Some old writing I found about Vance, with whom I was off and on for six years in my mid 40s. I had to look hard for this writing. I feared this writing was lost, and that would have made me very sad.
It's been a long time ago, now. I loved him. I truly did. He was one of my Great Loves. But it was never meant to be. And that's a blessing. Love simply isn't enough, in and of itself.
Sometimes I was so consumed with love for him I thought it might kill me. And other times, I was so disenchanted, I’d see other men, and occasionally I’d have sex with one of them.
Vance was also seeing others, far more frequently than I was, regardless of whether or not we were having a good spell or bad. I knew he was cheating, which is what I considered it then, but it didn’t trouble me much. He suspected I cheated sometimes, and he was incredibly jealous, but apparently, I’m a pretty straight-faced liar when it comes to self-preservation. I denied any accusation vehemently, and gaslighted the fuck out of him, making him think he was betraying me by not believing me. More than half convinced, he’d let it go and we’d move on to the next thing.
I did love Vance very much, but not in a way that could have sustained a lifelong partnership. I knew that from the get. We were not equals in any way. He couldn’t hold down a minimum wage job. I was making skads of money and paying his rent, buying him groceries, and buying him a lot of things he needed or didn’t need, because he was very sweet when he was grateful.
I paid his rent because if he was homeless, I would have felt obligated to have him live with me. I knew that would be not only a disaster, but incredibly dangerous. He was a horrible alcoholic. He was very abusive when he drank. He got hauled off to jail twice that I recall. He’s another one I don’t think about much, except to feel a great deal of pity. Although we've stayed in touch. I do that with ex-lovers, when they are amenable.
I haven’t talked to him in a few months. But last we talked, he explained what was going on with him and it was clear to me he’s dying of cirrhosis. I don't think he gets it. But he's dying. He's living in a hotel on a very dangerous strip of Pac Highway, and being carted off to the ER every so often to have the fluid drained from his abdomen.
Last we spoke, he was drunk, and proud to tell me he was still drinking a pint a day. He’s never seemed able to grasp the connection between his alcoholism and the fact he is dying. Or chooses not to acknowledge the connection. The latter. Staying in addiction is the slow kind of suicide.
Without the addiction that stole his potential, he might have been a very successful artist. He was incredibly talented. He was very very intelligent, an expert on all things WWII. I learned a lot from him. And we had fun, part of the time. And there’s no doubt we loved one another, but, but, but…
He came up in my writing today. So I called him, left a voice mail and told him I was checking in, and that I loved him. I wished him all good things. I unblocked his number so he can call me back if he wishes, but that's usually only temporary.
He may call. He may call and it may be a very pleasant conversation, reminiscing, and sharing with one another our best memories of one another. The one thing he always says, during those calls when he hasn't yet had so much to drink he's passed over from kindness to cruelty, is the one thing that always softens my heart.
"You always got the joke, Coco. You're so smart. So sweet. And you always got the joke."
If he's had too much to drink, he rips me to shreds in a way no other man has ever done. By telling me how ugly, fat, grotesque, slutty, and worthless I am. Then I block him. Again. For a time. Only for a time.
I don't know why I forgive him, keep in contact with him. I pity him. He's dying. He's alone and he's dying. And I loved him once, very very much.
We are all good, bad, and everything in between. Vance is. And I am, too.
June 30, 2017
I met Vance when I was 43. He was a one night stand I pushed and pushed and turned into a relationship. I met him in a bar on the Fourth of July. The Silverstone in Tacoma. A gay bar.
I was eating shrimp and chips and drinking lemon drops. He came up and sat next to me. I offered him some shrimp and chips, we shared. We were both drunk and just got drunker. He was awfully friendly, and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was coming on to me.
“This is a gay bar. You know that right?” I asked.
“Yes, but I’m not gay!”
We decided to go to his place. We had sex. I remember there were condoms on his bathroom floor. He’d had a guest the night before. He asked me to get on top. So not my thing. And he kept putting a pillow under my ass. He’d clearly never been with a big girl. We don’t need pillows. Our asses are pillows.
He was Native, tall, strikingly handsome, charismatic. When he walked into a room, all eyes were on him. All female eyes. His skin was brown and smooth and hairless. His muscles were long and firm. I was madly attracted him. He always dressed well. He never wore jeans, always Dockers and button-down shirts and never athletic shoes. His jet-black hair was always stylishly cut. He was a player.
He was an alcoholic. A bad one. And when he drank too much, he was mean. There were blue lights in my driveway more often than I care to admit. He spent at least two nights in jail. Maybe more, I don't like to remember. But I stuck with him. Why? A lot of reasons.
He was a project. I like projects. I helped him get jobs, which he couldn’t keep for more than a few months. I helped him get public assistance. I did his taxes. I took him to the foodbank, where he would sit in the car while I went in to fill his sacks. I made his doctor appointments and took him to the doctor. I paid his bills, and I paid his rent. I shuttled him to AA meetings, where I would talk, and he would pass.
I tried to break it off time and again. My problem is, I get mad, but I don’t hold grudges. I couldn’t stay angry. I made excuses for him. He’d been drinking since he was 15 years old. How do you undo 40 plus years of living a particular way?
Finally, I moved in with my mom, about 70 miles away. It ended. We still talk sometimes. I like to stay friends with ex-lovers. They’re ex-lovers. Why hold on to ill will?
June 14, 2018
My last long term relationship, my partner loved me so much more than I loved him. It’s an awful feeling to be that unequally in love. But I wanted him. I wanted him very much. I spent so much of my time trying to mold and make myself into a loving partner. When all I really wanted to do a lot of the time was tell him to leave me alone.
