Now I would love to tell you that, the stress of the wedding behind us, the last eight days before NowEx had to return to Mexico went well. But while they were generally better than the previous two-and-a-half weeks, there were some major zingers. One in particular was so unspeakable that I’m only revealing it now that the divorce is finalized, and quite frankly it negates my previous sentence that the last eight days were better!
Our wedding night wasn’t consummated; he had had too much wine at the wedding. But that’s not the unspeakable zinger. No, it’s that, at one point as we were back home and in bed, he muttered with a great sigh and with what sounded like infinite regret, “I hope we didn’t make a terrible mistake.”
I found out the next day that he’d been bothered by my smoking in bed as he slept unrestfully in drunkness while I, still too excited to sleep, watched TV. But instead of saying just that — “Please don’t smoke in bed, it bothers my sinuses” — he made that most unimaginably vile statement. And in a fit of total denial and just as dysfunctionally, rationalizing that it must be either the booze or indisgestion talking, I replied after a good two or three minutes of stunned silence, “Well I know that *I* didn’t make a mistake!” Then I got up, went to my computer, and wrote what now stands, at least for me and probably for you as well from now on, as my most surreal posting ever at aMMusing.
Anybody else in his right mind — anybody else but me — would have called the Justice of the Peace first thing the following Monday and asked him to rip up all the paperwork and pretend that nothing had happened in the home of the Queen of Sheba on the night of February 22, 2008.
Except I didn’t call the JP the following Monday. The thought didn’t even cross my mind. In fact, I only thought of it as I was writing this long, long set of blog entries, more than four years after the fact and less than one week after receiving the papers signaling that the divorce is finalized. Even though only five hours had passed between exchanging our vows and his reprehensible comment, I figured it was too late. Indeed, the knot had been tied, I thought, and it’s too late now to untie it.
Instead, for the next 18 months, I chose to walk on eggshells.
As I mentioned earlier, I had decided to move to Montréal about two months before meeting NowEx, and today as I think back to my first 18 months in this city, I remember feeling as though my head was in some kind of fog. Sadly, it wasn’t because I was overwhelmed with joy for finally bringing to fruition what I’d started dreaming of doing nearly a decade earlier.
Certainly I recall how frustrated I was by how long it took for me to get Internet service at home (until I gave up on Bell and went with Vidéotron and got connected within 12 hours of calling). However, although I was annoyed to have to go work for nearly two weeks in an office that was little more than a glorified broom closet at the nearest branch, I was more significantly scared — yes, scared — of NowEx’s mounting frustration over not being able to easily call via Skype.
“Scared” is a key word here. I haven’t the writing skills to convey to you the intensity of NowEx’s moods, let alone how it felt to be on the receiving end. What I can say is that I felt like I was in a low-grade but constant state of negotiation to avoid his temper which could be stirred at the slightest “provocation,” such as when the tiniest thing didn’t go exactly according to his wish or when something was said that provoked offense in some way — hence the feeling of my head being in some kind of fog.
I had to be sure to be available whenever he wanted me to be, but go with the flow if he wasn’t in the mood or had better things to do, like some “fabulous” night on the town at Living where he felt certain he could score some cheap drugs from someone. In those times I’d be here, sick with worry that he’d go too far and OD on what he’d be told is E but might be rat poison, not to mention the far from reassuring climate provided by the mounting death toll resulting from Calderón’s war on drugs. However, I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) dare express such concerns as bluntly, for I feared he would accuse me of a sin far worse than not trusting his judgement: it would be the sin of making him feel as though he were forced to ask for permission to do whatever he pleased. And huh, by the way: Damned be my job at every opportunity if ever it encroached on “our” time!
Damn Skype! Did you know that I can barely bring myself to turn it on today? Back then I even had SkypeOut — still do, in fact — that allows its users to call regular landlines from a computer, and a Mexico City VoIP number — I’ve long lost that albatross — so that NowEx could just pick up his regular phone to call me.
