The trip from Omaha to Chicago is long, especially with the soul crushing hate I felt sitting next to my ex-wife, Sue. Why was Sue driving me home from Nebraska? Perhaps she felt like she owed me for the suffering she put me through.
I guess I should explain.
When dinosaurs still roamed the earth, or just slightly thereafter, I followed Sue to college and even went to some classes before I dropped out to pursue a high paying career as a bassist in the Helles Belle’s, an all-girl AC/DC cover band. I am not a girl, of course, but the band hadn’t figured out how to pull off a female version of the ever-shirtless Mark Evans without being arrested.
I guess it wasn’t really that surprising they kicked me off the tour when I started to lose my hair. Thankfully, Sue invited me to live in the apartment her father had rented for her. I lived there for the next two years without paying a dime, unless you count emptying the litter box. This gave me the freedom to pursue a career in either the food service or street music industries. Once in a while, I’d make some money and buy some takeout. That kept Sue off my back about the late nights, loud noises and general lack of hygiene. I never understood why she kept me around to be honest. She said I made the place less lonely. And the sex was great.
In 1998, she left me by she suddenly telling me that she got a job in Chicago. I got over her by playing Wipeout on the PlayStation at the house of my manager, Jim. To be honest, he wasn’t so much a manager as a good friend who sometimes landed me couple gigs as a replacement bassist in wedding bands. Eventually, I grew tired of playing Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing, by Aerosmith. That’s when I turned to working as a food services specialist at a local eating establishment.
While I continued to work on my album, I found out later that Sue was also pursuing her dreams by working in a cubicle as an order entry clerk for a Chicago-based freight shipping company. After her boss made the 17th pass at her at the company Christmas party, she became disillusioned with her life in the city. In an uncharacteristically spontaneously moment, Sue called me and told me everything that was going on with her. She told me about her boss’s halitosis, and about her bad relationship with an Irish mail clerk named Chet who sang Susie-Q by Credence every time he walked by with the mail cart. She must have misconstrued my state of inebriation for sympathy because before the phone was hung up she promised to come slum with Jim and I in our nerd palace.
That’s all the encouragement she needed. A short visit to Springfield to see her family turned into a month then into a year. We lived largely at my manager’s house. I taught her how to rock, how to drink cheap liquor and smoke pot and how to play Ocarina of Time. I felt like I was dating the coolest girl in the state of Illinois-at least until we got married. She knew the night that each bar within a 30 mile radius held an open mic and quickly replaced Jim as my manager. Apparently, he had never asked for any payment for my services, which is understandable as he doesn’t grasp the concepts of trade or money.
The moment we were married everything changed. The drugs we had done were now taboo to talk about. By far the biggest step she took to make me into a man was to make me throw away all the things that made me less mature.
I was forced to donate all evidence of nerdery to Goodwill, including the boxes of Super Nintendo and NES carts and many original X-men comics. She even made me throw away the issue where they turned the X-men into the multi-cultural organization that it is today. You know how much that issue is worth today? ($5.80!) She also made me throw out the life-sized statue of a creepy Leonard Nimoy as Spock that I’d won in a raffle at a comic book convention-okay, maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea. Have you ever walked to the bathroom in the middle of the night and seen Spock eyeing you from the shadows? Don’t.
I was able to hide some mementos of my formative years from the Great Purge of ’98. A limited edition flask with the symbol of the United Federation of Planets etched on it survived tucked behind The Wheel of Time series and other tedious books I knew no one in the house would ever read again. Many of my 2nd Edition AD&D books found a new home at Jim’s house, who nearly cried once he understood what was going on. He took the books like he was receiving the personal effects of a dead man. In a way, I had died.
Sue went about turning me into a productive member of society. Her father landed me a job at the Springfield Coupon Clipper where it was my duty to correct spelling mistakes and make sure the decimal places were in the right place. Due to my diligence, Mark&Pack shoppers didn’t receive coupons for $299 off their “frozen pees.”
During the next four years I lived a double life. After work, I was hanging out at my friends’ houses and playing games. We drank and smoked, swore and acted like a bunch of nerds from Illinois, which of course we were. It was nice to be able to be myself. I didn’t have to hear about how much better I could be or pick up the Dr. Pepper cans that doubled as ashtrays. Eventually I got a part time job at a junk yard helping the owner sort steel and aluminum. The hours were very flexible and that gave me an alibi to hang out at Jim’s and kick his ass in Unreal Tournament.
