My Second Nightmarebyohio©
My second nightmare began with a call from my mother. Which is no surprise, I guess. She tends to be right in the middle of most of the bad things that have happened to me, one way or another.
My mother was one of the people urging me to forgive Jenny during our engagement, when she lied to me about having dinner with an old boyfriend. "She loves you, Nicky, and you're lucky to have her. She's a wonderful girl—don't let this little thing spoil what you've got."
And even in the middle of my first nightmare, when you'd expect that a mother would be totally on her son's side in a crisis, she kept telling me how it had to be at least partly my fault, how Jenny wouldn't have done what she did without reasons, how it couldn't be as it seemed.... Blah, blah, blah. Thanks, Mom.
So, where was I? Oh yes, my second nightmare. Well, it started with a call from my mother. The phone was ringing on Saturday around 11:15, just as I was walking in the door from my karate class. I was wet with sweat, looking forward to a shower and some lunch, but that's not what I got. What I got was a big fat fist to the side of the head.
"Hi, Nicky, it's me. How are you, baby?"
I sighed. My mom likes to talk—I'd be standing in my kitchen until the sweat dried on my back. "Hi, mom, I'm fine. How are you doing?"
She made chitchat for a few minutes about Naomi Alberson and her hip problem, about the neighbors' dog that barked at night and kept her up, about the taxes going up on her house. I half-listened, sipping a beer, and waited for her to get to the point. When she did, I wished I had never picked up the phone.
"Nicky, I wanted to talk to you about Jenny." She waited a second, but I was too stunned to say anything, and she went on.
"She called me last night and we had a long talk. She really wants to see you, baby, but she's afraid to call you, so she asked for my advice."
This time I found my voice. "Well, she SHOULD be afraid to talk to me, mom. I have nothing to say to her, and there's nothing she can say to me that I have any interest in hearing."
"Now, don't be like that, honey. I know she hurt you, but it was a long time ago, and—"
"What are you talking about? 'Hurt' me? Do you think that one word covers what she did? And it wasn't a long time ago—it was seven months ago. Believe me, I'm not likely to forget how long ago it was!"
"Nicky, don't you raise your voice to me!"
I sighed, and held the phone away from my mouth, and waited.
"I told her she needed to be brave and just call you. I told her I was sure you'd be fair and give her a chance to come see you, and say what she wanted to say."
"Right, mom—I'll be just as fair to her as she was to me."
Suddenly I couldn't stand any more of this. "Listen, mom, I need to get off the phone. I'll talk to you soon." And I hung up before she could say another word.
Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle. Jenny wanted to see me? How lovely, how fucking lovely.
I knew that wasn't going to be the end of it. I knew it because I knew my mother and I knew Jenny. Well, I had once thought I knew Jenny—now I wasn't sure I'd ever known her at all. The Jenny I believed I had known, the Jenny I'd loved with all my heart, bore no relationship to the one who tore my heart and lungs out of my chest and stomped on them while smiling into my face.
The next week brought three more calls from my mother, all on the same subject, and a letter from Jenny. Seeing her familiar handwriting on the envelope gave me a jolt like swallowing six cups of espresso at once. My heart started pounding, and I suddenly needed to go hit something. I dropped the envelope straight into the trash and went out to the backyard to do some sparring exercises. It took me nearly an hour to calm down.
A week later there was a message from Jenny on the machine when I came home from work. Unsuspectingly, I pressed Play while getting myself a drink from the refrigerator. When I heard that voice I was momentarily too shocked to move.
"Hi Nick, it's Jenny. I sent you a letter last week, I hope you got it? I was hoping I could..."
By then I'd leapt at the machine as though it were a rattlesnake and pressed Delete. I probably pressed the fucking button six times, in fact, jabbing at it like I was trying to kill something.
Again the adrenalin rush, again the pounding heart. Why didn't the fucking bitch just leave me alone? I ran upstairs, changed, and headed off to karate.
I decided to stop answering the phone and just let the machine screen my calls. There were three more messages from Jenny over the next ten days, along with a couple more from my mother and one from Jenny's friend Angela, who'd been her maid of honor at our wedding. I had always liked Angela, but as soon as I heard what she was calling about I deleted her message too.
