For the rest of this to make a lick of sense, I'd better get something out of the way. A few years ago I went to rehab for an oxycodone addiction. It was as miserable as the eight-month addiction had been, and at some point in the future I'll no doubt ramble on about all that; but this story starts the day I was released back into the wild.
I hadn't slept in a month, as that's what usually happens when you're coming off something that makes you sleepy. Averaging an hour a night, if that, sleep deprivation psychosis had set in early on in my treatment, and at one point I assumed I loved every man in there. That prettily-named condition known as the Pink Cloud, when you're past withdrawals and on the best natural high ever, was on me like white on rice. So it was only natural that I continued my giddy crush on the fellow who asked me to join him at a Cocaine Anon meeting my first free night. A date, of sorts. We'll call that fellow R.B. because those are his real initials.
R.B. had been out for over a week, and had already started and ended a relationship with another woman from treatment. Unbeknownst to me at the time, they had thoroughly relapsed in each others' arms. I didn't mind being his second attempt, mostly because I was blinded by the prospect of sex for the first time in ages. Pink Clouds make your hormones swirl around your nether regions like you're 18 again.
From the very beginning, I knew why the other woman had left him. When he drank he turned into someone I'd only seen for a fleeting second while still in rehab: a complete monster. He had a swagger about him that sober he didn't possess, and though I was drawn to it it also made me nervous. I preferred the shy, unassuming person I knew from our shared counseling sessions.
I've been around addicts my entire life, but R.B. was in the major leagues and took me off guard. The man could put away more booze than anyone I've seen on Intervention. His drinking made him extremely verbally cruel from the get go. Shockingly so. He knew my weak spots and targeted them in a way only a shrewish mother could. He would compliment me to get me into a trusting state. With defenses and usually clothing stripped away, he would say something so crass it would stun me to silence.
"I got a much better blowjob from a chick half your age, recently," he'd say, while I was still on my knees. It was always about my lack of sexual prowess or my slim but over 40 body, and the anger in his voice made it feel like he was attacking me physically. I'm not proud to say, I threw something at him on more than one occasion. "Jesus, woman! That hit me right between the eyes!" Out came the white trash woman's anthem, "Yeah? Well that's where I fucking aimed, you son-of-a-bitch!"
I tolerated some of his abuse because--speaking of bitches--his mother had provided him such a horrific childhood it paled in comparison to my merely fucked up one, and added torture to his father's beatings. In fact, in a contest to determine the worst of the worst, I think his childhood would come in second behind a girl I knew who's mother shot her up and pimped her out before she even grew breasts. That kind of childhood doesn't nurture happiness no matter how much therapy you can afford.
His mother would teach him by demonstration. If he was curious about the burners on the stove, she'd hold his hand so close it would be red for days. Not so close as to show actual ring marks, because she was smart like that. If he got out of the car and braced himself on the door frame to keep from falling while his little legs reached for the ground, she'd show him how dangerous it was by slamming his hand in the door and leaving him there for a few minutes, taking special care not to break any actual bones. Something about hands must have set that woman off.
One night I went to his house to make sure he was still alive. He'd been drinking more heavily than usual, until he ran out of money for the red swill he downed by the gallon and started into severe withdrawals. By the time I got there he was in a completely dissociative state. He was behaving like a four-year-old boy. When he waddled toward me with a pie-eyed, innocent expression on his normally wry face and said, "See? I got my pee pee hard for you just the way you like it," in the sweetest voice I'd ever heard, I knew there had also been sexual abuse.
I of course said, "No. You're drunk," and out came a completely different monster than the one I'd already met. This one said, "You fucking bitch. You beg me for sex, and when you're about to get some you say you don't want it." He was suddenly eight feet tall, an inch away, his eyes going from light brown to deep black like they held ugly secrets... mangled bodies buried in the back yard... someone currently captive in his dungeon, screaming like a disposable girl in a torture porn. To my great relief he stormed off disgustedly to his actual basement, and flipped on the immense, wide-screen TV.
His behavior was never what you would call normal, but this was something else altogether. I'd noticed prior to this that he had trigger words. These words would send him off into a conversation that was not the same friendly one we'd just been having. He would hear the word "stupid" and assume I was directing it at him. "That's a stupid show, isn't it? Ha ha!" Paff. He was defensive, angry and bullying the very next second. When questioned he'd insist that I was the one who couldn't remember how the conversation started. The worse the trigger, the more abrupt the change. "My -mother- gave me this -stupid- blouse for -Christmas-," would incite fury and a barrage of insults usually reserved for shirking prostitutes.
Sometimes it would be a sound that did it, like clipping fingernails. "I told you never to do that again!" he screamed the first time I did it in front of him. He'd done it in front of me many times, so I thought it was going to be received with indifference.
Me being me, I had to make a game of this phenomenon. That's how I survive most everything. I gain control over situations with humor, or by exercising my insatiable curiosity about human behavior. I'd entertain myself by repeating his trigger words or sounds later on to see if I got the same reactions, and low and behold I did. In retrospect it was probably dangerous, but everything started to make a strange kind of sense. If his friendly personality was weak, the mean one that came to replace it was strong. The weaker, the stronger, and what's weaker than a child or stronger than a serial killer?
I waited upstairs until I knew it was safe, because I'd overheard him laughing at the TV. He referred to the show he was watching as a "stupid show" and since I had all the behavioristic data I could handle for one night, I didn't echo the statement but merely grinned.
Minutes later he bounded up the stairs and headed to the back porch to smoke. That night he must have smoked 30 cigarettes, making at least 15 visits to the chill of February. He'd bring a book out with him, and after a while I'd pop up to make sure he hadn't had a seizure on my watch.
He read sci-fi fantasy novels a thousand pages thick, clearly written by and for high IQ software geeks. He had a PhD in Computer Science, and in his sober days he'd helped design Amazon's search engine. He boasted an IQ of 175. No authors' bloated, alternative mathematical construct nor inclusion of chaos theory in a fight scene gave him pause. When interrupted he'd look as frenzied as a mad scientist, then shift to merrily sipping Gatorade and babbling about which flavors he liked best.
The last time I ventured outside that night and before I could see him around the corner, I thought I heard him having a conversation with a young boy. I figured the boy who belonged to the ex-stripper across the street had wandered over at 2:00 a.m., which had happened before. Nope. R.B. was alone.
He was talking to himself, or more he was carrying both sides of a conversation between a gruff older man and a nervous child. Before he acknowledged me he finished, turned my way and said in a completely neutral tone, "I have at least fourteen different personalities, like having 14 heads, you know."
After another pleasant conversation about Gatorade flavors, I headed to bed around 3:00 a.m., too exhausted to drive home. I lay there for hours before finally drifting off just at sunrise. Mere minutes later he woke me to tell me the sky was on fire, and asked why I wasn't helping him call the news to report that the aliens had landed.
Thus motivated, I got in my car and didn't see him again for five months, when we met to exchange belongings. We had a few phone conversations that felt almost like friendship, that is until he called drunk to tell me I'd been "...replaced by a 20-year-old girl who is better in bed, but needs to be because she stutters and has an ugly face."
Thinking it was for her sake, I broke down and cried.