When I was twenty-one
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stairs
With all that perfumed hair
And it came undone
When I was twenty-one
(It Was a Very Good Year: Ervin Drake)
My social life at medical school was a monument to heartbreak, lust, lasciviousness and casual indifference. Chalk it up to youth, arrogance or simply a single-minded ambition to succeed at a career, while first leaving any other ancillary part of life to be last.Doctors, in general, are good at this approach to life, which probably accounts for their extremely high divorce and suicide rates.
When I arrived at school, I was still dating the egg farmer’s daughter but became smitten by a stunningly beautiful, exceptionally sweet woman of Norwegian descent who had the uniquely unusual combination of jet-black hair and deep blue eyes.
I met her at a party that I was reluctantly dragged to by George, a Chinese student in my dorm who had come from the University of Minnesota. Although I was not in a party mood, he said he who knew some girls from back home who were working in Boston and wanted me to meet them.
George had the interesting distinction of having made his tuition money by working on Alaska King Crab fishing boats. Despite the fact of this being considered one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, George said the worst part after having survived the raging seas on the fishing trip; was then having to fight off the snarling fangs of wild Alaskan dogs when walking home. He said the trick was to wrap your left arm in a thick towel, then hold it out for the dog to grab. After the dog took the baited arm, you then killed the dog by slitting its throat open with the heavy fish filet knife you kept in your right hand. Jim Bowie didn’t even have it that bad when he explored the North American wilderness.
When I met this woman, we had such an immediate rapport that although not sleeping together until a few weeks later, we did spend the entire weekend at the apartment where the party had been held. However, it must have been a bad omen for the future of the relationship because my Italian grandmother died that weekend; leaving everyone at home was hot under the collar because I could not be located until the following Monday when I then heard the horribly tragic news.
Somehow, even though she was already cold and blue, according to some family members I had still managed to insult the old lady.
Can you believe it? Grandma died and nobody could find him.
- Yeah. Poor grandma.
- Right. He must think that being a prima donna medical student is more important than grandma dying.
It really didn’t matter. She was dead and had no money. Otherwise, the hypocrites would have used my absence against me in the disposition of her Will. Aside from having to attend the funeral I also had the unpleasant task of having to announce the death of our relationship to the farmer’s daughter I had left behind at home.
She did not take it well at first, but recovered quickly enough, started dating a Harvard student, moved to Boston and stayed in his apartment. She then tracked me down and we continued to periodically see each other when he was not around or away somewhere. She tried to tell me they were “just good friends,” but I wasn’t that stupid. To me, it was just free pussy and her guilt or not was her own problem. In fact, they were lovers and later got married.
This was screwy. I was cheating on my new girlfriend with my old girlfriend who was cheating on her new boyfriend with her old boyfriend. To make matters worse, I had good reason to believe that my new girlfriend had sex with her old boyfriend one weekend when he came through town on his way to being shipped out to Viet Nam. She had ended their relationship before she moved to Boston but in holding out a bit of hopeful despair he had enlisted in the army. This is the desperate ploy of “maybe if you think I might die soon, you’ll be sorry and take me back.”
She told me she was letting him stay at her place for two or three days and was going to let him know about us as being more of a final, formal, definitive goodbye. Maybe I was paranoid or simply jealous, but I thought her bedsheets told a different tale when I snuck into her apartment the day he left after she went to work.
To me, they looked like the ones that medieval Royal families hang over the parapets to prove to the peasantry that the Princess and the Prince have indeed consummated their marriage.
I suppose for her it might have been the alternative age-old guilt trip played out as: “I do feel sorry for you and if you happen to die in the jungle you’ll have something nice to remember me by, but I really don’t love you anymore, so here is your good-bye fuck.”
Perhaps it was true. And perhaps not. It didn’t matter to an immature, jealous hypocrite, because not only was it all incredibly screwy but it was also hectically schizoid to say the least, as I began to forget what story I had told to whom or when. I was beginning to drive myself crazy by seeing one woman in Cambridge, then jumping on the MTA to run out to Brookline to see the other one; all on the same day while thinking I had to sexually satisfy them both. Big ego. Bigger sex drive. Big cheater. Bigger bastard.
This is where the cover-up excuse of having to study in the library had its greatest utility as it was also a time before cell phones, GPS devices or e-mail searches could easily ruin the best of alibis. But being in my prime, I could easily orgasm three or four times a day; leaving the only real issue my ability to keep my stories straight. Those were the days! Now I couldn’t get an erection even if I could find the little devil. But at least that keeps me out of potential trouble.
However, over the period of about a year my old girlfriend became more committed to her new boyfriend, then ended our affair when she announced their engagement; while over the same period I was completely trashing my relationship with my new girlfriend. My personality had combined cocky arrogance with condescendingly mean-spiritedness, all topped off with a tincture of casual indifference.
I thought that women were a dime a dozen and that if necessary, she could be easily replaced. However, in short order, I found out the hard way this was not to be the case when one dark, gloomy day in November she dumped me rather abruptly, almost to the day my grandmother had died the year before.
It had rained. Then it had poured. Then came the great deluge; and when the flood finally receded, along came the great drought. Both women would probably have made wonderful wives and seemed on equal footing as potential soul mates. That was the problem: indecision. But trying to find replacements for either of them was virtually impossible because I had failed to realize that on the scale of one to ten, I had let go or lost two elevens.
Indecision, indifference and a bad personality had left me no better than a lonely Noah, grounded on the summit of Mt. Ararat, sitting at the tiller of a large barge that had become grounded.
Mathematically, trying to juggle two women at the same time computes to: Two minus two = None
It’s a lesson too late for the learnin’
Made of sand, made of sand
In the wink of an eye, my soul is turnin’
In your hand, in your hand.
Are you going away with no word of farewell?
Will there be not a trace left behind?
Well, I could have loved you better,
Didn’t mean to be unkind.
You know that was the last thing on my mind.