In which there’s The Past.
Here’s me, 16 years ago, standing in my kitchen.
See how rough and unfinished that shit was? The whole place looked like that. It never got better, just worse. It was barely a step above living in a car. (Well, a very large car, with a bug-infested shower, but still, roughly the comfort and insulation of living in a car. Or maybe a super ghetto mobile home.)
That secretary desk, on the left? Was really cool. Wish there’d been some way I could have kept that. It was old and in shitty shape, but it had cubbies and a hinged desk and I adored it.
I feel that way about a remarkably small number of the things that I had in that house and lost. My grandfather’s table. A couple of leather coats that molded. And I did rather like that samovar. My hard drives, the ones he left in a filthy, shitty, open-to-the-elements “room.” But that was later; I digress.
That house was a piece of shit. We never should have bought it. I never would have, except my husband was a professional fucking contractor and said it was a good idea, it was fine, he could handle it, no problem. And, idiot I was, I chose to believe him. I thought he had expertise!
We bought it on contract, and, like fucking morons, we used the same lawyer the sellers used. I don’t think we even had it inspected, because I was home when an inspector showed up after we’d bought it and moved in, and he told us the electrical was nowhere near code and that we’d be fined if we didn’t correct it. (Husband’s solution was to just destroy the entire mud room/porch, rather than correct the issue. Huzzah.)
We hadn’t even been there a month when the roof leaked and a bunch of ceiling fell in. Oh, and then the well-head pole fell over while I was in a hot shower in a literally freezing house.
The kitchen was in the basement and you could see dirt through the cracked concrete slabs of the floor. Cobwebs in the unfinished ceiling. Main bathroom had a countertop on a raw 2×4 frame, cement floors, and unfinished brick walls with no cupboards. Kitchen “cupboards” were the same: just unfinished, open 2×4 shelving with salvaged countertops stuck on by hippies. There had been cloth curtains on the front when they showed us the house; when we moved in, just raw shelves.
Then he tore the already shitty disaster up even more. Refused to fix the decent bathroom on the second floor, the one with walls and a bathtub and ceilings. Destroyed the only decent or useful spaces in the house — the finished attic, the mud porch, the greenhouse.
Oh, the greenhouse, where it was sun-warm in the winter and one could have grown herbs and sat to read!
He covered most of the basement windows with a massive porch he never finished*, so the main living space became not just dirty and unfinished, but lightless as well, and we had an unusable porch!
I mean, he did re-roof the house, which was actually necessary and good, and a lot of incredibly hard work, certainly, but even that was embarrassing as fuck because I later saw him refuse to honor the markers he’d traded for his friends’ hard work on it, because he was honorless and lazy.
It’s not like he didn’t do shit; he did a lot of shit. I realized later that he just did shit he wanted to do. He was good at getting firewood, for example, but he’d spend inordinate amounts of time on it — cutting down whole trees, hauling them, cutting them, splitting them, renting machinery to do so — rather than just fucking buying it and working on the house. He made it so much more complicated and involved and time-consuming than it needed to be; we could have just worked on the furnace, and maybe, I don’t know, installed some fucking insulation?, and bought more propane. But no, he’d spend months of weekends “getting us firewood to heat the house.”
Firewood I had to haul from the barn, in a wheelbarrow, through the snow, half a city block. Yeah.
He did do a lot of work, sure, but he never did what we needed or finished anything. He’d do shit like spend tons of time building a really cool but ultimately unnecessary trailer for the riding lawnmower, or sawing holes in the roof to frame in dormers he never actually completed (covering shit in plastic sheeting for a year is not completing something), or putting in external doors that didn’t actually go anywhere yet and wouldn’t for years.
And then those fucking hippies had the balls to threaten to sue us! They sold us a total piece of shit of a house [caveat emptor], then forced us (well, not us, because I’d bailed just before then, and not him — because he had no money, per the usual — but J., who paid it off for reasons I will probably never understand) to honor the entire mortgage over a decade early!
What a fucking shit show!
I read a blog post from that era today (I was searching for something I’d written about pickling asparagus), in which I was fucking miserable because I lived in a disaster of a fucked up home I owed thousands on, with a person who didn’t like or respect me enough to compromise at all, ever, trying so transparently hard to assign depth and humanity to him rather than acknowledge the selfishness and laziness that was the actual situation.
He kept busy enough that I could pretend to agree that he was trying as hard as I was. It wasn’t until a decade later that I realized he did only what he felt like doing, and that I felt marginalized because he did that specifically so he could point to it and make me feel like a cunt for asking for him to just be kind to me.
There was work, so much work, that needed to be done on that farm; and beyond roofing the house, which was truly useful, he did little-to-none of it, really. He did random unnecessary shit, in spurts, like mowing acreage we didn’t need to use, then sat on the couch pulling bongs and playing video games.
Never did laundry, never cleaned a toilet, didn’t cook or shop, bitched me out for asking him to do simple errands like drop off a bill payment (or for accidentally scratching my own vehicle under his direction), refused to take his own pets to the vet, was infrequently but explosively abusive, complained endlessly about not getting laid enough (even though I suffered multiple miscarriages (one of which actually put me in the hospital), ha HA), forced me to give up my income and then failed to earn enough himself enough to support us.
He was, in short, a bastard.
I never said that then, because I was trying so hard to be fair and balanced and understanding. I made excuses for him constantly; it’s in every post I ever wrote while married.
The entire thing should never have happened.
But I was alone in Iowa, and at that age when all you want is to be married, and he asked.
Funny story: he asked in Walla Walla. My maternal grandfather was dying; my mom contacted me and said I needed to come home. She even bought a ticket for him, some random Midwestern boyfriend she’d never met and knew nothing about, and brought me — and him, a stranger — home for grandpa’s end.
We flew out on her dime. We slept in my ancestral home.
We saw my progenitor, dying, in his hospital bed. (Actually stood in line to see him, so revered was he.)
Grandpa asked my random Midwestern boyfriend, a contractor, to help his son, my uncle, with a bastard hip roof, on his remodel.
My random Midwestern boyfriend did. (Good on him… but yet, how could he refuse?)
Then grandpa died, and funeral preparations began.
AND THEN my random Midwestern boyfriend ran out of pot, to which he was deeply addicted, and forced me to leave without attending my grandfather’s funeral.
But he proposed, the morning after grandpa died, and I was so young and dumb I said yes, and we left.
I left, and did not attend my grandfather’s funeral!
What. The. Actual. Fuck. Michelle.
The day I got married to that train wreck, that incredible wrong, my mother put her arm around me, after the ceremony, after the signing, during the reception, and said, “He’ll make a good first husband.”
What the fuck, mom. You should have stopped me.
If only you’d had the power to stop me.
* while I lived there. It was finished this year, 2017. Eleven years after it was begun.
Note: I realized today it sounds like I’m obsessed with this relationship, but honestly I could write similarly for the majority of my past relationships; this one just cost a lot and required two name changes so it tends to take pride of place in my personal Hall of Bad Decisions. The last serious relationship before that one was nearly as shit, if I consider it. So maybe I’ll blog about that one some day.