’ll probably clean it up for me." Fat chance.
Interestingly enough, this unfortunate hook-up occurred at precisely the time I had made the decision to move to Scottsdale, Arizona, in order to be closer to my sister and my friend and soon to be roommate, "Leanne", who had moved there a year prior. I already had a job lined up, and all my things were packed and ready to go. Steve helped me move, if you call me hauling boxes into my U-haul while he smoked joints and acted pissy help. We agreed to visit one another and maintain our status as whatever we were, but I was secretly thinking “whew, over and out of here!” Steve, unfortunately, had other ideas.
After I had settled in, he would show up at my apartment in the wee hours of the morning, having driven pell-mell across the desert and fueled up on what I now know could only have been methamphetamine and Zima's. He demanded all my time, clinging to me, acting surly and sulky when I had to go to work and calling me at my job fifteen times a day. When I would get home, he would want to go out and spend my money, because he was "bored". If I so much as merely suggested he should go home and look for a job, he would become hurt and the inevitable fight would ensue. He would usually stay for at least a week, and then reluctantly return to San Diego, only to launch another surprise visit two weeks later. Mind you, he never bothered to call me to see if it was alright that he come stay, nor did it occur to him that his visits may have been an imposition on my roommate, who good-naturedly put up with this deadbeat eating all her food and using unbelievable amounts of electricity. Oh, that was another thing. He occasionally received money from his parents, but never, ever, gave us anything toward all the commodities he consumed. He would volunteer to go to the grocery store under the guise of "helping out", armed with my credit card, only to return with bags of the most expensive things he could get his hands on. Literally hundreds of dollars of rich food and expensive booze that suited his tastes only, without any consideration for the actual occupants of the apartment. He would cook rich, elaborate meals, spattering his mess all the way to the ceiling, using every bowl, pot and pan available in the house, and then leave his kitchen carnage there for us to clean up. His reasoning? "I cooked, you clean", completely oblivious to the fact that we neither asked him to cook nor wanted to eat his food in the first place. The fact that I am not a meat eater had no bearing on this whatsoever. He would present a plate of veal schnitzel in butter sauce in front of me, and then proceed to pout and sulk when I explained that I could not eat it. He would be the first person to tell you that you put on weight, yet everything he prepared contained butter, cream, and fat. When he would leave, we would throw it all in the trash.
The thing about sponges is they know how to take advantage of people. I know, I know, no one can take advantage of you without your permission. But he was good. He perfected the petulant, wounded child shtick so well that even my roommate sometimes fell for it. He was an emotional bully and, as I mentioned, he was also capable of laying on the charm when needed. The reader of this is probably thinking "why would any intelligent, independent person put up with this crap?" I couldn't get rid of him! He was like a bad penny, turning up every time things were going smoothly, upending my life and interfering with any success I was trying to attain. He was always trying to pick a fight with me, and I finally had enough. This had been going on for eight months. He left after I told him to please go home and don't come back. Guess what? One week later, there he was, back on my doorstep. We let him stay (where was he going to go?). Two days later, I come home and find him jerking off to a C grade nudie mag - I think it was "Club". This really pissed me off, not so much the act itself, but that he was doing it on my COUCH! Although I was grossed out, the look on his face was priceless. I started laughing at him, his fingers around his little dinky, his mouth a round O. I called my sister and told her. At this point, my sister, who actually liked him because he was fun when he was around her (or anyone else, for that matter) was starting to realize that this guy was a train wreck. Manipulators are really, really good at being on their best behavior around others, so that when you finally pull the trigger on the relationship, you look like the bad guy. My sister ripped into him, told him to go home, and leave me alone. He hated her after that, because he was not used to someone calling him out.
After nine months, I decided Arizona wasn't for me after spending my first and only record breaking summer for consecutive days over 110 degrees. I needed to get back to San Diego. Because I had been doing new home sales, I had commission checks in the pipeline and could count on a steady stream of income until I found a new job. What I did not have was a place to live. Steve and I still talked on the phone and were tentatively "friends". When he offered to let me stay with him until I found a place, I took him up on it. Big mistake. We fought like pit bulls. He would see me pouring over the classifieds, desperately looking for an apartment or a job, and try to take the paper out of my hands and throw it away. If I got on the phone to call about a place, he would hang up the phone. He was delusional; thinking my moving in there meant we were back together. Finally, a friend of mine with a three bedroom house said I could rent a room there. I moved out, found a great job, and started getting on with my life.
Then one day, I get a phone call at work. Are you MsGrant? Yes, I am. Do you know Steve X? Yes, I do. Well, there's been an accident. He asked that we call you. Can you come to the UCSD emergency room right away? He gave them my name as his emergency contact!!