He really called the shots as far as when to call and how often. Come to think of it, he always did, even when we were courting! Back then he could go nearly a week without calling me but suddenly he would, out of the blue when HE felt like it. On the other hand, there was never any point in my trying to call him because he’d never be connected when I’d look.
To my shame, I would get all excited upon hearing this ringtone. Today, however, whenever I hear it, I get a knot in my stomach and feel my neck stiffening. That’s not a word of a lie.
After my proposal and our marriage, if I managed to call him but he didn’t feel like it, he’d have no qualm in cutting the call short, whereas I had to be totally present whenever he’d call. What’s more, if I was already on the phone with someone else, he’d get terribly impatient and would text incessantly — even once when a call to my own mother was taking longer than expected. I mean really! We’d talk once or twice a day since I’d proposed to him, whereas I would speak with my mom maybe once every week or two!
By March 2009, however, after I’d come back from ten days in Mexico, I semi-revolted. The Skype ringtone had started to have the effect it has on me today, so I didn’t always answer his calls even though I was home. Or I would go out just before I thought he might be calling, except I felt guilty (or scared?) the whole time I was out on such naughty excursions of avoidance. But I was never capable of a full-out revolt — not against anybody and certainly not against him. That was just not “nice,” and we all know by now why I’m patently incapable of doing things that aren’t nice.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I went twice to Mexico after moving to Montréal: once in July 2008 and once to celebrate our first anniversary in Puerto Vallerta in late February 2009. We’d skipped Christmas, as I’d argued our anniversary would be a more significant occasion and we/I couldn’t afford both. Much later I found out he’d resented that decision, much like a child wanting all the candy in the store, even though this papi truly didn’t have the means to buy out the whole store.
While not perfect, the July 2008 trip was probably the best of all my trips to Mexico. I ignored the numerous moments of tension because, I would say to myself, no marriage is perfect and it’s not all doves flying above us as we wake in a bed of flowers in the soft early-morning sunshine. In truth, though, the effect of all this ignoring is that every little blow was adding another scar — on my memory, on my soul — scars that would never heal. But I had simply come to make myself believe (accept?) that this was marriage, and that’s what I’d signed up for.
Plus, after seeing him viciously argue with his own mother in a taxi cab over directions to give the driver to get to the restaurant where we were going, I thought to myself, albeit with great discomfort, “At least he’s like that with everybody, not just me…”
By the Vallerta trip in late-February ’09, I had completed four levels of Spanish at the YMCA. I still couldn’t carry a full, prolonged conversation, and if someone spoke too fast or with too much Mexican slang, it all sounded like percutive “také pota ka” to me.
If I really concentrated, I could often follow what was being said on TV. But sustaining that level of concentration was exhausting. And it’d be almost impossible with NowEx, not just because I was stressed out for wanting to please him, but because of his temper I mentioned earlier that would flare up when I’d get it wrong or just plain didn’t get it. A patient teacher he wasn’t.
Interestingly, I had less trouble understanding a friend who had travelled with us to Vallerta — damn it, I can see his face clearly but can’t for the life of me remember his name right now, so even if it’s rude, I’ll just refer to him as WhatsHisName. NowEx had told me that he wasn’t university-educated like his other friends and that he supposedly had an odd accent because he was originally from Veracruz. That initially had me worried about how it would be like travelling with him. However, despite (or because of?) the fact he knew perhaps fewer than 12 words in English, he was better than NowEx at speaking slowly and enunciating clearly.
I remember one morning when NowEx let him into our room while I was still in bed. Passing by me as he headed to our balcony, broad smile on his face, he gestured to me not to get up and said, “Estás de vacaciones!” and I immediately understood: “Don’t get up. You’re on vacation!” Another night, he and I were sitting on the rooftop terrace of our hotel and we managed to stretch out a conversation. Granted, I frequently found myself saying, “¿Cómo se dice…?” but he quite often managed to help me find the words I either didn’t know or couldn’t remember.
