June 18, 2007

Cruelty is rarely conscious...

You probably think, like any sane person, that I should have shown TCP the door for good. You would probably be right. However, we have this history, see, that we each cling to. He claims he told me he wouldn't be staying the night Saturday, that I shouldn't have expected him. Given the week we had just had, recovering from reunion, I might be willing to concede he may have said as much. On the other hand, he may not have.

TCP was my first love. Freshman year, I disposed of my virginity to someone I didn't care to see again. More than a year later, TCP seduced me, and I fell in love. Perhaps someone with more experience would have reacted differently to him, but I lacked perspective. I had no idea then, in April 1980, that one night would be the beginning of my adult lifetime. That through TCP I would learn that the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.

I have, intermittently, loved people who were "good for me." Yet a line of Phillip Roth's seems to sum up my entire romantic life: "The sane ones bore you practically to death and the ones who fascinate you turn out to be nuts."

At our impasse the other day, I accused TCP of behaving like my father at one of his worst moments. TCP, in turn, kept telling me that I was not his mother, and I was behaving like her, in flashbacks he would have preferred not to remember.

We were, I suspect, both right: we have been together and apart for 27 years. Why we return, despite our pasts, is simple and hard, if even possible, to eradicate. No one speaks to this more eloquently than Doris Lessing: "We use our parents like recurring dreams, to be entered into when needed; they are always there for love or for hate."

Regardless of our memories of our respective parents, they were never boring. Their characteristics have imprinted on us, in us, for better or worse. TCP and I are at home, stuck in the second generation of a holding pattern that I cannot bring myself to sever, knowing the limits of the comfort zones established long before we were cognizant of the situation.

It is frequently said that a man marries his mother and a woman her father. I see that in my brother, in his choice of wife #4. She is the first to have my mother's sense of humor and, despite a lack of overall sophistication, she shares my mother's sensibilities. TCP and I, no matter how infrequently we acknowledge it, are in a similar position.

We may not bring out the best in each other, but we do take comfort in what we bring. All the hurt and disappointments and cruelty we can mete out has been long since taken into account. In college we discussed poetry; 20-something years later, we debated taxes. And no, there has never been a chance we would file them together.

I do have choices to make, defining what behavior is truly unacceptable and trying to separate it out from the scene of my own parents having the same argument over and over. My dad would promise something, and my mother would ask him to do what he said, and he would say yes, yes, I'll do it, and it would never get done, and that's just the way we lived, my mother resigned to my father's unmet promises.

My brother and some of his previous wives have had that same fight, and then, I would leave the room. I didn't need to see those re-runs.

I'm well into the syndication track myself: hoping against hope and knowing what I'll receive in return, yet somehow being surprised by the simple fact that insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results.

I know that; TCP knows that, and yet, he can and does still comfort me after such events as the previous impasse. In my way, I comfort him.

The best I can do is protect myself: I'm sure we will have future encounters; what I can choose is where and under what circumstances. I'm sure TCP and I will spend a night or two together this fall. I am equally sure that my house is no longer open to him the way my heart once was. Next fall, I would prefer a hotel.

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