Monday, April 28, 2008

The Three C's

On Sunday I went to a riverfront festival. On the way home I tried mightily to think of something uplifting--it was raining, dingy, and the traffic was intense and impolite. I recalled an old guy--long since dead--whose passing fame came from two statements he liked to repeat whenever he had an audience. One, he would cackle, "There are only two things you need to be alone to do--drink and masturbate." And two, "When dealing with f*cked up people, remember the three Cs. Cause. Control. Cure. You did not Cause whatever is ailing the other person. You cannot Control it. You cannot Cure it."

This is really good stuff to know, particularly when dealing with your depressive/manic/angry/ alcoholic/resentful/inept mother/father/sibling/significant other/spouse/child/boss.

It took me a long time to see that if statement one is somewhat dubious, statement two is painfully true. We spend months and years trying to mold others to our wishes; we categorize their shortcomings and think that our endless love, effort, persistence, kindness and patience will somehow make them better, closer to our ideals. We overlook the fact that they come into our lives toting a wagonful of pre-existing conditions we had no hand in creating. But we will make their issues ours to fix, to patch, to bandage. And when we fail, when the objects of our intentions decide that they like the way they are, when they rightly resent our interference and toss us out for being manipulative, then our hearts break.

Here's installment 16 of Wasted Miracles.

Josie found out about it the next day by walking into a hive of cops.
She’d gotten up early, flagged a cab on Lee Highway and dumped another purseful of money to get back to Herbie’s apartment. This time the cabby seemed to know where he was going, zipped down 66, across Roosevelt Bridge and onto Rock Creek Parkway. They drove up 18th Street, passing all the Ethiopian places and past where Clint Eastwood’s apartment was supposed to be in the movie where he played a Secret Service man. The street was grungy from the night before, there were a lot of homeless people sleeping in doorways and the trash from all the restaurants hadn’t yet been collected. Josie wondered how people could like living there, all the crime and the dirt and the noise.
She was going to surprise Herbie, give him a piece of her mind. Sleep had done little to dissipate her anger; if anything, her rage had turned cold and brittle. She almost hoped Herbie’d been with a woman, almost hoped she’d find some skanky fish with him at the apartment, then she could really cut loose because the truth of the matter was she was getting a bit tired of Herbie. He’d been fun at the start, they seemed to have a lot in common, talked late into the night the first few times together and the fact that he hadn’t tried anything right away had impressed her.
But the thing was, Herbie was fast becoming a bore. She’d wanted to believe his wild tales about their going away together, just the two of them loaded with the cash he swore he’d have soon, be patient. She’d really wanted to believe. But she didn’t, not really. It made for nice daydreams, but increasingly the idea of going anywhere with Herbie, even with a lot of cash, lacked a feel of substance. He was kind of pudgy, he made noises when he slept, wasn’t all that tidy or--and this she hated--clean. He only washed his hair every three days and by then it had a musty smell. When he made love to her with him on top and her nose was stuck in his scalp, it killed anything she felt below. And anyway, he wasn’t that hot in bed, though of course she didn’t tell him, instead pretended he was the greatest.

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