On the other hand, with NowEx, that trip to Vallarta turned into a progressively worsening nightmare for me. Because I still had trouble sustaining a conversation in Spanish, he mistook that inability on my part as meaning that I was also unable to understand much of any Spanish. So, he began playing this macho schtick with his friends — I suspect those of you who met him are giggling at the juxtaposition of “macho” with “NowEx” — about his slow (and possibly dim-witted) husband. Clearly he didn’t understand that I’d indeed have to be pretty dim-witted not to understand from his gesturing alone, but worse, he didn’t understand that I was then able to string enough Spanish words in my head to understand easily half if not three-quarters of what he was saying. In fact, his not understanding this fact about me turned out to be one of the biggest nails in the coffin of our demise a few months later.
But my Vallarta nightmare reached its climax on our last night in town, at a restaurant where we’d gone already earlier in the week. The food was excellent but the noise inside that place was deafening, and the only table where we could be seated was small and cornered off. (Decryption: things weren’t going NowEx’s way.) Still, once we were seated, NowEx insisted on pointing at utensils and condiments on the table to prompt me to name them. When I couldn’t recall salsa pica despite him having told me a dozen times before, I made a gesture of my hand going upwards over my head to signify, “It’s all going over my head” (and to imply that I was too tired after a long day in the sun to remember anything at this point). Unfortunately — yes, very unfortunately for me — he interpreted my gesture as meaning something else.
He sulked and said nothing to me for the remainder of the meal, which unfortunately had just started, and barely spoke to our travelling companion. When we left the restaurant, paying as always with my money because he never had any, he started walking half a block ahead of me and WhatsHisName and headed not to the nightclub where we were supposed to go after dinner but directly back to our hotel. Our buddy had no idea what the heck was going on, and all I knew is that I had apparently committed such a heinous crime that I would have hell to pay as soon as we got back to our hotel room.
“Don’t even speak to me,” he said as he barged into our room and I followed behind him. “I’m so angry right now, I can’t stand being stuck in this room with you right now. I don’t want to sleep in the same bed as you. I don’t think I even want to be married to you anymore.”
What do you say to that? Fall to your knees in front of him, beg for forgiveness for a crime whose nature still eludes you, and give the best blow job ever to emphasize the sincerity of your apology? I would think not! At the same time I had a moment of panic, thinking about whether or not I would know how to get to the Vallerta airport on my own, beeline to Toluca from where we’d flown, find a bus to Benito Juarez airport, and pay whatever I would have to pay to take the next plane back to Montréal. Then, just as I vaguely remembered that I had managed to get through Mexican customs on my own and entirely in Spanish just a few days back — Mexican custom officials are clearly more patient than NowEx — he started talking again and finally telling me how he’d interpreted my hand gesture, which came as a total surprise to me.
Damn! Had I really accidentally tripped up on the hand gesture that means “Go fuck yourself” in Mexico? But I soon discovered that, no, it was HIS interpretation of my gesture — proof in his mind that I wasn’t really serious about learning Spanish and being able to go about on my own in Mexico.
A bunch of other stuff was said, but after more ranting on his part than I ever care to remember, things simply turned downright silly. I suggested that he cool off by going to the club where we were supposed to go while I would stay in the room to pack, but that earned me a curt “I don’t need your permission to do anything!” He then ordered that we stop talking, to which I said, “Fine! Then let’s stay here and pack so we’ll be ready first thing in the morning.”
After about 15 minutes of saying absolutely nothing and packing, he looked over to me from where he was standing at the other side of the room and asked, “What? Is it going to be like this for the rest of the trip?”
I dropped my arms to my sides with a shirt in one hand, looked at him with what could only have been shock and incomprehension in my face, and said, “But you just said that you don’t want us to talk anymore!”
“Oh, well,” he said, pausing a little. “Now I want to talk.” The look on his face couldn’t have been more pathetic.