I had sex with him when I didn’t want to. I sat on the couch and watched boring documentaries with him, holding his hand, then laying down and putting my legs across his lap. I didn’t want to. I went into the bedroom to get away from him, his boring documentaries about WWII aircraft and weapons. In my own house, I went into another room to get away from him.
And yet, he is one of the three loves of my life. I count him as one. Why? I think because he loved me so much. And I needed that so much. He truly loved me deeply. And I basked in that. I had to have that. I wasn’t happy with him; I wasn’t happy when I wasn’t with him.
I remember trying to control my expressions, my body language, my actions, so he’d think I loved him just as much. Have I been authentic and real and honest in my relationships with men? No. Clearly, no.
There were moments when I loved him with my whole heart. But they were only moments. There was no consistent enduring feeling of love, there was no feeling that he was who I wanted for the whole of my life. Yet I was committed to him.
But there was always the small voice in my head asking, “What are you going to do to get out of this?” I felt like a prisoner. A prisoner not of his, but of my need for him, even though he wasn’t what I really wanted. And he certainly wasn’t what I needed. Quite the contrary. It was a very unhealthy relationship. There was substance abuse, there was violence.
September 15, 2018
It was my 49th birthday. I was at Thunder Over Louisville, the incredible fireworks exhibit that kicks off Derby. My friend from Ohio came down to spend me the weekend with me at the Galt. We had fun. Bardstown Road, Goss Avenue Antique Mall, I still have some treasures I found with her that weekend.
I was working like a fiend on the client implementation. I was on site for up to two weeks at a time for months.
I went home and saw Vance. He was happy to see me. We had sex. Hell, we had sex all the time. The guy chased me around the bed. I kinda liked that though. The attraction was mutual.
Vance said some things. Some red flags went up. I asked him a few questions. More red flags. Vance is very very intelligent, super high IQ. But sometimes even really smart men can’t bypass a woman’s intuition.
“Vance, just tell me, did you sleep with her? Just tell me, honey. I won’t be angry.”
“Yes. But you were off doing your thing. You were gone all the time!”
“Vance, I was working!”
“You like those people you work with better than me!”
“Vance, I was working!”
I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Vance wasn’t the kind of man that could go more than a few weeks without attention from a woman. Any woman. Sexual attention.
At the time his infidelity was discovered, I just wanted him to tell me the truth. Infidelity, to me, is not automatic cause for dissolution of a relationship, but dishonesty is.
I say this again and again, it is one of my core beliefs. I can always handle the truth. Tell me what you’ve done. I’d rather hear the truth from you than a lie. Even if the truth is devastating, it’s far more devastating to be deceived.
Some time passed. We interacted as usual. I overlooked it and moved on with him. I loved him, but that’s not why I continued with him. I continued with him because of a lack inside of me. Because I was so empty inside of me, that even though he’d not been faithful, I wanted to keep him, because he helped fill my emptiness.
It worked, for a time.
June 11, 2019
Once I thought I had things figured out, he’d do something I hadn’t anticipated. I’d quickly move into my “female” mode, and I’d exude just that little extra sensual aura, playing on what I had, but not at all obviously, and he’s respond just as I expected. He’d become absolutely charming in his guileless boyish pursuit of me. I’d be the perfect complement to his forward dance, the woman that was putty in his hands, that he could have all of, but for whom he must pay a great price.
After we had sex, it was then I knew I could ask him anything.
“Do you love me?”
“Yes of course I do.”
“Because you’re a good person, you’re kind, you’re good to me, and I just do. I want you all the time. I want you to be my woman. I want you to be with me like a woman.”
There would be a long silence. He’d change the subject, the mood would lighten, and life would continue on. I’d spend time brooding about how wrong we were for each other, and how I was yet again wasting what was left of my life being with a man that was not my equal and that was truly unworthy of me, all the while pretending I was having a marvelous time with him, that I was totally encompassed in his charms, that anything that interested him was of the highest value to me as well. That his flipping through the channels, landing on a documentary about WWII aircraft, that I was totally engrossed, that I loved it, what media he had solemnly chosen for us to consume together.
I did love it sort of. I loved being perceived as being a woman that took great interest in her man, in his manly things, things that were just beyond my comprehension – and that was only because they were just outside of my range of interest. But he didn’t need to know that.
Did he ever wonder if I was really interested? I don’t think he did. I think he was always thinking of what he wanted to watch, never about what might interest me, never that he might take my tack and think of what I might like best of all, and graciously allow it.
The times when I’d try to break it off, he’d make such sweeping promises. “I’ll watch those movies you like with you!” And when things were going well, when we were settled into our familiar rut of hanging together in spite of everything wrong about it, I’d suggest a movie and he’d say, “I’d rather have a tooth pulled than sit through that.”
August 20, 2019
I know what it’s like to have my partner be unfaithful. I didn’t catch him, I figured it out from the clues he dropped. I think he wanted me to find out, because I think he wanted me to invest more of myself into him and into the relationship.
His act was one of rebellion. Because he wasn’t getting anything outside of us I wasn’t willing to give him, freely and often. But I was engrossed in my career, spending weeks away on business. And he didn’t like not being the center of my life.
It was a dying relationship. We were woefully wrong for one another. He was abusive. I loved him, but it wasn’t a good thing. It wasn’t sustainable, and I knew that for a very long time before I was finally able to walk away.
Years later, my friend remarked, “You really fought for Vance.”
“Why?” I asked, hoping she'd be able to tell me how I was able to compromise my truth, and simply throw away incredibly valuable pieces of who I was.
She knew the intimate details of the abuse. She did what she could, but she really had no power to change my mind about him. I was committed, against everything I knew to be true. I lied to myself and I fought very hard for many years to make it work.
“I don’t know why you fought. I don’t know why you stayed,” she replied. “But you did.”
[Initial publication date: 7/23/2022.]