It was getting out of hand. Nearly every day I was coming home to a machine full of messages that got me jumpy and upset.
I picked a time when I knew Jenny would be at work and left a message on her home machine. I wrote it out in advance, making it absolutely as few words as possible.
"This is Nick. I don't want to see you or hear from you. Don't call, don't write, don't visit."
I knew it wouldn't work, of course. Two days later my mother left me a message. "How could you be so cruel to Jenny? She called me, crying, and told me about your message. Don't you have any feelings for her?"
Yes, I've got feelings for her. I wish I didn't, but I do. I wish she were caught in quicksand, slowly sinking, calling out desperately for help—and I were sitting safely on a rock ten feet away, holding a rope and smiling, watching her die.
My mother left me another message, asking me to come over on Sunday and move some furniture for her, and she'd give me lunch. She still lived in the house she and my dad had brought me up in, and it was getting harder for her to take care of things on her own.
So I moved the sofa and the two chairs and the TV cabinet and the lamps, and she fed me tunafish salad sandwiches and fussed over me, and I waited for the other shoe to drop. She hadn't mentioned Jenny even once, so I knew something was coming.
Sure enough, as I chewed on a brownie I glanced out the front window and saw Jenny's green Jetta pulling up in front of the house. I said, "excuse me a second, mom," and headed towards the bathroom in the back.
As my mom went to the front door to let Jenny in, I quietly slid out the kitchen door and climbed into my car in the driveway. As soon as the front door closed behind them, I started the car and drove away.
Two hours later I called my mother. When she picked up the phone I didn't even say hello; I just said, "if you ever pull a stunt like that again it will be the last time you see me"; and I hung up.
Davis was sitting in my kitchen with me, having a beer. Davis has been my closest friend since high school. He was my best man when I married Jenny, he used to be my regular sparring partner at karate (until after my first nightmare with Jenny, when I started getting much more serious about it), and he's always been the one person in the world I know I can count on. (Actually, I used to think I had two of those, but it turned out I was wrong.)
His name is actually Brandon Edward Davidson, but ever since junior high everyone has just called him Davis.
I was telling him about Jenny trying to get in touch to me, and the look on his face was hard to describe. Something like that of a man who's just swallowed five or six worms.
"Jesus, Nick! What did you tell her?"
I filled him in on my battles with my mother, all the messages I'd deleted, the message I left on Jenny's machine, and wound up with the little dance I'd done the previous weekend at my mother's house.
I sighed, and said, "you can see what's coming, right? Jenny's never gonna give up on this. Short of a restraining order, I don't see any way to keep her off my back."
"Do you have any idea what she wants?"
"None at all. I just know that whatever it is, it can't be good. Every time I hear her voice on the machine, or see a letter in her handwriting, my blood pressure goes through the roof. I swear, man, I've been thinking about quitting my job and just moving someplace else."
"Yeah, except she'd probably track you down if you moved to Outer Mongolia. She's a piranha, Nick."
We were silent a long time. Then he said, "don't get mad, OK? Just hear me out. How about if you agreed to see her, and when she showed up I was here with you?"
"I don't want to see her, Davis—I won't want to see her, hear her voice, or even have to fucking think about her!"
"I know, man. But you just said she's never gonna let this go, whatever it is. Why not just get it over with?"
I sighed, unhappily. "Let me think about it, OK? You actually might be right. One unpleasant hour, and maybe I could get her off my fucking back."
I watched from the kitchen window the following Saturday as Jenny came sashaying up the front walk, wearing a yellow sundress that had always been one of my favorites. I couldn't look at her—hell, I couldn't even think about her—without intense, and complicated, feelings.
She was absolutely beautiful, still my dream woman. She was small and slim, with light blue eyes and gorgeous blonde, silky hair that reached 6 inches below her shoulders. And she had the young, innocent face of an angel: proof positive of the fact that God has a seriously sick sense of humor.
When the door opened she said, "Hi, baby, I'm so...Davis!" She looked very taken aback.
"Yeah, it's me," said Davis, in an unfriendly voice, holding the door for her to come into the house. "I thought Nick might need a little back-up."