Trust me, dear readers, when I tell you that, thus far, I’ve merely selected some of the worst incidents. If with this last account I haven’t yet managed to get you thinking that NowEx is certifiable, then I doubt there’s anything I can tell you that will lead your thinking in that direction. However, I trust you understand better now why I started my Skype semi-revolt once I got back to Montréal in March ’09.
By this point you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Maurice, I didn’t realize you’re such a spinless asshole.” Trust me, however, when I tell you that the thought did cross my mind and I was never so happy to get back home after a vacation. In fact, after this trip came the first time I seriously started saying to myself — and believing it — “Face it, this is never going to work out. It’s only getting worse, not better.”
It’s also at that time that I started to doubt that he was serious about immigrating to Canada because, you see, I thought I was beginning to detect a pattern in his outbursts, albeit an erratic one. Quite simply, when he would level an accusation at me, he was often projecting back his failings at me. It was quite unreasonable on his part to accuse me, who had completed four levels of Spanish in six months at the Y on top of keeping up with a demanding job, of not being serious about learning Spanish and trying to do as the Mexicans while in Mexico. So, that had me thinking that in fact HE wasn’t really looking forward to coming to Canada and was harbouring the hope that it wouldn’t be too long before I’d emigrate to Mexico — hence his impatience with the pace at which I was learning Spanish.
The facts were pretty simple to grasp, though. I had the well-paying job and I had to keep it to sustain us. Already in 18 months, I had paid for four return Canada/Mexico trips (three for me and one for him), not to mention part of his return trip in September 2007 (less than a month after we met) when he’d fucked up his ticket change and the airline expected him to fly out of Toronto instead of Montréal. What’s more, I was preparing to pay for his June trip to Canada which we deliberately booked for much less than six months so not to arouse suspicions at Canadian Customs but with intentions of changing his return date to December once he’d made it safely into Canada. Also during that time, I had paid all the trips for both of us within Mexico.
I’m not — and I wasn’t — complaining about the money I was spending, for I was spending it willingly. Rather, it was simply a fact that my turn to emigrate to Mexico, which I was perfectly opened to, had to wait until I could speak Spanish fluently enough to land a job capable of sustaining the international jet-setting nature of our relationship. But even my mother confided to me that she had an uneasy feeling that NowEx wanted my emigration to Mexico to occur much sooner than later. I assured her that practical logic would prevail, and in my mind I knew it had to because I knew NowEx would be terribly unhappy if we were forced to live as church mice.
So coming back to his immigrating to Canada: in order to put our best foot forward in the immigration process despite falling into the “Family Class” since we were legally married, NowEx had to finish his undergraduate degree. He only had his honours thesis to complete, but not only did he seem stalled and inert about it, he also forbade me to ever bring up the topic. Yet I knew that if he didn’t want to get stuck working in a factory packing bras or in a call centre once he got his PR papers, he had to complete that damn degree and not lie about having one. I mean, I’ve heard of Ph.D ABD (all but dissertation), but who’s ever heard of a BA ABHT (all but honours thesis)? Might as well just say “high school” under “Highest Grade Completed” and accept the bra-packing job among those illegal workers.
I realize now that his bullshit about the degree, coupled with the sense of impending marriage failure that the Vallarta fiasco raised, prompted not only my Skype semi-revolt but also my own form of inertia, specifically about starting the application process for his PR status. By this point, I had figured out he couldn’t even organize a wet dream as I had to tell him how to use our joint credit card — which I of course cancelled about three weeks after he left Trudeau in August ’09 — to reserve tickets with a regional airline within Mexico. Therefore, Dog help us when the time would come to submit our application for his PR status through the Canadian embassy in Mexico City!