I found ICU, and was allowed to go in. He was a mess. I knew it was a bad accident from the tone of voice of the person who contacted me, but I was not prepared for this level of triage. Here is what happened. Driving on his motorcycle that he had no business owning as he was blind as a bat, he proceeded to crash into the back of a stopped car. He was going at least 40 mph. He went clear through the back windshield, breaking his ribs and puncturing a lung, breaking both his arms, his leg, and pulverizing the bones in both hands. He also had multiple lacerations and a variety of scrapes, bumps and bruises. Looking up, his first words to me were "I really fu*ked up this time." I'll say. His mother flew in from the east coast, and burst into tears the moment she laid eyes on him. "Oh, my poor baby!" she cried. A few days later, Steve's father flew in. We had dinner after visiting hours were over, and they asked me if I would please move back in to Steve's place to help their son. They could only stay two weeks, then they needed to get back home. He could not go with them, because he was unfit to travel and needed extensive rehabilitation. I could not believe this was happening. They were begging me, the look in their eyes for their only son, regardless of what a jerk he was, going straight to my weak spot. I really liked his parents. They were decent, nice people, and I still (sort of) cannot for the life of me figure out how they wound up with a son like this. I agreed. They stayed with me for the two weeks, helping me get moved back in and getting Steve's terrible financial situation in order. Having no insurance (of course) he needed to apply to the state for assistance with his medical costs. Because he had multiple unpaid parking tickets, we had to straighten all that out before they would even begin the approval process. The paperwork was unbelievable, but the hospital helped, and we finally received approval for his aid.
He was in the hospital for almost a month, and then transferred to a skilled nursing facility in Escondido. This place was a nightmare. Straight out of your worst dreams of where your kids might dump you someday if you aren't nice to them, this was the epitome of what state-funded medical facilities are like. I went there to visit him, since few of his friends made the time to. I made friends with the staff and a few of the residents, lonely old people whose families had forgotten them except for the monthly reminder in the form of a bill. It smelled of hospital and adult diapers, and the smell lingered on your clothes hours after you left. He stayed there for another month, and was discharged.
This may sound strange, but I was enjoying myself in his apartment, because he was not in it. I had cleaned it up, decorated it, and thrown out a lot of items that were substitutes for actual furniture, such as milk crates and boards. His coming home sucked. There was little he could do for himself, as his arms were both pieced together with ex-fixiters, metal rods that look like erector sets outside the arms, going straight through to bone, where they were screwed into plates that held the fragments together. His leg had a similar contraption attached to it. I had to clean these out daily, using q-tips and alcohol, digging into the holes to remove scab and infection. I helped him do his exercises for physical rehabilitation. I also had to help him shower and use the toilet. My stomach became quite strong.
Eventually, after additional surgeries, he started to heal, and was able to become more mobile with the use of a wheelchair. I would help him down the stairs and get him set up in the wheelchair, and take him out to eat, or to a bar for a drink. It was odd, I felt like the girlfriend of a wounded Veteran, just without the pride. At this time, he also started becoming somewhat of a prick, his old self emerging after the initial gratitude wore off. Stockholm syndrome in reverse. He was angry all the time, smoking and consuming large quantities of alcohol, even though I would remind him that neither encouraged healing. He accused me of spending the money his parents gave me to pay his bills. I did spend it - on his bills. He began to call me at work all the time, again. By now, he had advanced to crutches, and got a part-time job working at a deli. The pièce de résistance? He was fired for sexual harassment
I was just biding my time, waiting for something to happen that would get him out of the house, even just for a day. His constant presence made it difficult to move out. I was tired of taking care of him, and I had more than enough money saved to get my own place.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had already met the man that would become my husband. We worked together and would go out in groups for lunch. Driving in his nice car to lunch one day, he asked me out. The contrast was startling. Here was this handsome, successful, sweet guy asking me on a date, and I was living with a LOSER! It was at that precise moment that I knew what I needed to do. Self-esteem 1, Steve 0. I had done enough.
I made my move a month later, when Steve was in Europe, the unfortunate result of his grandmother passing away. I know what you’re thinking. But trust me, you would have done the same. He came home and found the apartment empty of my things and called me, crying. I asked him "Why on earth should we stay together? We hate each other." His response to me was "but I love you!" That was rich. His so called love turned to hate after he realized I was never coming back, and he told his friends and parents that I abandoned him and took his money (he had none), etc., etc.
This pseudo intellect did not even get the irony of claiming you love someone on which you consistently inflict suffering. He was just a stupid, abusive, lazy, irresponsible bum who tried to pass himself off as this deep-thinking, brooding, lost soul that I couldn't possibly understand. Oh, I understood. Completely incapable of appreciating all that I had done for him, his selfishness so completely ingrained in him that he actually thought I should stay and endure his God-awful presence, he was ruined. Giving him everything he ever asked for and not teaching him to be responsible for his actions, never having to suffer consequences, his parents ruined him. I saved myself.
Bottom line, the thing about losers is if you don’t make your escape early, they eventually drag you down with them. There are reasons bad things always happen to them. Want my advice? When your options are bolting or lying back down, hit the floor running.