He gestured her towards a chair in the living room. I took a deep breath and came in from the kitchen, with three glasses of water on a tray. I'd worked out for an hour earlier that morning, then done 30 minutes of quiet breathing. I was going to hold onto my calm if it killed me. Never mind that my heart was already pounding in my chest.
"Hello, Jenny," I said quietly, and put a glass in front of her.
She gave me a sparkling smile and said, "it's so great to see you again, honey!"
I made absolutely no reply to this, instead giving her the most aggressively blank face I could manage. It's your meeting, bitch, I thought to myself. Let's just get on with it.
Undaunted, she said, "actually, I was hoping we could talk alone, Nick?"
"I don't think so, Jenny. Davis is a good friend—anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of him."
She wavered for just a moment, then pulled herself together. "All right, baby, if that's the way you want it."
I watched her arrange her face into a look meant to be both serious and appealing. What the hell did she want?
"Nick, I...I realize I've made a terrible mistake. The worst mistake of my life, and I'm so sorry. Baby, I—I want to come back home. It's you I love, only you, and I want us to be together."
I thought I was going to pass out, and it took all my energy and my karate training to keep a straight face. I could feel my heart thumping at high speed, and I felt a little dizzy. I didn't move.
Across the room, Davis growled, "why you...fucking...bitch. You have really got a pair of brass balls, you know that?"
His voice was quiet but ice-cold. "After the...after the nightmare you put Nick through—you think you can just stroll into this house and pretend it never happened? You are one cold motherfucker."
I hadn't moved a muscle. I actually wasn't sure that I could stand up without just falling over. I watched Jenny's face—she looked utterly shocked by Davis' furious words.
Finally she managed a sad sort of half-smile. Evidently she decided to ignore Davis, because she turned directly to me.
"I know I was awful, baby—really, I do. You're probably still so mad at me, and—"
"Stop," I said. "Just stop, Jenny. Don't say another word."
I got up slowly and walked back into the kitchen, leaving behind me a charged silence. I ran the cold water in the sink and splashed it over my face and neck, trying to get my thoughts under control.
My mind was racing. This had to be a cruel joke. Somebody had decided I hadn't had it rough enough, so they were going to fuck with me some more. I really thought I had been through the worst of it, but I seem to have been mistaken about that.
At that moment I learned something I would have preferred not to know. I thought that when you hated someone—really, really hated them—you didn't love them anymore. But I was wrong.
I hated Jenny more than I'd ever hated anyone in my life. But my heart was singing, I heard birds chirping sweetly in the trees, and my blood was racing through me with joy. She wanted to come back again! She loved me!
To say the least, the discovery that I still loved Jenny—loved her desperately—didn't cheer me up. It actually confirmed that I was in the middle of my second nightmare.
I stood up from the sink, took several slow, deep breaths, and walked back into the living room. Jenny and Davis had been sitting in a tense silence. They both watched me.
"Jenny, you need to go now." I said it quietly, trying to keep the tremble out of my voice.
"Right now—you need to leave RIGHT NOW. You've said your piece.
"I don't want to see you or hear from you ever again. I don't see how I can put it more clearly than that."
I watched Jenny as her face dissolved and she started to cry.
"Honey, I know I fucked up, but I really thought we..." Her voice trailed off into weeping.
I absolutely, positively couldn't bear this one moment longer. I turned away, and without looking back I said, "Davis, can you help Jenny to her car?"
Without another word I headed for the stairs. I slowly climbed up to my bedroom, hearing Jenny's voice behind me despairingly calling out, "Nick! Honey, please!"
I sat on my bed, feeling numb, listening for the front door to close. Then I waited for the sound of Jenny's car driving away. It came—finally—and I trudged back downstairs and collapsed on the couch. Davis came back in and sat on a chair across from me.
"Jesus H. Christ on the back of a camel". He shook his head in wonder. "She just has no clue at all, does she? After what she—"
"Davis." He looked up at me, and saw the tears on my face.
"Davis, I am so fucked."
"What do you mean, man?"
"I mean I love her! I love her like crazy, I want her back. Can you believe that? I still want her back!" I broke down and sobbed, the only time in my life I've ever cried in front of another man. Even at my father's funeral, I managed to keep it together until I could be alone.