As with any story of infidelity, my duplicity caught up with me. I made one stupid mistake, and then tried to cover it with a stupid lie. I guess when you get so used to lying, you start to believe that you will never be discovered. I had preordered Battlefield 2 during the summer but I stupidly entered the address to our house on Grownup Lane, when I meant for it to be delivered to Jim’s. I should have known what was up as soon as she asked me, “Do you have anything to tell me?” I said “No,” but she then produced the box with that huge “2” on it. At first, I felt horrified, a sick feeling hit deep in my bowels; my dark secret had finally been discovered. Immediately after that, though, I was glad that the game had arrived a day early.
She threw the game in the trash and ran off crying. A little while later, I could hear her talking to someone on the phone, with more than one reference to “that selfish asshole who never grew up.” I retrieved Battlefield 2 from the bin, liberated Mr. Flask from his hiding spot, went to Jim’s house to play. I ended up living there for six months happily ignoring the phone calls about why I was ignoring my emails, and emails that asked where I was and why I wasn’t answering the phone.
Jim was happy just to have someone to talk to after he went into a long depression when his mother refused to fund his Lake Michigan surf shop. He didn’t mind me hanging around and even helped me when the divorce papers came by calling her a “B.” Jim really was a good friend, but neither of us dealt with the very adult situation in an adult manner. I was a Staff Sergeant Bigbillybupkis, expert at throwing grenades over a wall in Karkand and team killing players who were attempting to pilot my helicopter. Adult things could wait.
We logged about 500 hours in Battlefield 2 before I finally read the divorce papers. The official reason for the divorce was listed as “irreconcilable differences.” I agreed. I signed on the dotted line and never thought I’d see that harpy again.
And now, five years later, she was sitting next to me, the only person who wanted to do me a favor and the only person responsible enough to have a valid driver’s license.
We drove in silence for two hours. “So,” I hesitated, hoping she would fill in the blank.
“How’s Molyneux?” I asked. Molyneux was our pug; she kept the little bugger as part of the divorce. I named him after Peter Molyneux because I knew he would eventually disappoint me somehow.
And there it was, even in death, fat little Moly failed to even give me something with which to break a 5-year tension.
“How’s your dad?” I said, silently hoping her response would be the same.
She ignored the question entirely and fired back, “You left me to play a game. I came here to get some closure, put this behind me so I can move on with my life.” Sort breaths punctuated her words; she seemed to be hyperventilating.
I’d seen it all before. When I disagreed about throwing out my Dreamcast she had pitched a fit and then hyperventilated herself into an ambulance. I had to calm down her before we both went into a ditch, or worse, the hospital, “You’re right, I was a jerk.”
Her face relaxed and she started breathing normally again. “How could a game be more important to you than your wife? Were you on drugs?”
The answer was assuredly yes, but I did my best Bill Clinton impression, “No. I left because you went crazy over a game.” It felt good to say that, so I went on, “You were too busy with your own fantasies that you tried to bury anything that didn’t fit into your ideas of what was ‘adult.’ You wanted me to be someone else. Plus, you told me over and over again that you wanted kids and yet you denied sex for two years. How was that supposed to work?”
The instant I said it, I knew I had gone too far. The tears started and then the weeping, followed inevitably by the wailing. She started her huffing again. “Jesus, pull the car over,” I said as if I was trying to stop a car accident, which of course I was.
A few minutes later we pulled into strip-mall somewhere in Iowa. Then I made a huge mistake, possibly the biggest screwup of my life. I offered her a tissue from the glove box to wipe some of the snot and tears from her face. That simple act of kindness must have touched a nerve because two minutes later we were “doing it” in the backseat of her Chevy Malibu.
Afterward, she looked into my eyes and said “Marion, I missed you.”
Our roles were suddenly reversed; fear welled up in me. I had heard those exact same words right before she suggested that we get married. What the fuck was I doing?
She must have felt confident, because, with a wink and smile, Sue offered to go buy some post-coital snacks from the 7-11. I sat in the car for a while. Another wave of panic crashed over me. This wasn’t going to happen; I wasn’t going to let her do this. Not again. Fuck me once, shame on you; fuck me twice, yeah, well, not this time.
The next few hours made little sense. I vaguely remember driving the car out of the parking lot and driving for several hundred miles before fully realizing I had just had sex with my ex-wife and left her in the parking lot of a strip mall.
By the time I came to my senses it was much too late to go back. It would just be easier to tell her bank robbers had abducted me. Either that or I would tell her it was payback for making me throw away the 427 pewter miniatures I had painstakingly painted with the world’s smallest paintbrush. To this day, I still get cramps in my hand when I squeeze the toothpaste bottle.
What a B!
Marion Cox will have a chance to continue to ignore his problems when Battlefield: Bad Company 2 comes out in March.