Rather than give you a bullet point list of Grip's crimes, I will tell the story of the time I saw Grip. (Well the last time I saw him before he started stalking me. But I don't want to confuse you. This is the last time I "saw" him).
Grip had told me on our first date that his first marriage had not worked out because they were "too young" and that she had left him for an older man who could "better provide for her." I found this discomfiting but I made no comment. Several weeks later, Grip and I were in his living room on a Thursday afternoon. I was reading Burney's The Wanderer and I came across the word "delusory." Grip was on the other side of the room, reading The Times.
"Grip," I said, "Delusory. What does the word delusory word mean to you?"
"You are getting a PhD in English, and you don't know what delusory means?" he replied.
"Of course I know. I just wondered what you thought it might mean." I handed him the book. He read the sentence I had marked.
"It means delusional," he said. He handed the book back to me.
I read for a bit longer. Grip had put down his newspaper and was staring out the window.
"Why didn't you go to work today?" I asked.
"I wanted to spend the afternoon with you," he said.
"Ah," I said.
To this day I don't know why I said this. This would be the part of the meltdown that is my fault.
"Why did you leave your wife?" I said.
I expected him to be angry, but he simply sighed and stared at the floor. Then he turned and told me this little gem of a story.
"About two years after our wedding, a buddy of mine invited me to go to conference about thinking positive and building confidence. It was a three day thing and I really just went to support my friend because he was having a hard time. Well the whole seminar was about positive thinking and believing in yourself and making decisions based on who you want to be and it totally changed my life. I realized within half a day that I had married Meg because I had been too scared to try to get someone better. I realized I had married her based on an idea of myself that I didn't want to live anymore. Once I knew I could do better than Meg, there was no way I could live with her anymore. I moved out as soon as I got back."
I, speechless, considered a moment before answering.
"Did she love you?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. Then he whipped around in his chair and gave me the anger I had been expecting ten lines ago.
"It's like you," he said, crossing his arms over his chest. "You with your reserve and your quietness and your ridiculous ideas."
"Me?" I said. I had no idea that the end of his marriage had been about me. I couldn't wait to hear more.
"Yeah, you. You live this tiny little life with, as far as I can see, nothing in it. You like me, so don't try to pretend you don't. There are at least ten ways of preventing pregnancy, and yet your refuse to have sex with me and don't even give me a reason." Then he threw his hands up in the air and stomped off the to kitchen. I could hear him making espresso. My heart was beating so fast I thought it might pop right out of my chest, grow legs, scurry into the kitchen and kick him square in the ass.
Perhaps I should have mentioned before: I was not sleeping with Grip, nor anything near it. I didn't want to. It was too early and I was unsure of him in at least nine different ways. Plus I didn't want to and there is also a rule, among people raised in plaid skirts and knee socks, about not doing it. (But I won't pretend that rule was driving my behavior. The not wanting to was far more operative).
So I read a few sentences and waited. He returned. He handed me a tiny cup of coffee. I wriggled back into my shoes and waited for it to get worse, which it did.
"It's like, you know," he sat again at the window. "It's like we are different on some cultural level or something. There's no reason for us not to have sex and you act like there is no reason for us TO have sex. Ridiculous."
"There isn't," I said. I put my book back in my bag and moved to the other end of the couch.
"Great!" he said. "That's just great! Next I bet you'll try to tell me it's some kind of thing about morals or something. Jesus!"
This is the point at which I started laughing, but it was nervous laughing, the sort that also makes a person cry and also, regretably, makes a person's hands shake uncontrollably. Very inconvenient if one is trying to shrug into one's coat and flee the apartment of a madman.
Grip stared at me, astonished.
"Are you," he gasped, "crying?"
"Whatever it is, I am doing it," I stammered. By then I was on my feet and half way to the door. He came after me.
"Baby, what did I say?"
This is the part where he put his arms around me and was backing me up against the wall and was looking at me with almost believable compassion. Next was the part where I tried to wriggle free. But no luck! He grabbed my face with his hand and started kissing me. To his credit, he let go of me when I said "stop."
I left without another word.
Grip, poor fellow, has been calling me off and on for five years. The messages have ranged from abject begging to pathetic, tearful, mega-abject grovelling. A maximum of three a year, a minimum of one.
Here is the one I got in December:
Hi Nina, this is Grip Spitzer. I know it's really strange that I am calling you, but I just woke up and I just had the strangest really strong feeling that should call you. Um, well, there is more to it than that, but I think there is something that we really seriously missed out on, um and, so, I guess what I am asking, if you are still single would you please, please have a cup of coffee with me? Because, um, I think that I was really really really not ready, and not who I am now in terms of what I want out of life when I met you, and um, I should have grabbed onto you and held on to you with all my might when I had the chance. So, um, if you could, give me a call, ---,---,----. Hope you are doing well. Bye.
Do you think he means, perhaps, that he is now ready in terms of you know, doing better than the wife he abandonned? Might I be the lucky woman he considers up to his standard? Or does he perhaps mean that he is not who he was in terms of, you know, being prepared not to bully a woman into flinging her underwear on a lampshade just because he wants her to? What do you think he might be ready for? Who might he be now?
What do you say we never find out?
Happy Thursday, and thank you for reading.