Little did I know that more evidence of his lack of basic organizational skills was yet to come…
* * * * * * * * * * *
The H1N1 epidemic hit a few weeks after Vallerta, and it hit Mexico City particularly hard — or so we think, for the health officials in Mexico sent out mixed signals by, on the one hand, denying that most of the deaths were H1N1-related while, on the other hand, shutting down the City for more than a week and urging people to wear masks if they went out. I monitored the rapidly evolving situation as best I could, thinking about the feasibility of getting NowEx’s ass on the next plane to Montréal, many weeks before we’d initially planned. But the shutdown of the city soon made it obvious to me that no Mexican would be allowed to fly into Canada. I know — he confirmed it later — that, during one of our Skype conversations, NowEx wanted me to be his knight in shining armour who would rescue him from his virus-infested city, but I also knew that it would never be allowed to happen. Frustrated, dejected and crying, he hung up on me.
Instead, we eventually settled on a plan whereby I would ship masks and supplies to prevent contagion. I even managed to raise money at work, pledging to match all donations dollar for dollar. Thus I raised more than $500, but feared that shipping would probably swallow nearly half of that amount. (It did.) Twice I drove to a warehouse somewhere in the semi-industrial east end of Montréal — the second time for nothing — to obtain the loot and have it shipped. And it wasn’t just any loot: it was the best money could buy and the only believed capable of fending off the minuscule virus.
Mexico had lifted duties on emergency medical supplies but, Mexican bureaucracy being what it is and NowEx’s utter uselessness at dealing with anything remotely official also being what it is, he received the supplies just as the crisis was ebbing. I was furious with myself: NowEx had (again) told me to jump and I had asked him how high. For indeed, even as I was executing the plan, I had the feeling that I had plied to his histrionics. And to add insult to injury, he claimed that the filters for the mask I shipped especially for him either hadn’t been shipped by the warehouse or had been lifted by Mexican customs, and he urged me to go back to the warehouse to figure out if it was the former.
Of course, they had definitely shipped everything. A few days later, Oops! NowEx found them. In a classic case of not recognizing something even if it bit him in the ass, he hadn’t known that these things were the infamous filters.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The more I’m writing, the more I’m thinking, “Fuck that yet-to-be-invented ‘Sucker for Punishment’ award.” If NowEx could be histrionic all he wanted, I can indulge in a bit of it as well.
I will settle for nothing less than being the first canonized heathen.
The time had come to book NowEx’s ticket for Canada.
He’d asked me if I could book it via Toronto so that he could replicate his 2007 trip here, arriving in the Big Smoke in time for Pride. That got me thinking: the easiest would be for me to meet him in Toronto so that we could drive back together to Montréal, and I’d get a trip/mini-vacation out of it, too. While clearly stating my conflict of interest, I also asked work if I could be brought to Toronto for a few days to work on some ongoing projects.
My supervisor at the time did look into it and asked her superior, but the answer came back as No. I found out a few months later that they already suspected at that time that I would be nominated for an award in the fall and they wanted me to be there for that instead. However, when NowEx learned of work’s decision, he started bad-mouthing my job for exploiting me with so much overtime and not giving me anything back in return (which of course wasn’t true as I got a lot of extra vacation days for that overtime, but never mind), not to mention that my supervisor’s name become Mud to him. So, to cut a long story short, I went to Toronto for Pride weekend entirely on my dime, and booked transportation from the airport and the hotel room for NowEx who was arriving a day before me.
* * * * * * * * * * *
If Vallarta was the trip that started me thinking that our marriage was doomed, then Toronto was the trip that got me really worried. Indeed, it’s only in Toronto that I realized that there was something dreadfully wrong with NowEx — something far more serious than just moodiness. Unfortunately, it took me two months of constant exposure to it to finally grow a full pair and ship him back with a little note pinned to his shirt: “Dear Mexico: Please take him back. He’s defective. And don’t bother sending me another one. I’m pretty sure they’re all variations on the same theme. Thank you.” (Of course I didn’t pin that note on him, but what fun if I had!)
Let me try to simply pare down to my observations.
