Saved by Zero Chapter 2, Part 2
I’m not going to say watching naked nymphs prancing about the dressing rooms and even those drug hole apartments, submitting themselves to whatever Attila’s Sword demanded of them, didn’t turn me on. Much of the time I was jealous watching my band plow into groupies right in front of me. I was always offered someone and I normally retreated somewhere quiet and dark to get rid of my angry boners since most backstage toilets offered as much privacy as a wooden piss trough. In my gym bag was two packs of tube socks that were violated and discarded by city seventeen, Baton Rouge. I kept only three pairs for practical wear and each were filthy and gashed by the time we got home. These days the term “bunk sock” makes any dude in a band roar knowingly.
It was only that one time in goddamn Amarillo where I slipped. Our lead singer, Chad Churko had ambushed me by pulling my jeans and underwear down in front of the Latina who’d showed up backstage with her mangy crotch on display. She latched onto me before I could protest. The guys cheered her on and slapped my bare butt like it was a rite of passage. When she was done, I nearly vomited after my orgasm. Then the rest of the band knocked me out of the way and savaged her like porn zombies while she screamed “Cojeme duro!” the entire time. I never hated people so much in my life as I did then.
Following a nasty duke-out on the side of the highway before our final stop in Sacramento, Attila’s Sword made the joint decision to break up. The fight had started with my calling the guys a bunch of bastards after taking a few days to stew over the Amarillo episode. It devolved over a successive argument regarding the five-way distribution of future royalties. Our record deal was a one shot and though we’d sold out our initial pressing of 1,500 copies, there was no projected contract afterwards. No projected anything, except for the flying fists.
Accordingly, we’d shanked the Sacramento gig as openers for Death Angel, bruised, cut and scratched to hell, our heads nowhere they needed to be. Screw the sophomore album; we’d bitten the big one.
After a dragging, antagonistic ride home, Attila’s Sword said goodbye to each other with middle fingers in the air. I hope that cursed van was sold or blown to iron shit. The other guys swore one another to secrecy for the muff they’d shagged since we all had girlfriends back in Baltimore. At least for them, it was a pact. Though it took me a number of guilt-ridden days, I’d told Donna and Vince everything. Vince was mesmerized by my travel stories. Donna nearly broke up with me on the spot.
Considering what I later learned about the two of them, I wish she had.
It took more than a week before Donna accepted my mistake with that gonzo puta, but I’d given her a trump card which she had the smarts and uncouth resolve to play on more than one occasion.
I exiled my silverburst-tinted Gibson 355 into the closet, along with my raw power. I surrendered my stringy brown locks to an ex-military barber who took noticeable delight in buzzing down my cranium to an army-proud one-eighth. I handed off my concert shirts to Baltimore headbangers who’d supported Attila’s Sword and I signed a final handful of autographs to moping fans.
Though our relationship was touch and go for the next few years, Donna readily accepted my proposal once I’d found the nerve to give it. I’d pulled the Gibson and my beat-up Gorilla amp out for an encore performance, the worst rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” that’ll ever be attempted by anyone. It was Donna’s favorite song and when I pulled the engagement ring out of my back pocket after a verse and a chorus, she tackled me to the floor and smothered me with kisses. I was naïve enough to think we’d put our troubles behind us, but like Karen Carpenter said in a more optimistic tone, we’d only just begun.
Amongst the early lowlights of our marriage, Donna had sideswiped a county government official’s sedan and torched our microwave by leaving aluminum foil around a plate of fish. That carryover stink is something best described as fricasseed hog poo which took more than a month to get rid of. We were living on the second floor in a stifling Victorian house with gas burners that made the place an inferno. We had millipedes skittering about our epochal ceramic bathtub, wolf spiders in the corners of the crackling alabaster and awful mold spores in the windowsills. I can still taste the earth-choked fugue of that place. We were eating Ramen noodles for dinner at least three times a week, canned ravioli twice, ham sandwiches a guaranteed lock on Thursday nights. It was a step up from my road dogging ala carte, at least. The tap water tasted like dung and we were dizzy from the quickly amounting debt that stuns new, young couples just learning how the world works.
Life never really got better between us and when it did, it felt life artifice. Donna once threatened to leave me after getting laid off from one of a succession of jobs, each as fruitless as my marriage. She’d even called me a loser after the third of my four layoffs and then she vanished to her mother’s for half the night before returning home. There’d been no apologies, merely an invitation to visit between her legs. Men are so pathetic and I was no better that night. Abuse me one hour, hump me hours later, it’s all good.
The sex had become as bogus as everything else in our lie of a life together, particularly when Donna made it her mission to get pregnant. My misconduct in Amarillo had given Donna all the ammunition she needed to whittle down my resistance against growing our family beyond two. Deep inside, I didn’t really want to be a father, but the command of remorse makes a man step far outside his comfort zone. Besides, I didn’t want to be like my chickenshit dad.
Not even a year after moving to Baldwin Hills, we were on the path towards bankruptcy due to Donna’s ceaseless pressing for fertility treatments. I can still see that self-chastising woman lying there on the bed with two pillows shoved under her tiny butt to elevate her channel. She would close her eyes and clasp her hands between her nubby breasts, praying in vain to the munificence of pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, I struggled to keep myself in the game through such an impassionate timed event. Difficult to stay steady when your wife whispers “Please, Chlomid, give me a child” over and over.
One supposedly glorious morning, Donna was feeling nauseous, as she’d put it, like her “intestines were being crotched.” She was overjoyed, believing I’d finally fertilized her. However, the sickness turned out to be Donna’s period again, a week ahead of schedule this time. She cried for twenty minutes straight and kicked the snot out of the Rubbermaid kitchen trash can which got replaced with a more durable steel can. Of course, she mauled that one another year in the middle of another rant.