I'm sure Davis was embarrassed, but he was a true friend. He sat down next to me and put his arm on my shoulder, squeezing hard, and just held it there while I cried like a baby. Like a fucking baby.
I just realized I've been telling you about my second nightmare. What about the first one, right? I mean, you've probably been thinking, 'what the hell did she do to this guy, anyway?'
So—I guess I've gotta tell you about my first nightmare. Not that that's gonna be any fun.
There's a story in some famous book about a rich guy who was asked how he had fallen into bankruptcy. His answer was, "gradually, and then suddenly". That's just how my first nightmare happened to me—except I didn't know too much about the gradually part. That was mostly happening behind my back.
I'd had a few girlfriends before I met Jenny, but she put them all to shame. She was gorgeous, funny, considerate, affectionate, honest (so I thought!), and in love with me. In love with me! I felt like I'd won the lottery. I mean, this was a "should be with Derek Jeter" sort of girl, not the kind of girl that would fall in love with an average-looking 24-year old electrical engineer in Dayton, Ohio.
We dated for nearly two years before I got up the nerve to ask her to marry me. Even then, even after we'd been sleeping together for more than a year, spending nearly every night together at her place or mine, I was scared to death she'd say no. But she didn't: she squealed, grabbed the ring and put it on her finger, and gave me a big loud kiss and a hug in the middle of the restaurant. People actually applauded!
We did the whole church, white-wedding-dress, throw-the bouquet, honeymoon-in-Maui thing, and then we settled down in a nice little three-bedroom house and lived happily ever after. Well, scratch the "ever after"—maybe substitute "for about four years".
It wasn't perfect, don't get me wrong. One thing was that Jenny liked to party, she liked to dance, in general she liked to go out and live it up a lot more than I did. One club night every couple of weeks was plenty for me, while her preference was a couple of times a week.
But we compromised: sometimes I was a good sport and we went club-hopping, usually with a couple of her friends; other times she was a good sport and we rented a video and stayed in. The great thing was, both kinds of night ended with our making love. Making love with her was awesome: sometimes loving and gentle, sometimes energetic and hot. I'd never been with a woman who gave herself to me so completely, who felt so open and totally in the moment as we did it.
Our other problem is that I couldn't stop thinking she was too good for me. How did I get into this movie, I thought? A guy like me doesn't get a girl like her in real life—Kevin James only gets to marry Angelina Jolie in some dumb romantic comedy. Not that I look like him, but you know what I mean.
But she loved me, and she showed it all the time, and gradually my worries faded to the back of my mind. Whom God wants to fuck with, he first eases the worries of, as the saying goes. Or if that's not a saying, it should be.
The "gradually" started about four months before the "suddenly". Of course, I didn't know anything about it at the time. In fact most of what I'm going to tell you is stuff I pieced together afterwards. While it was going on I was almost completely unaware, like the cliché of the brain-dead husband.
When we went out to clubs, Jenny almost always danced with other guys. Sometimes I danced with other women, but mostly I was happy to have a beer and watch her—I wasn't as much of a dance-freak as she was. Jenny was so beautiful, and so hot on the dance floor, that there were always guys wanting to dance with her.
One night there was a very good-looking guy who danced with her 3-4 times, but I would never have thought anything of it except for what happened later. The rest of the evening was completely normal, including Jenny slow-dancing with me a couple of times and wrapping herself all around me, as close as she could get. We went home and had fantastic sex that night, as we often did after nights out.
Well it turns out that this guy Alec—and doesn't the name all by itself just tell you what an asshole he is? Most guys named Alexander get called Alex, or I guess maybe Sandy. But not this fuckhead—he needs to be "Alec", like "I'm so special, the usual nicknames aren't good enough for me".
So this guy Alec thinks Jenny is very hot—which she is—and it doesn't bother him a bit that she's married, so he finds out from a friend of hers what her last name is and where she works. And then he sets out to get into her pants.
The guy was an actor—no big deal but big for Dayton I guess, he'd done some TV commercials up in Chicago, and some theater stuff—and he had a very flexible schedule. So he checked out the office building where Jenny works, figured out where people who work there go out to eat, watched out for Jenny, and managed to "bump into her" about a week after he danced with her at the club.