Another One Bites the Dust
I’d arranged for Brian to meet NowEx in Mexico City in ’08 while the former attended the biannual Conference on HIV/AIDS. Since NowEx and I would be in TO for Pride, NowEx contacted Brian from Mexico to suggest we meet up when we’d be there. However, that year, Brian had decided for his own reasons to stay away from Pride events and said so to NowEx. “He’s being all humbug about Pride,” NowEx reported back to me. “Fuck him! I don’t want anything to do with him ever again! He’s a fuck up anyway…” (alluding to Brian’s colourful past with drugs and even a stint as a minor porn star).
Sorry, Brian, that was him speaking, not me. Then again, you’ve always been an opened book about your life and you’d long before beat NowEx to the punch by self-deprecatingly referring to stuff you’ve done as messed up. But for what it’s worth, I understood perfectly well and respected why you weren’t up to Pride that year. I didn’t encourage NowEx in his diatribe; I just changed the subject because I was recognizing a pattern by then: you were something like the 6th person I’d witnessed him unilaterally and categorically cutting off like that, plus I knew that, deep down, you didn’t really give a shit about him …at least not enough to get all broken up about it!
Don’t Rain on His Parade
For the first time in history, it looked like it would rain on Toronto’s Pride parade. That’s a bummer for sure, but what the fuck, huh? Well, not so. NowEx was in an unspeakably bad mood and took out the bad weather on ME as we forced our way through the crowds to find ourselves an umbrella. Turns out we hardly used the umbrella because the sun came out, as if by traditional rite, when the parade started down Yonge Street. But somehow, all along, the rain had been my fault.
The Exploiter Strikes Again (So He Thinks)
It was getting close to 11:00 on the Monday morning and NowEx was resisting getting up despite our plans to go to Niagara Falls that day. Suddenly my cell phone rang: it was my supervisor at work. “I know you’re on vacation and I hate to ask you,” she said, “but could you swing by the office for a few minutes to sign the final version of those papers you need to sign?” Even though I knew this request would upset NowEx, I knew I could go there and back in about an hour-an-a-half, time he could use to get ready for our day trip.
He was half awake when I emerged from the shower, so I told him where I was going and when I’d be back. He was beyond furious, and Mud’s name had turned simply to That Bitch. “I just KNEW you’d fuckin’ react this way,” I retorted in unusual-to-me anger. “That’s why I’d hope to just get out of here and come back before you’d notice. But I’m going, and I’ll be back, and it’ll make no difference.” And I left, raging inside until I reached the nearby College subway station.
Months later, she he called Mud/That Bitch told me she knew something had been up that day. “You couldn’t get out of the office fast enough,” she recalled. “But more than that, you just seemed so tense…”
How Dare You?
So we went to Niagara Falls as planned later that day. I thought I saw a place that offered a reasonably priced menu but we passed it and instead found a Pizza Hut closer to the waterfront. I quite literally gasped when I was at the cash register to pay: “Holy crap! Over 30 bucks for a bit of pizza and pop for two?!”
That sent NowEx in a fury! How could I make a comment like that in front of other people? He who had claimed to be starving just minutes before hardly ate any of his pizza. He claimed my tactless comment had ruined his appetite.
Houston! Houston! We’ve Got a Problem…
The next morning we left Toronto for Montréal, and I will never be able to get rid of this image from my mind because it represents THE moment when I realized we were in deep, deep trouble. NowEx was hyper-excited about heading to Montréal and was literally bopping, yelling and singing in his seat as I was cautiously navigating us out of Toronto through the unfamiliar (to me) network of highways. I’d seen that frenzy before, but not while confined in a car, so it felt particularly intense. Plus, I was worried because I’d observed that the intensity of the crash after such frenzy was directly proportional to the intensity of the frenzy.
I still didn’t have the right name for it at that time, but that was THE moment I realized in my marrow that I’d married someone with more than anger management issues. I had married someone with full-blown BPD: Borderline Personality Disorder.
How the hell was I going to broach that one with him and, moreover, get him the help he needed?