The news of Donna’s infertility just about destroyed her. Her mother would’ve wept to hear her own daughter curse God, but my wife let Him have it out loud as she wrenched through every single menstruation cramp. Even I got to absorb some of the blame, just because. Me and God are pals in that regard.
After this exasperating and failed operation to get pregnant, Donna went out of our minds. We started double dating with Vince and his now ex-wife, Leeann. As a foursome, we’d toked a lot of weed and chugged a lot of tequila. After so many years on the edge, Donna and I both went crazy and we turned ourselves loose in the company of our compatriots. Our recurring inebriation led to adolescent events such as barbecuing on the Geletas’ deck during a blizzard to barking at reruns of The Rockford Files and Three’s Company to lapping up navel shots out of Leeann’s belly button.
After a major faux pas my wife committed during an ill-fated round of strip rummy that forever divided her from Leeann (in a stupor, Donna had suggested we all trade off for the night) the Geletas bailed out, cleaned up and later spit out three gorgeous children. We too swore off the substances and attempted to resume life in some sort of normal fashion. However, Leeann’s genetic proficiency became a point of contention despite the fact Leeann had severed the friendship first. I had to listen to Donna complain night after night how much it hurt Leeann and Vince could have children and not her. Hence, Donna’s spiked urgency to have a child was as much a twisted form of competition as her filling an empty void I alone could never provide.
Vince and I maintained our friendship, but sadly, he and Leeann split up less than a year after their third child was born. I could tell you the reason why now, but that would be getting ahead of myself. Did it have something to do with me killing my wife? Indirectly, you could say it did.
For Donna and I, in vitro was a no-go and if our marriage hadn’t been strained enough, it was heading further into despair. No price was too steep to bring a child into her life, never mind the fertility specialist who’d filed a judgment against us for non-payment.
Worse, instead of helping me plow out of our mess, Donna suggested we break up and cut our losses. She blamed me for not making enough money at my job as a processor at Stone Creek Title. She blamed me for not taking the fertility exercises serious enough. She blamed me for Amarillo. She accused me of harboring a secret crush on Leeann. She even went so far as to tell me I should go empty my seed inside her former best friend, since it was apparent Leeann could “produce children at will.” Of course, all of this was part of Donna’s flagrant head games since minutes later she vowed we were going to adopt.
Infuriated, I told Donna to go to hell. Less than a year later, a six-month-old baby girl was brought to us from a laced-out couple whose marriage was even more of a wreck than ours. Can you fathom the irony, the pass-on to such fucked-up foster parents?
Dumbfounded by the events in my sorry excuse for a marriage and sudden duty towards another person’s child, I stewed in the basement, sometimes while Caitlin cried half the night in her crib, other times with her buzzing sweetly in my arms. I had time to think of all that had happened to me in my life, how I’d married into a bad position and how I needed to separate myself from the regret of my past mistakes and my growing detestation of my spouse.
It was then I turned to writing.
Because of my short time in a heavy metal band and because I’d posted a descriptive opinion of Can’s Tago Mago at an online chat board moderated by, as it turned out, Marc Trapp, I turned into a music journalist almost overnight. As Caitlin entered her toddler years, I found myself in my office writing about albums instead of watching her struggle to walk then accomplishing said milestone with appreciable joy. Donna took pictures with relentless adulation and she fawned over Caitlin in a way I couldn’t avoid feeling pissed over. The belittling, the disparaging, the nerve-wracking threats of divorce, Donna had withheld her deepest affections from me and sieved them unconditionally unto our child.
Granted, I too grew to love Caitlin even before talks of adoption ever came, but I fell so deep into writing about music I ended up ostracizing myself from Donna and later, Caitlin. I know part of it was continuous anger in a marriage I felt trapped in and some of it was trepidation at being a father, but really, the more success I found, the more my writing engulfed me.
I began fielding musician interviews, reviewing albums and photographing live concerts, grabbing all the assignments I could handle—as if I had the freedom to do so. Freelancing pay was the only reason Donna tolerated it. Plus, by the time Caitlin became our daughter, Donna couldn’t get enough of her. She took a job as a customer service rep in a tool and die company, but I knew every hour separated from Cait at the time was pure agony for Donna.
I took advantage of Donna’s concentrated nesting. Between working a full-time job with unpredictable hours and my journalism life I took deadly serious, I was seldom home. She and I continued to scrum and she put me down every single time we got into it. More times than I needed to hear it, that bitch reminded me over and over how lucky I was she’d taken me back after I’d cheated on her. Do keep this in mind as my story progresses.
My writing life allowed me to escape this monotonous beat down and I embraced it. Moreover, I went for it. Attila’s Sword had tanked, but Randy “Old School” Schofield had begun to thrive. As much as Donna was fixated over having a child to love, I grew likewise immersed in having a life within the music business once again. My insistence on playing a young man’s game throughout my thirties won me both praise and condemnation, depending on the age bracket you polled. Interviewing bands wasn’t a measly hobby to me; it was me chasing down a dream a second time.
Cait, baby, if you’re listening to this tape, do know you were very much wanted. Please take everything I say from this point forward in the context it’s meant: your daddy shaking a life-strangling monkey off his back. I love you always, kiddo, no matter what happens in our lives and our lives have changed for the better now, haven’t they?
Allana, if you’re listening, you know everything already since you played a large role in this maudlin act, but maybe you’ll gain even better insight what an impact you’ve made upon my life. You’ve literally saved me and Caitlin and for that, I not only love you, I owe you.
(c) 2009-2013 Ray Van Horn, Jr.