Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pretend Husband Number Three: The Big Mack

Mack is the cornerstone of all my fake husbands, the one who leads me through the valleys of both Sex and Death, all the time saying that though he does love me, he can’t let himself be in love with me, because love is too dangerous for a person whose first daily goal is to stay clean and sober. 

Some people think of sixty as the new forty, but I think of sixty as one minute away from age ninety-nine, which my father would be today if he weren’t dead instead. Mack is the husband who keeps  my dad’s ashes, as well as the one titanium screw that survived the cremation I can’t even think about.

Indeed, Mack’s the fake husband that makes me so require the others. But the others cannot make up for his absence, nor, evidently, can making a short heinous mess of the classic poem by Andrew Marvell:

         To her Coy Cowboy 

Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, cowboy, were no crime.

We would sit down and think which way

To walk, and pass our long love’s day;

But at my back I always hear

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;

And your quaint sobriety turn to dust

And into ashes all my lust.

The grave’s a fine and private place.

But none I think do there embrace. 

None I think do there embrace!  
Oh.  My.  God.  Was a line ever truer?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pretend Husband Number Two: The Feisty Hank Fitz

The best thing about having four Pretend Husbands is, you only have to argue with one. Or you can argue with all four if you like, but since that would be way too exhausting, I do all my arguing with P.H.
#1: the straight and happily married Ed Head. Once all that combat is out of my system, I’m more than ready to see the one husband with whom I have not one disagreement: the gay and crankily single Hank Fitz.

There’s a reason we see the world the same way; it’s called being raised Catholic and going insane. While I was raised Catholic in a psychotic vacuum (my parents were atheists), Hank was an actual altar
boy whose aged parents still go to Mass. If you think Catholicism is something you can ever get over, one glance at the crucifix collection nailed to Hank’s living room wall might convince you otherwise. I’d probably collect them myself except that even stained glass can get me to barf. Whatever the external manifestations, our brains sustain the same Catholic damage: black and white thinking, the need to obsess, and the even needier need to punish the trespassers who dare to trespass, even once, against us.

The Catholic system of punishment might be complex (Limbo, Purgatory, Costco, etcetera), but it’s nothing compared to Hank Fitz’s. Take Otto, the man who lives in the apartment next door who, despite all the times Hank’s begged him for mercy, still turns on every noisy appliance nightly at ten just as Hank is going to bed. And it’s not as if his dishwasher needs to go on at that time or any other, because Otto never cooks or has visitors and orders his dinner in every night. A dinner which, like Holy Communion, he used to receive but now, thanks to Hank, mostly does not.

It’s not Hank’s intercepting the delivery guy in the lobby so he can claim and pay for Otto’s pizza himself that I find so exquisite. It’s that, after shelling out $25 for Otto’s large pepperoni, he takes it across the street and gives it to Bob, who lives in a bush because he is homeless.

“Last night Bob enjoyed Chicken Masala,” Hank Fitz will tell me when he picks me up for one of our Pretend Husband dates. Chicken Masala, Shrimp Chow Fun---whatever the entrĂ©e happens to be, hearing about it makes me laugh so hard I almost always start screaming.

The cherry on this Byzantine cake, of course, is how Otto tells Hank when they meet in the hallway that his deliveries are getting screwed up. And then Hank sighs sympathetically and says he has the same problem.

“That’s sick,” says Ed Head when I tell him the story.

“No,” I say. “That is High Art.”

Which naturally leads to one of our continuing arguments, the one where I tell him that volunteering in a soup kitchen means nothing if you drive to Napa the very same day to gorge your senses at The French Laundry. Which he and Mrs. Head actually did once, without feeling one scintilla of shame.

“That’s sick,” says Hank Fitz when I tell him about the hedonist Heads.

And our total agreement makes me ecstatic.